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Michigan Technological University and Michigan State University Team Up to Develop Renewable Biofuels Industry in Michigan

First they went to Sweden together with the governor. Now Michigan Technological University and Michigan State University are teaming up to further support the developing renewable fuels industry in the state.

"Finding alternative sources of energy and fuel is going to be critical for our nation and can mean thousands of jobs for Michigan citizens," said Gov. Jennifer Granholm. "Our state has the assets to be a leader in this sector, and we are looking to our universities to provide the knowledge to get us there. I'm delighted Michigan Tech and Michigan State are going to be working together on research to refine fuel from forest products."

The universities each have strong biofuel programs. That expertise will be combined to create new collaborative research, outreach and economic development programs centered on fuels and energy made from forest biomass. The programs will be overseen by an eight-member Renewable Fuels Working Group made up of four scientists from each university.

"We're very excited about this agreement," said David Reed, Michigan Tech vice president for research. "It's particularly significant that two of Michigan's leading research universities are cooperating with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to support the economic development of this emerging industry within the state."

"Michigan State is delighted to collaborate with our colleagues at Michigan Tech to help create a bioeconomy that is based on the state’s vast forest resources," said Steve Pueppke, director of the Michigan State Office of Biobased Technologies. "This is the logical way to move forward, and Michigan Tech is our logical partner. We are looking forward to creating much deeper working relationships with Michigan Tech and providing services to alternative energy companies."

Members of the Renewable Fuels Working Group are, from Michigan Tech: Margaret Gale, dean of the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science; Jeffrey Naber, associate professor of mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics; David Shonnard, professor of chemical engineering; and Barry Solomon, professor of social sciences. From Michigan State: Kyung-Hwan Han, associate professor of forestry; Daniel Keathley, Forestry Department chairperson; Ray Miller, research forester and Upper Peninsula forest properties manager; and Chris Saffron, assistant professor of biosystems and agricultural engineering;. Miller and Shonnard will serve as co-chairs of the group.

Reed, Shonnard, Pueppke and Miller also were part of the contingent that traveled to Sweden with Gov. Jennifer Granholm and members of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation in August. During the visit, Chemrec AB, a Swedish company, and the NewPage Corporation, which operates a paper mill in Escanaba, signed a memorandum of understanding to explore developing a plant to produce fuels from woody biomass at the Escanaba plant. At the signing ceremony, Granholm emphasized the importance of university support for the success of the project.

"This is a superb opportunity for us to come together and determine what Michigan needs in terms of university research, workforce education and outreach to jump-start the state's emerging forest bioeconomy," said Shonnard.

"Michigan State and Michigan Tech are natural partners in this arena," said Ian Gray, vice president for research and graduate studies at Michigan State. "The working group will identify areas where we need more knowledge and then conduct the research to create the knowledge that will lead to renewable fuel industry development in Michigan."

For more information on the Sweden trip, visit Tech Today and the Special Report.

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