material science matters
Houston-based foundation commits $100M to Rice University to create new institute
A private foundation that funds chemical research within the state of Texas is dedicating funds to a new venture — an institute focused on advanced materials at Rice University.
The Welch Foundation announced today a $100 million gift to Rice University to establish The Welch Institute. The institute will foster the study of matter, the design and discovery of new materials, and nanotechnology, and it will be led by an independent board of directors and scientific advisory board.
"The Welch Institute will focus on the development of advanced materials for the good of society and to advance the vision of Robert A. Welch, who believed in basic chemical research as a powerful force for transformative breakthroughs and improving the quality of life," says Welch Foundation Chair and Director Carin Barth in a news release. "It will bring together top minds across all disciplines to catalyze innovation and center leadership in the field right here in the Houston area."
Material science has an impact across industries — from energy, water, space, telecommunications, manufacturing, transportation, and more.
"Innovation is the foundation of progress. More than ever, the discovery of new knowledge is in turn the precursor of innovation. That is why universities and the work we do are key components of the innovation ecosystem," said Rice University President David Leebron at the press conference. "We expect the Welch Institute to serve the needs of all mankind, but we also expect it will secure a stronger future for the people of Houston."
The institute has a huge opportunity to lead the way in material science in the United States — as most of the current research and innovation within this field is happening on foreign land.
"While [material science] is fundamental to every conceivable aspect of our lives, the United States may be falling behind in terms of advancement in this field," says Gina Luna, board member of The Welch Foundation and acting president of The Welch Institute, at the press conference. "Of the top 10 material science institutes in the world today, not one of them is in the U.S. We believe the Welch Institute can change that."
Luna adds that the organization will bring together experts together in Houston, "where we just know how to get things done," she adds.
Rice is an ideal home for the initiative, says Pulickel M. Ajayan, chair of Rice's department of materials science and nanoengineering, and Houston stands to benefit from the program as well.
"This new institute will serve as an international hub for materials research, so that people from all around the world can come here and spend time and see Houston and Rice as a destination for materials research," he adds.The Welch Foundation has granted over $1 billion in funds and has endowed 48 chairs at 21 Texas universities, says Peter Dervan, chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of The Welch Foundation and Bren Professor of Chemistry at the California Institute of Technology.
"We want to develop the Institute while maintaining all of our legacy grant programs and awards, which have served Texas scientists so well over the years," he adds,