Tom Siebel automated customer management and became a billionaire by selling his software company to Oracle in 2005 for nearly $6 billion. Four years later he launched C3 Energy, a “smart” energy analytics firm that has contracts with major utilities to automate the monitoring of power grids. Now, the foundation Siebel founded with spouse Stacey Siebel is launching a new cross-school institute to advance the development of machine learning algorithms for energy systems.
The Siebel Energy Institute is funded with $10 million from the Thomas and Stacey Siebel Foundation. The expectation is that the institute will leverage its fund to attract an additional $100 million to $200 million in research funding over the next five years. Participating institutions include the University of California, Berkeley; Princeton; Carnegie Mellon; MIT and the University of Illinois, as well as universities in Paris, Torino and Tokyo.
The consortium will promote research in the area of data analytics generated by the increasingly smart devices put into place by utilities, oil and gas operators and logistics providers. The goal will be to “extract the value and economic benefit from this otherwise incomprehensible stream of information,” the institute explained on its Web site.
Twice a year the institute will invite researchers to submit proposals for $50,000 one-time seed grants to develop larger applications that will go out to government funding sources and other foundations. When those are funded, the organization will match grants up to 20 percent of the value per year, with a cap of $75,000. On August 4 the institute will name the first group of grant recipients. The findings of the institute-funded research will go into the public domain.
The organization has also set up an advisory board made up of leaders from energy companies, utilities and other stakeholder groups. The institute will also coordinate with another Siebel program, the Siebel Scholars Foundation, to select five students from among those who attend consortium schools, to receive $35,000 merit-based scholarships.