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Virginia Tech, Corning tie up with India on energy research

Last updated on: May 29, 2007 19:37 IST

Timothy M Kaine, Governor of the US state of Virginia, has expressed elation over a clean energy collaboration with India involving Virginia Tech.

Kaine skipped leading the delegation of Virginian business leaders and economic development officials on a weeklong trade mission to India that wraps up its visit this week, to remain in Richmond to coordinate the state's response to the tragedy at Virginia Tech University.

He has, nonetheless, been in close touch with the mission leaders, and on April 23, announced that Virginia Tech would seek partnerships with the research and development community in India to support Corning Incorporated -- a world leader in specialty glass and ceramics -- in the development of clean, sustainable energy solutions.

Representatives of Corning and Virginia Tech are among the delegation comprising more than 100 Virginia business and government leaders, including several Indian American entrepreneurs, led by the secretary of commerce and trade Patrick O Gottschalk and secretary of technology Aneesh P Chopra. They visited New Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai.

Kaine said the announcement made on his behalf by Chopra during a luncheon hosted by the Confederation of Indian Industry in New Delhi was "a welcome sign that the important work at Virginia Tech will continue following last week's tragedy."

He noted that "Corning and Virginia Tech have shown tremendous commitment and leadership to research and development in Virginia, and I am in full support of this effort to tap into India's scientific talent."

"We all have high hopes that this collaboration ultimately will create jobs in Virginia and India that will help address today's global energy needs," he said.

Kaine explained that the initial phase of the collaboration would focus on research in fuel cells to be jointly conducted by scientists at Virginia Tech and in India and at Corning.

A fuel cell, unlike internal combustion engines or conventional gas, oil or coal-fired plants, converts energy from the combustion of a fuel directly without requiring a mechanical or thermal to electrical conversion. The result is higher efficiency, lower emission modular power source and a quiet, wear-free operation.

Vivian Gernand, vice president for global commercial development at Corning, said his company was "delighted to be part of the governor's mission and to have his support for Corning's fuel programme -- a technology that will one day generate clean, reliable energy from cities to villages in India and America."

He said Corning stood ready and eager to "working closely with Virginia Tech and India's scientific community on this important initiative."

Corning, which counts more than 150 years of materials science and process engineering knowledge, creates and makes keystone components that enable high technology systems for consumer electronics, mobile emissions control, telecommunications and life sciences.

Some of the company's products include glass substrates for LCD televisions, computer monitors and laptops; ceramic substrates and filters for mobile emission control systems; optical fibre, cable, hardware and equipment for telecommunications networks; optical biosensors for drug discovery; and other advanced optics and specialty glass solutions for a number of industries.

Additionally, Corning's Environmental Technologies Division has a presence in Montgomery Country, Virginia, where Virginia Tech in Blacksburg is located, and counts among its engineers and scientists several Indian Americans who have received their graduate degrees from Virginia Tech.

Virginia Tech president Charles Steger also expressed elation over the envisaged Virginia Tech-Corning collaboration with Indian scientists.

"Despite the tragedy we suffered last week, we are determined to recover and move forward with programme excellence that addresses critical world issues," he said.

"Developing new, clean, and sustainable energy solutions is one of the world's most essential quests and we are extremely happy that Virginia Tech can partner with Corning and India's research community to explore and implement innovative technologies to help fulfill this critical need," he added.

In 2005, Virginia Tech became the first US institution to grant degrees in India -- a master's in information technology, which is provided in conjunction with the SP Jain Institute of Mumbai.

US exports to India via Virginia reached $93.46 million in 2006, an annual increase of 16 per cent. Industrial and electrical machinery were the number one and two export sectors, respectively, relegating coal to fourth place at $7.32 million.

As of September 2006, Indian companies had invested $49 million in Virginia, and the state's local economic development agencies had assisted 24 Indian companies with the establishment of operations in Virginia.

From 2002 to 2006, Virginia projects accounted for 5 per cent of Indian foreign direct investment announced in the United States, 23 per cent of announced employment, and 16 per cent of announced investment.

First published in India Abroad

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC