Chancellor says UH could fuel energy industry

University of Houston President Renu Khator said the university could fuel the future of the industry with its $110 million expansion of its Energy Research Park and energy curriculum.

During a speech during the Offshore Technology Conference, Khator, who also serves as chancellor of the UH system, said the university’s 75-acre Energy Research Park and added programs are aimed at training future professionals in a variety of energy fields, including subsea engineering and wind power.

Khator said the university is focused on making the university a major industry resource.

UH has already committed or spent $60 million for the expansion on its energy programs, and the college plans to grow its course offerings and research due to the dominant role of the energy industry in Houston.

“Our strategy became energy, because we knew that we had to sync ourselves with the strength of the community and that itself is our pathway,” Khator said.

She added that energy has become a fundamental goal and the university is seeking new partnerships to push it into the forefront of instruction in the energy fields.

“If we cannot produce the workforce that the industry needs, then we are not really fulfilling our obligation,” Khator said.

She said the university’s energy initiatives have already made progress, establishing new degree programs that are growing at exponential paces and producing private-public partnerships in research that have been innovative.

One product of new energy research at UH has been a new type of superconducting wire for electricity that could reduce the amount of power lost during transmission and improve the efficiency of the power grid, Khator said.

“Once we are successful in this, and successfully we can demonstrate it, I think this could be a great contribution,” she said.

The university’s expansion is taking place on a former 600,000-square-feet Houston campus of Schlumberger. Khator said some of the space has already been renovated and upgraded.

Still, she said, the university will be hoping to forge ahead largely based on partnerships with private companies, such as the one that led to the superconducting wire. Khator said collaborations that bring professionals and experts into the university’s science faculty will be key for the university going forward.

UH, like other public universities, remains hampered by state budget constraints, Khator said.

“Right now, less than one-fourth of the budget comes from the state. The rest, three-fourths of our budget, is really like any private university,” she said.