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$750m pledge to Caltech to support environmental sustainability research including water resources

Philanthropists and entrepreneurs Stewart and Lynda Resnick, owners of The Wonderful Company, have announced an unprecedented $750 million pledge to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) to support cutting-edge research into the most pressing challenges in environmental sustainability.

The commitment, part of Caltech’s Break Through campaign, is the largest ever for environmental sustainability research, the largest in Caltech’s history, and the second-largest gift to a U.S. academic institution.

Water plays a critical role in the companies that make up much of the Resnicks widespread business empire, which includes farming, wine and Fiji Water.

“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,” says Stewart Resnick, chairman and president of The Wonderful Company and a senior member of the Caltech Board of Trustees. “Science and bold creativity must unite to address the most pressing challenges facing energy, water, and sustainability.”

The funding 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, the initiative will bring together experts from across the physical sciences, life sciences, and engineering. Working in shared facilities with access to unparalleled instrumentation, Institute scientists and engineers will advance novel solutions to problems that extend beyond a single discipline. To ensure uninterrupted support for this critical area of research and for the development of breakthrough technologies, a permanent endowment will be established to fund the work of researchers across Caltech’s academic divisions and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which Caltech manages for NASA.

Caltech president Thomas F. Rosenbaum said the commitment will permit Caltech to tackle issues of water, energy, food, and waste in a world confronting rapid climate change, commenting:

“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.”

Resnick Sustainability Institute

In recognition of the investment, Caltech will construct a new 75,000-square-foot building, to be named the Resnick Sustainability Resource Center. The center, which 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, will amplify and expand the work of the Resnick Sustainability Institute (RSI) established at Caltech a decade ago.

The new pledge will support four core research initiatives:

Sunlight to Everything, which will focus on building smarter electricity infrastructure and converting the sun’s energy into fuels and other chemicals;

Climate Science, which will advance efforts in measurement and modeling meant to identify the largest effects of climate change, and efforts in mitigation and adaptation to offset some of the impact of carbon emissions;

Water Resources, which will ensure that this vital resource is managed most effectively through the mapping and monitoring of surface and sub-surface water, together with improvements in water treatment and reuse; and

Global Ecology and Biosphere Engineering, which will consider the biosphere and its response to climate change, engineering ways in which microbes may help plants adapt to the changing climate and how best to use biological tools to improve water and nutrient use.


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