“Our shared goal is to make Houston the premier destination for material research in the U.S. and the world,” said Carin Barth, chairwoman and director for the Welch Foundation Board of Directors.
The partnership takes the form of The Welch Institute of Advanced Materials, which will use the donation to fund 10 years of work on the discovery, design and manufacture of materials with applications in new energy systems, sustainable water, space systems, telecommunications and more by combining Rice University's history of chemistry and materials science research with the latest in machine learning and artificial intelligence, according to an announcement from the foundation.
The institute will be located on the Rice University campus. It will be governed by an independent board of directors and advised by a scientific advisory board, according to the announcement.
Over the next 10 years, the institute will endeavor to attract top researchers from around the world to collaborate with the university’s faculty and scientific resources in researching and innovating with advanced materials—which include ceramics, glass, metals, composites, semiconductors and polymers—and their use in daily life.
The presence of a new research institute will have not just an academic effect in Houston, but also an economic one, Mayor Sylvester Turner said, expressing a view shared by the Greater Houston Partnership.
“Looking at the major U.S. innovation hubs like Silicon Valley and Boston, it is clear their tech and innovation ecosystems have grown up around intense basic research efforts at major universities and research institutes,” said Bob Harvey, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership, in a news release. “The Welch Institute is of the scale and caliber to be a catalyst for exponential commercial growth, and we couldn’t be more excited.”