On March 27 and 28, the UNC Institute for the Environment will bring students, academics, government officials and industry professionals together for the ninth annual UNC Cleantech Summit.
Cleantech is an umbrella term for clean technology and explores sustainability projects and products. Next week's summit is the largest collegiate cleantech gathering in the U.S.
It will feature keynote speakers, panelists and workshops from well-known individuals in the clean technology industry.
The UNC Institute for the Environment is co-hosting the event with the Ackerman Center for Excellence in Sustainability within the Kenan-Flagler Business School. Michael Piehler, UNC chief sustainability officer and director of the Institute for the Environment, said this partnership is valuable and one of the most exciting aspects of the summit.
“We host other events. They're all great. But this one really threads the needle – what our University as a great public university should do,” Piehler said. “And that is to convene experts, to create areas for progress in critical parts of our economy and our environments — hopefully simultaneously — and to do it in a way that advances students' experience.”
UNC’s collaborative environment makes it a great place to hold the summit, Piehler said. He added that its capacity for problem solving and broad research across physical and social sciences are strengths that distinguish it from other universities.
“I think that culture is one that the students feel, and I think it is part of the reason that there's such an energy for something really practical, like the Cleantech Summit, because climate change is among the, if not the challenge of our generation,” Piehler said. “And we need all the ideas we can get to find ways to sustain everything we need for people to continue to live well.”
The speakers will cover environmental topics such as energy policies, green banks and global energy transitions. At the summit, interested students will have the opportunity to learn what a future in clean technology may realistically look like.
UNC first-year Maanya Rajesh, a Cleantech intern at UNC, helped plan and promote the event and will be interviewing keynote speakers and panelists. She said young people bring a unique perspective to discussions on climate change, and attending the Cleantech Summit will broaden students’ perspectives on the issue.