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The University Magazine

Green and orange makes sense

University Magazine - Fall 2008 Image

Tanya M. Olsen ‘94, Drawn to Earth, 2008

Building sustainability, right from the start

RIT established the Golisano Institute for Sustainability to be a global resource for education, research, technology transfer and outreach in sustainable manufacturing processes that will influence all aspects of product design and manufacturing. This groundbreaking initiative seeks to provide the next generation of engineers, policy makers and CEOs with comprehensive education and training in sustainability, while also promoting the development and implementation of new technologies that will increase both the environmental quality and economic efficiency of American industry.

“It is imperative that we accelerate strategies to promote a sustainable society and ensure future generations the opportunity to address their own needs,” says B. Thomas Golisano, founder and chairman of Paychex Inc., whose $10 million donation launched the Golisano Institute in fall 2007. “For that reason, it is my desire for this new initiative to produce the first generation of professionals with the vision and know-how to deliver on the promise of sustainability, and I am very proud to be associated with this exciting endeavor.”

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The next step forward

The Golisano Institute grew out of more than a decade of work in RIT’s Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies (CIMS) focused on remanufacturing, lifecycle engineering and alternative energy development. Research projects conducted through the new institute are building on this expertise to incorporate sustainable design, pollution prevention and new energy technologies into all aspects of production, from design through product reuse, remanufacture or recycling.

In addition, the Golisano Institute will house one of the world’s first doctoral programs in sustainability, featuring educational and research opportunities integrating environmentally conscious product design and manufacturing, industrial ecology, technology and public policy, environmental science and management, and sustainable business practices. RIT anticipates admitting the first students in this fall.

“Here at the Golisano Institute, we are focusing on designing production systems that are completely closed loop with no waste product and a high level of material reuse,” notes Nabil Nasr, RIT’s assistant provost for academic affairs and director of the Golisano Institute. “In addition, our education programs will seek to provide our next generation with comprehensive knowledge and training in sustainable industrial development.”

Enhancing the development of sustainable industries

Currently, the Golisano Institute is partnering with numerous companies and government agencies in a wide variety of sectors with the goal of reducing environmental impact while also enhancing economic competitiveness.

For example, the institute is partnering with Delphi Corp. and the U.S. Department of Defense to accelerate the application of solid oxide fuel cells into the military’s stationary and mobile systems. Delphi and the Golisano Institute will collaborate on the lifecycle design and development of sustainable production technologies, which could greatly enhance efficiency and reduce fossil fuel use in military vehicles. The partnership, made possible through a $2.75 million grant secured by Congresswoman Louise Slaughter and Senators Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer, will also assist in accelerating commercialization of the technology, while increasing investment and technical capacity in the Rochester region.

“Rochester represents the nexus between research and manufacturing that is needed to make emerging technologies mainstream,” says Congresswoman Slaughter. “The potential for long-term economic development and job growth, which is enhanced by the work of RIT’s Golisano Institute for Sustainability, is both exciting and necessary for Rochester’s future success.”

The Golisano Institute was also selected to host the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute as the result of a highly competitive grant process. The institute, a comprehensive, statewide research and technology center, assists small and large businesses in implementing processes that will reduce the environmental footprint and enhance economic development. It is funded through a multi-year grant from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, with first-year funding of $3 million.

Work conducted will address industry needs and focus on applied research in clean technology development, design for remanufacture, and green product assessment. RIT will serve as the Pollution Prevention Institute’s lead university in collaboration with academic partners at the University of Buffalo, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Clarkson University as well as the state’s Regional Technology Development Centers.

“The Pollution Prevention Institute will provide a tangible return on investment to New York state through the successful implementation of pollution prevention strategies that will have an immediate impact on the environment and result in significant economic benefits for business and industry throughout the state,” notes Edwin Piñero, director of the Pollution Prevention Institute and a former federal environmental executive.

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Future development

The educational and research efforts within the Golisano Institute will continue to grow, thanks to additional investment from several Fortune 500 companies and leading charitable foundations. The development of the doctoral program was supported by a $465,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation and a $400,000 gift from the Chester and Dorris Carlson Charitable Fund. In addition, the state of New York, thanks to the efforts of the Rochester area Senate and Assembly delegations, has provided $12 million in support of the construction of a facility that will house the institute’s research and educational programs. It is anticipated that planning and design on the building will begin this year, with initial construction slated for 2009.

In addition, Xerox Corp., which has a long-established relationships with RIT, is serving as founding partner of the Golisano Institute, committing $2 million to the development of its research and academic programs. The grant will also further the implementation of sustainable production and design at Xerox, which has been a leader in sustainable development for decades.

“The extraordinary response that we have received regarding the work being undertaken at the Golisano Institute is extremely gratifying,” says Nasr. “It illustrates the tremendous progress we have made in creating academic and research programs that have real value for society, while also showing the importance of sustainable development to academia, government and industry.”

Will Dube