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Spotlight on Oregon BEST, a Pacific Northwest Cleantech Open Innovation Partner

Posted by at 2:35 PM, 05/14/2010

Oregon BEST (Oregon Built Environment & Sustainable Technologies Center) is an independent non-profit Signature Research Center that serves as an economic catalyst, connecting Oregon universities and state businesses to help commercialize research and innovation related to renewable energy and the sustainable built environment. The Oregon Legislature established Oregon BEST in 2007 through the encouragement and support of the Oregon Innovation Council. Partner universities include the Oregon Institute of Technology, Oregon State University, Portland State University, and the University of Oregon. Oregon BEST became a Cleantech Open Innovation Partner in 2009, the Pacific Northwest Region’s first year.

Oregon BEST (Oregon Built Environment & Sustainable Technologies Center) is an independent non-profit Signature Research Center that serves as an economic catalyst, connecting Oregon universities and state businesses to help commercialize research and innovation related to renewable energy and the sustainable built environment.

The Oregon Legislature established Oregon BEST in 2007 through the encouragement and support of the Oregon Innovation Council. Partner universities include the Oregon Institute of Technology, Oregon State University, Portland State University, and the University of Oregon. Oregon BEST became a Cleantech Open Innovation Partner in 2009, the Pacific Northwest Region’s first year.

Oregon BEST’s Member Faculty, numbering more than 170 individuals, are international experts in sustainable built environment and renewable energy research. Their university-based labs, test facilities, and research technicians are part of a shared-user network of research tools worth millions of dollars that are available to Oregon industry partners for collaborative research and development.

Projects currently operating out of Oregon universities with support of Oregon BEST include numerous Renewable Energy initiatives:

  • Through strategic investment of public funds that have attracted additional funding, Oregon BEST has established two shared-user solar research facilities that are helping Oregon solar energy firms compete globally and university researchers and students work at the cutting edge of solar innovation:
  • The Oregon Process Innovation Center (OPIC) for Sustainable Solar Cell Manufacturing at Oregon State University is helping revolutionize solar cell manufacturing, potentially helping manufacturers reduce costs by as much as 90 percent. This shared-user facility involves faculty and researchers from Oregon universities and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
  • The Photovoltaics Laboratory of the Oregon Support Network for Research and Innovation in Solar Energy (Oregon SuNRISE) offers shared instrumentation and testing to industrial and academic clients on a fee-for-use basis at the University of Oregon and Oregon State University. These services provide a comprehensive suite of tools for the characterization of solar cells and solar cell materials.
  • A new technology using continuous flow microreactors is under study by engineers from Oregon State University and Yeungnam University in Korea. The technology, which involves thin-film absorbers for solar cells, could significantly reduce the cost of solar devices. This is one of the first demonstrations of this type of technology, which is safer, faster and more economical than previous chemical solution approaches.
  • In the area of wind energy, an increasingly important contributor to Oregon’s innovation sector, Portland State University is installing a large research wind tunnel. Oregon is home to major wind power providers and turbine manufactures, and the installation supports this important new business cluster with solid research capabilities.
  • Oregon is third in the nation in geothermal energy under development according to a Geothermal Energy Association report. Three years ago there was one geothermal project in the works for Oregon. Now the report lists 13 in varying phases of development. The Geo-Heat Center at the Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls is currently testing low-temperature geothermal technologies, and recently received more than $400,000 in funding from the U.S. Dept. of Energy for geothermal research.

On the Sustainable Built Environment side, projects currently operating with support of Oregon BEST include:

  • Investments by Oregon BEST have helped secure additional research funding for Oregon universities and established two shared-user research facilities aimed at helping Oregon firms innovate new products and technologies for the sustainable built environment:
  • At Portland State University, the new Green Building Research Laboratory attracted a $1 million federal appropriation. University researchers from across Oregon and beyond work in collaboration with industry partners to solve the fundamental and applied research needs of the green building industry.
  • At Oregon State University, a building materials focus has created the Green Building Materials Laboratory. Early initiatives include a process that turns relatively soft hybrid poplar wood into an extremely strong, durable wood product; a high intensity concrete mixer; and an accelerated pavement-testing machine.
  • Oregon BEST is leading development of the research agenda for the proposed Oregon Sustainability Center, which will be a living laboratory for sustainable built environment research.


And spanning both renewable energy and the sustainable built environment is a new commercialization project of Oregon BEST Researcher and UO architecture professor, Ihab Elzeyadi, who is looking for industry partners for his solar awning/light shelf. The awning generates electricity, but it also achieves temperature control through shading of windows and lighting improvement through reflection of lighting to interior ceilings. Elzeyadi says, “Generating energy is good, but saving it in the first place is better, and cheaper.”

Architectural Record magazine recently ranked the University of Oregon Architecture School in Eugene as the nation’s #1 school for sustainable design practices and principles.

For further information on Oregon BEST’s research, contact David Kenney, President & Executive Director, david.kenney (at) oregonbest.org; on commercialization, contact Susan Safford, Operations Director, susan.safford (at) oregonbest.org; on the sustainable built environment, contact Johanna Brickman, Program Manager, jo.brickman (at) oregonbest.org

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