Arno Smets appointed Mission Innovation Champion

News - 27 May 2019 - Communication

Professor Arno Smets of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science (EEMCS) has been named as one of the first Mission Innovation Champions. Mission Innovation Champions is a new initiative to honour pioneers in the field of clean energy. The programme is part of Mission Innovation, a coalition of countries that agreed to accelerate their efforts in the field of energy innovation at the Paris Climate Summit. Smets’ award was announced at the fourth Mission Innovation Ministerial (MI-4), that is taking place in Vancouver, Canada, from 27 to 29 May.

350,000 participants

Arno Smets was chosen because of the impact of his teaching and research on the energy transition. “Climate change is the greatest threat to humanity. I believe we can develop sustainable energy systems that allow us to live in harmony with the planet. But we also need to change people's mind-sets and educate the world”, he says. He does so with great success: with his MOOC and MicroMaster on solar energy, he has already reached more than 350,000 participants all over the world. Many of them have gone on to put their knowledge into practice by building their own photovoltaic systems, setting up solar businesses or becoming teachers themselves. That is still not enough for Smets: he wants online education to be available at all levels.

First international edX prize 
Arno Smets researches technologies to convert solar energy into usable energy, such as electrical or chemical energy. In 2009 he received a Vidi for his research into the use of thin silicon films to increase the efficiency of solar panels. In 2016, he was the first-ever winner of the edX Prize for Exceptional Contributions in Online Teaching and Learning. In 2015 he was appointed Antoni van Leeuwenhoek professor at TU Delft.

Mission Innovation
As a Mission Innovation Champion, Smets will become an ambassador for the Mission Innovation (MI) initiative. Twenty industrialised countries announced the establishment of Mission Innovation at the Climate Summit in Paris in 2015. MI is a coalition of countries that aim to double their public investments in energy innovation within five years.

In 2016, the Netherlands joined Mission Innovation, which now consists of 23 countries plus the EU. The coalition works together with the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, an initiative of private investors including Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Aran Tata, who want to invest billions in companies working on climate innovation.