Office of the President
Dr. Patrick T. Harker is the 26th president of the University of Delaware. He also serves as professor of business administration in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics and professor of civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering.
A Conversation with KR Sridhar
October 17, 2013
Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to Mitchell Hall. I’m Pat Harker, president of the University of Delaware. Thank you for joining us for what promises to be a terrific conversation with KR Sridhar, co-founder and CEO of Bloom Energy.
In just a little while, we’ll dedicate our Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Lab, our state-of-the-art incubator for inquiry and invention, and we’re so excited to see our vision made real.
We asked KR to be part of today’s events because work like his is what we point to when we talk about the power of interdisciplinary scholarship. Fuel cell research requires that scientists and engineers integrate their discoveries to deliver optimized energy systems.
Work like KR’s is what we point to when we talk about using science to solve one of the most important, most complex issues facing us today: generating clean, safe, sufficient, sustainable energy.
Work like KR’s is what we point to when we talk about turning breakthrough ideas into commercial success stories, bringing solutions to market, where they’ll actually do some good.
This is a future we can hold up for every student who walks into the ISE Lab wanting to change the world.
And what a place we’re building for students to do just that. The pioneering work we’re doing in fuel cells, energy storage, catalysts, composites, wind power, solar power. Students will see this work at every stage—join in this work at every stage—and with Bloom right here on campus, they’ll see the end-game, tying innovation to entrepreneurship that makes a difference.
They’ll see us creating right here in Delaware a clean-energy hub—centralizing R&D, training, technology development and manufacturing, so that each can inform and improve the other. They’ll be part of a community making the future we want.
At yesterday’s ribbon-cutting, Bloom plant manager Barry Sharpe played a video, featuring one of the company’s senior engineers, Ashay Javadekar. Ashay earned his master’s and his Ph.D. in chemical engineering here at the University. And now he’s helping Bloom grow, designing next-generation energy solutions, and he’s doing it on the same University campus, in the same state, where he was trained.
That’s really powerful. And that’s what we want to replicate.
We want this campus to produce internships and jobs that develop Delaware’s innovative capacity and help us retain talent like Ashay’s in the First State. We want to gather people from all over—the most creative, the most industrious people who will come together to reimagine what’s possible and redesign the way America thinks and works.
I thank KR and Bloom for being a part of this vision.
If you’ve read Time or Fortune magazine or watched “60 Minutes,” you may already know KR’s story. He earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Madras in India, then earned his master’s in nuclear engineering, and his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
KR was a professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering at the University of Arizona, where he also served as director of the Space Technologies Laboratory. There, he developed fuel cell technology to create oxygen and hydrogen to support a NASA mission to Mars. When NASA scrapped that mission, KR repurposed the technology to instead make cheap, clean electricity.
With his co-founders, KR developed the Bloom Boxes that now generate electricity for Google, FedEx, eBay, Walmart and others. Right here in New Castle County, Bloom Boxes are helping to meet the region’s growing energy demands.
Just yesterday, we officially dedicated Bloom’s very first East Coast manufacturing facility—the University’s very first STAR Campus tenant. Could we have a round of applause for that?
KR envisions Bloom Boxes in homes across the country. And he’s working to put them in remote, undeveloped villages around the world, allowing the villages to supply their own electricity and leapfrog past the expensive centralized grid infrastructure we have here.
KR told Time magazine: “Distributed power is like democracy, and centralized power is like communism.” And with that, I’ll just say: This should be a very good conversation.
Please welcome KR Sridhar.