Leading UCLA energy and environmental scholars gathered with Indian business and government leaders at the inaugural UCLA-Tata Global Forum at the Taj Mahal Hotel in New Delhi on Monday and Tuesday. A lively discussion centered around such topics as sustainable megacities, the integration of solar power into smart energy grids and sustainable biological fuels.

The New Delhi event, “Innovating for a Sustainable Energy Future,” was jointly initiated by UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and Chairman of Tata Trusts Ratan Tata. The annual forum, which will take place next year at UCLA, aims to bring together the world’s most creative thinkers to address major societal problems and offer socially responsible solutions that impact public policy.

Chancellor Block, along with UCLA Vice Provost for International Studies and Global Engagement Cindy Fan and Chairman Tata, opened the proceedings.

“It is an honor to collaborate with the Tata Trusts on the UCLA-Tata Global Forum in New Delhi,” said Chancellor Block. “As India’s economic development continues apace, the need for sustainable energy has become more urgent. UCLA’s research on the environment, energy and sustainability — showcased in our ongoing Sustainable LA Grand Challenge — is relevant to megacities worldwide.

“It is our hope that this event will forge mutually beneficial links between India and UCLA to promote innovative sustainable energy solutions and policies,” Block added.

“India,” said Tata in his address, “needs to achieve the right balance between economic growth and energy autonomy, while ensuring sustainability. We have the task of not only preserving but nurturing our environment to make this planet a better place to live. This can only be achieved if we collaborate and innovate to develop means that help us achieve our long-term goals.’’

Courtesy of Tata Trusts
Tata Trusts Chairman Ratan Tata delivers opening remarks at the event.

The Tata Trusts, which work in several areas of community development, are among India's oldest, non-sectarian philanthropic organizations. They seek to be catalysts in development by giving grants to institutions and executing large projects in the areas of natural resource management, rural and urban livelihoods, poverty and education, among others.

“With Mr. Ratan Tata as our cosponsor,” said Fan, “we are signaling the importance that UCLA places on connecting education to its application in the world.” The vice provost inaugurated the UCLA Global Forum series in Asia and Europe last year to address issues of global and local relevance at meetings attended by UCLA faculty, alumni, supporters and local leaders in countries worldwide.

Delivering keynote speeches at the New Delhi conference were Gururaj Deshpande, president and chairman of Sparta Group LLC and chairman of Tejas Networks, and Smriti Zubin Irani, Indian minister of human resource development.

Many of UCLA’s most well-known energy and sustainability experts also participated in the conference, including Mark Gold, associate vice chancellor for environment and sustainability; James Liao, Ralph M. Parsons Foundation Professor and chair of the department of chemical and biomolecular engineering; and Rajit Gadh, professor at the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, and founder and director of both the Smart Grid Energy Research Center and the WINMEC Consortium at UCLA.

“The TATA Trust-UCLA global forum was a big success,” said professor Liao. “Both sides exchanged ideas about how UCLA can help India in dealing with energy and sustainability problems. One example is in the area of treating agriculture wastes, where a more efficient technology is needed to avoid pollution and to generate energy.”

“UCLA is innovating in solar energy, electric vehicles and energy storage and efficiency in partnership with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP),” said UCLA’s Gadh. “What we are learning about the reduction of greenhouse gases in Los Angeles has potential applicability to New Delhi.

“In fact, based on our experiences working with the LADWP on research, development and innovation, we would be delighted to partner with the two Delhi utilities — BSES and Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited — on similar joint research projects,” Gadh proposed.

A number of Indian academic and business leaders also spoke at the global forum. Among them were Sanjay Govind Dhande, founding director of Mahindra École Centrale — College of Engineering Hyderabad; Kshitij Gupta, officiating director and professor of mechanical engineering at IIT Delhi; Shekhar Gupta, chairman and founding editor of Mediascape Pvt. Ltd.; Prem Kalra, director of Dayalbagh University; Gopal Saxena, director of BSES Rajdhani and Yamuna Power Ltd.; Pramath Raj Sinha, founder and trustee of Asoka University; and Praveer Sinha, CEO and managing director of Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited.