Philanthropists and entrepreneurs Stewart and Lynda Resnick, owners of The Wonderful Company, announced today an unprecedented $750 million pledge to Caltech to support the school’s cutting-edge research into the most pressing challenges in environmental sustainability. The commitment is the largest ever for sustainability research, the largest in Caltech’s history, and the second-largest to a U.S. academic institution.
“In order to comprehensively manage the climate crisis, we need breakthrough innovations, the kind that will only be possible through significant investment in university research,” said Stewart Resnick, chairman and president of The Wonderful Company. “Science and bold creativity must unite to address the most pressing challenges facing energy, water, and sustainability.”
This transformative pledge will support Caltech’s investigators as they pursue research in solar science, climate science, energy, biofuels, decomposable plastics, water and environmental resources, and ecology and biosphere engineering. Ultimately, this initiative will bring together experts from across the physical, life, and engineering sciences. Working in shared facilities with access to groundbreaking instrumentation, they will advance fresh solutions to problems that extend beyond a single discipline. To ensure uninterrupted funding for this critical area of research and the development of breakthrough technologies, a permanent endowment will be established, supporting the work of researchers across Caltech’s academic divisions and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which Caltech manages for NASA.
“Sustainability is the challenge of our times,” said Caltech President Thomas F. Rosenbaum. “Stewart and Lynda Resnick’s generosity and vision will permit Caltech to tackle issues of water, energy, food, and waste in a world confronting rapid climate change. The Resnick Sustainability Institute will now be able to mount efforts at scale, letting researchers across campus follow their imaginations and translate fundamental discovery into technologies that dramatically advance solutions to society’s most pressing problems.”
“This research will no doubt change the world,” noted Dr. M. Sanjayan, chief executive officer of Conservation International. “It may even save the world. It’s that profound.”
In recognition of the pledge, Caltech will construct a new 75,000-square-foot building named as the Resnick Sustainability Resource Center. The center will serve as the hub for energy and sustainability research on campus as well as the home of state-of-the-art undergraduate teaching laboratories. The funds will also further The Wonderful Company’s long-standing commitment to bringing environmental technologies and sustainability research into all aspects of its operations. As a result of this work, businesses and governments tackling sustainability will be able to harness the power of leading scientists and engineers to reduce waste by leveraging research insights.
This investment will significantly amplify and expand the work of the Resnick Sustainability Institute (RSI). The RSI was established at Caltech a decade ago with a $30 million contribution from the Resnicks and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Since that time, RSI has supported researchers using sunlight to renewably produce hydrogen and carbon-based fuels, and also led to the discovery of best-in-class catalysts using abundant, non-toxic materials. Caltech researchers have helped to modernize the electricity grid, with RSI-funded research that guides state policy for planning and implementing changes to the electric infrastructure, and have advanced research into green chemistry.
“The risks we face due to climate change present daunting challenges. The discoveries, inventions, and innovations that will be spanned by this incredible pledge will be transformative,” noted Steven Chu, co-winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics and former Secretary of Energy under President Barack Obama. “The generosity of Stewart and Lynda Resnick is a lasting commitment for the future well-being of our children, our grandchildren, and our planet.”
The $750 million commitment will be comprised of a $400 million donation and a $350 million sponsored research agreement. Through this funding, additional support will be provided for faculty, postdoctoral researchers, graduate students, visiting scholars, central facilities, and administrative personnel.