Thursday, December 29, 2016

NEWS POST: Tyler Perry Encourages Fans To Use Their God-Given Talents To Change The World In 2017

Tyler Perry
Tyler Perry is encouraging fans to cultivate the gifts they've received from God so they can be a blessing to others and transform the world for the better in the New Year. 

'I couldn't help but to think about all of us who have gifts inside of us that are tucked away and hidden. Gifts that we have never used, gifts that have been given by God, gifts that are special, gifts that can not only change your life but the world," Perry wrote on Facebook (SEE BELOW) earlier this month. 

"Yet we leave them hidden, tucked away in the corners of our souls. As you leave 2016 and enter into 2017, why not commit to searching your soul for all of your gifts, even the hidden ones, and begin to use them, no matter what people say, no matter who judges you for it and no matter what people think?"

The screenwriter, director, producer and actor with successful theatrical and film productions, went on to encourage people to use their gifts to impact others.

"Use the gifts that God has given you to help spread some hope and love and joy to this world. Boy, do we need it," he wrote before extending well wishes to fans for the Christmas holiday. "Merry CHRISTmas and a Happy New Year to you all. Thank you for an amazing 2016."

The entertainment mogul admitted that he struggled to find happiness during the Christmas season since his mother died in December 2009.

"This is the first Christmas in the past five years that I've been able to find joy. You see, my mother died December the 8th five years ago, and no amount of Christmas lights could replace the light that she was to me," Perry wrote to his fans on Facebook in 2014. "But this year, in spite of myself, God gave me another light to shine in my heart right beside hers. God thank you!"

He went on to share a video of a song from his play titled, "A Madea Christmas" about Jesus.

"I wanted to dedicate this song to you this holiday season. It's from my play 'A Madea Christmas,' and I love this song so much that I wanted to share it," he wrote. "It's about Mary, the mother of Jesus, but as you listen to it, you can see that it can be about any parent. You never know who God has put into your home to raise."

When he is not personally giving messages of hope to fans on social media, Perry has used his famous fictional character Madea to introduce people to Christian values.

"What I found in plays is that this character — as irreverent as she is — is very disarming. She makes you very comfortable," Perry previously told CBN. "So what I've used her as is as a tool to get people to laugh and relax so that I can talk about God, talk about faith, mention the name Jesus in my films.

"I've seen lots of people who don't go to church, who have no concept of God, who have never really thought about it, begin to change their lives because of something that was said in the film or something the character invited them to see."

Sorry I haven’t written one of these in a while. Working the hours that I do and trying to be the best father that I can, I had to pull back on some things. I hope you understand. Anyway, onto the reason that I’m writing.

Everyone who knows me knows that I’m very difficult to shop for. It’s not because I’m choosey, it’s just that I’ve been very fortunate in my life and I usually have all the cool stuff already. So I tell all my friends and family that my gifts of choice are handwritten, from the heart, letters. I love getting them and no one handwrites anything anymore.

Anyway, someone gave me a gift about two years ago, and it wasn’t a letter. I thanked them for it and I put it in the trunk of my car with every intention of opening it when I got home. Well, I got home and got busy. I’m almost embarrassed to say that I forgot about this gift for quite some time. Part of the reason why was because it had fallen into a small bin area in my trunk, practically tucked in a corner, totally hidden.

One day I was looking for something else and I found that gift, this gift that I didn’t even know I had. I opened it and called the person that gave it to me to thank them for such a great gift and to apologize for not calling sooner. She said “you that damn busy?” We had a good laugh. Once I opened it, I realized it was not only something that I didn’t have, but something that I could and would use a great deal. I was super excited. I could tell you what the gift is, but that’s not as important as what I thought about when I found it. This gift that has become so valuable in my life and had been with me all that time, tucked away and hidden. Everywhere I went I had it with me and didn’t even know it, even when there were days that I really could have used it. Days where it would have made my life better, I didn’t know it was there.

With all these thoughts in my head, I couldn’t help but to think about all of us who have gifts inside of us that are tucked away and hidden. Gifts that we have never used, gifts that have been given by God, gifts that are special, gifts that can not only change your life but the world. Yet we leave them hidden, tucked away in the corners of our souls.

As you leave 2016 and enter into 2017, why not commit to searching your soul for all of your gifts, even the hidden ones, and begin to use them, no matter what people say, no matter who judges you for it and no matter what people think? Use the gifts that God has given you to help spread some hope and love and joy to this world. Boy, do we need it.

Tyler Perry is an American actor, comedian, producer, director, screenwriter, playwright, author, and songwriter, specializing in the gospel genre. Perry wrote and produced many stage plays during the 1990s and early 2000s. 

Originally published on THE CHRISTIAN POST and FACEBOOK

Friday, December 23, 2016

NEWS POST: World's First Solar Panel Road Opens In Normandy Village

A test phase will evaluate whether the solar panel road can provide enough energy to power street lighting. Photograph: Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA
Route in Tourouvre-au-Perche cost €5m to construct and will be used by about 2,000 motorists a day during two-year test period

France has opened what it claims to be the world’s first solar panel road, in a Normandy village.

A 1km (0.6-mile) route in the small village of Tourouvre-au-Perche covered with 2,800 sq m of electricity-generating panels, was inaugurated on Thursday by the ecology minister, Ségolène Royal.

It cost €5m (£4.2m) to construct and will be used by about 2,000 motorists a day during a two-year test period to establish if it can generate enough energy to power street lighting in the village of 3,400 residents.

In 2014, a solar-powered cycle path opened in Krommenie in the Netherlands and, despite teething problems, has generated 3,000kWh of energy – enough to power an average family home for a year. The cost of building the cycle path, however, could have paid for 520,000kWh.

Before the solar-powered road – called Wattway – was opened on the RD5 road, the panels were tested at four car parks across France. The constructor was Colas, part of giant telecoms group Bouygues, and financed by the state.

Normandy is not known for its surfeit of sunshine: Caen, the region’s political capital, enjoys just 44 days of strong sunshine a year compared with 170 in Marseilles.

Ségolène Royal inaugurates the solar panel road. Photograph: Charly Triballeau/AFP/Getty Images
Royal has said she would like to see solar panels installed on one in every 1,000km of French highway – France has a total of 1m km of roads – but panels laid on flat surfaces have been found to be less efficient than those installed on sloping areas such as roofs.

Critics say it is not a cost-effective use of public money. Marc Jedliczka, vice-president of Network for Energetic Transition (CLER) told Le Monde: “It’s without doubt a technical advance, but in order to develop renewables there are other priorities than a gadget of which we are more certain that it’s very expensive than the fact it works.”

Jean-Louis Bal, president of renewable energy union SER, said: “We have to look at the cost, the production [of electricity] and its lifespan. For now I don’t have the answers.”

Colas said the panels have been covered with a resin containing fine sheets of silicon, making them tough enough to withstand all traffic, including HGVs. The company says it hopes to reduce the costs of producing the solar panels and has about 100 other projects for solar-panelled roads – half in France and half abroad.

Originally on The Guardian United Kingdom

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

GUEST BLOG POST: Rating, Ranking And Recommending: Three R’s For The Internet Age — Christopher Brinton & Mung Chiang

This holiday season, when we Google for the most trending gifts, compare different items on Amazon or take a break to watch a holiday movie on Netflix, we are making use of what might be called 'the three R's' of the Internet Age: rating, ranking and recommending
This holiday season, when we Google for the most trending gifts, compare different items on Amazon or take a break to watch a holiday movie on Netflix, we are making use of what might be called “the three R’s” of the Internet Age: rating, ranking and recommending.

Much like the traditional “three R’s” of education – “reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic” – no
modern education is complete without understanding how websites’ algorithms combine,
process and synthesize information before presenting it to us.

As we explore in our new book, “The Power of Networks: Six Principles that Connect Our Lives,” the three tasks of rating, ranking and recommending are interdependent, though it may not be initially obvious. Before we can rank a set of items, we need some measure by which they can be ordered. This is really a rating of each item’s quality according to some criterion.

With ranked lists in hand, we may turn around and make recommendations about specific items to people who may be interested in purchasing them. This interrelationship highlights the importance of how the quality and attractiveness of an item is quantified into a rating in the first place.

What consumers and internet users often call “rating,” tech companies may call “scoring.” This is key to, for example, how Google’s search engine returns high-quality links at the top of its search results, with the most relevant information usually contained in the first page of responses. When a person enters a search query, Google assigns two main scores to each page in its database of trillions, and uses these to generate the order for its results.

The first of these scores is a “relevance score,” a combination of dozens of factors that measure how closely related the page and its content are to the query. For example, it takes into account how prominently placed search keywords are on the result page. The second is an “importance score,” which captures the way the network of webpages are connected to one another via hyperlinks to quantify how important each page is.

The combination of these two scores, along with other information, gives a rating for each page, quantifying how useful it might be to the end user. Higher ratings will be placed toward the top of the search results. These are the pages Google is implicitly recommending that the user visit.

The three Rs also pervade online retail. Amazon and other e-commerce sites allow customers to enter reviews for products they have purchased. The star ratings contained in these reviews are usually aggregated into a single number representing customers’ overall opinion. The principle behind this is called “the wisdom of crowds,” the assumption that combining many independent opinions will be more reflective of reality than any single individual’s evaluation.

Key to the wisdom of crowds is that the reviews accurately reflect customers’ experiences, and are not biased or influenced by, say, the manufacturer adding a series of positive assessments to its own items. Amazon has mechanisms in place to screen out these sorts of reviews – for example, by requiring a purchase to have been made from a given account before it can submit a review. Amazon then averages the star ratings for the reviews that remain.
Websites' algorithms use the 'new 3 Rs' to combine, process and synthesize information before presenting it to us. Researches from Princeton University explains these points are ranking, rating and recommendation
Averaging ratings is fairly straightforward. But it’s more complicated to figure out how to effectively rank products based on those ratings. For example, is an item that has 4.0 stars based on 200 reviews better than one that has 4.5 stars but only from 20 reviews? Both the average rating and sample size need to be accounted for in the ranking score.

There are even more factors that may be taken into consideration, such as reviewer reputation (ratings based on reviewers with higher reputations may be trusted more) and rating disparity (products with widely varying ratings may be demoted in the ordering). Amazon may also present products to different users in varying orders based on their browsing history and records of previous purchases on the site.

Before items can be ranked, they need a measure by which they can be ordered This is really a rating of each item's quality according to some criterion With ranked lists in hand, websites may turn around and make recommendations
The prime example of recommendation systems is Netflix’s method for determining which movies a user will enjoy. Algorithms predict how each specific user would rate different movies she has not yet seen by looking at the past history of her own ratings and comparing them with those of similar users. The movies with the highest predictions are those that will then make the final cut for a particular user.
Amazon has mechanisms in place to screen out these sorts of reviews – for example, by requiring a purchase to have been made from a given account before it can submit a review. They also make recommendations based on products you have purchased in the past
The quality of these recommendations depends heavily on the algorithm’s accuracy and its use of machine learning, data mining and the data itself. The more ratings we start with for each user and each movie, the better we can expect the predictions to be.

A simple rating predictor might assign one parameter to each user that captures how lenient or harsh a critic she tends to be. Another parameter might be assigned to each movie, capturing how well-received the movie is relative to others. More sophisticated models will identify similarities among users and movies – so if people who like the kinds of movies you like have given a high rating to a movie you haven’t seen, the system might suggest you’ll like it too.
The prime example of recommendation systems is Netflix's method. Algorithms predict how each specific user would rate different movies she has not yet seen by looking at the past history of her own ratings and comparing them with those of similar users
This can involve hidden dimensions that underlie user preferences and movie characteristics. It can also involve measuring how the ratings for any given movie have changed over time. If a previously unknown film becomes a cult classic, it might start appearing more in people’s recommendation lists. A key aspect of dealing with several models is combining and tuning them effectively: The algorithm that won the Netflix Prize competition of predicting movie ratings in 2009, for example, was a blend of hundreds of individual algorithms.

This combination of rating, ranking and recommendation algorithms has transformed our daily online activities, far beyond shopping, searching and entertainment. Their interconnection brings us clearer – and sometimes unexpected – insights into what we want and how we get it.

Originally published in The Conversation and then Daily Mail, UK

Sunday, December 18, 2016

NEWS POST: In Benin, 'Smart-Valleys' Bring Rice Bounty

"Smart Valleys's" representative Dominique Hounton inspects a rice field in Ouinhi, south-eastern Benin ©Yanick Folly (AFP)
Daniel Aboko proudly shows off the 11 hectares (27 acres) of paddy fields he shares with other farmers -- a small spread that produces a bounty of food thanks to smart irrigation and a hardy strain of rice.

In just four years, small farmers in Ouinhi, southeastern Benin, have seen their harvest double from three to six tonnes of rice per hectare (1.2 to 2.4 tonnes per acre).

They produce so much, in fact, that they have created an unusual problem for West Africa: a local glut.

"People come here to ask us questions and they invite me to their fields to train them," beamed Aboko, after parking his motorbike.

"It's quite common in Ouinhi," he said.

Some 500 rice growers work in 20 paddy fields in the town of 40,000 people in the hilly, rural department of Zou.

They accepted an invitation from the Africa Rice Centre, or AfricaRice -- a not-for-profit research and training centre -- to change their irrigation system, and it's worked wonders.

"In 2013, there was a drought but the producers on the pilot sites had rice, while the others didn't," said Sander Zwart, a researcher at AfricaRice.

Specialists in rice breeding and irrigation, AfricaRice has devised a system called Smart-Valleys, in which humid inland valleys -- natural catchment areas for rainfall -- are scouted out for rice-growing potential.

The project's team then work with local farmers, explaining the benefits of an irrigation system that is cheap and sustainable -- provided it is built in the right areas, and used at the right times.

But for the change to happen, it needs the farmers' extensive knowledge of the terrain and characteristics of the soil.

- 'The plant gives back' -
The work has entailed moving some paddy fields into moist valleys, which are flooded at key times, and tossing out concrete aquaducts, replaced them with earthen embankments forming rows of ditches.

"Rice needs water, but not all the time," explained Aboko, who is president of the Ouinhi cooperative.

"With this system, when the time comes to give water, we do so -- if we shouldn't, we drain it away.

"What you give to the plant, it will give that back to you!"

The aim of the project -- also being trialled in neighbouring Togo -- is not only to fight against drought but also to better use rainwater, which is often the only source of local irrigation for paddy fields.

"Before, people would choose somewhere and cultivate without thought," said Zwart. "And when there was no water, they couldn't do anything."

Local farmers are involved at every step.

"We clear the vegetation with them and they are the ones who design the layout according to the lanes of running water, the slope of the terrain and the size of plots," said Zwart.

No matter how little it rains, the new system allows farmers to produce crops.

But another part of the success story is due to the rice strain -- a hybrid of African and Asian cultivars called Nerica, which is shorthand for New Rice for Africa.

It brings together genes from high-yield Asian strains and an ancient African strain that is low-yield but resistant to drought and less thirsty than its Asian cousin.

The strain was created by AfricaRice, which gave producers their first seeds. Growers have since then bought more from their own profits.

Rice growers in Ouinhi, south-eastern Benin, have benefitted from new irrigation system ©Yanick Folly (AFP)
- Sales problems -
Guaranteeing a consistent harvest does not mean the farmers' troubles are completely solved.

"The growers don't always manage to sell their produce because they have multiplied their yield in a short space of time," said Felix Gbaguidi, a director at the ministry of agriculture.

"They hadn't always anticipated that aspect. But some organizations are being set up to look after processing the rice, and marketing."

Even so, Aboko wants to increase his yearly harvest from one to three.

And there is room for Benin to increase its production.

Back in 2009 the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) envisaged Benin becoming self-sufficient in rice by 2011.

Yet last year, France's agriculture ministry said the West African country was still bringing in 50,000 tonnes of rice from abroad.

With surplus yields it is perhaps marketing and sales development that Benin needs to take its rice industry to the next level.

One hurdle is consumer resistance, for many people prefer the aromatic imported rice from Asia to the hardy, nutty local grain.

GUEST BLOG POST: New Rice For Africa – Plant Breeding Technologies Fighting Hunger — Elizabeth March
Climate change, drought, desertification, soaring food prices, hunger …Nowhere do these intertwined threats to development menace more starkly than in Africa.

To mitigate the threats, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called, at the annual meeting of the Commission for Sustainable Development in May 2008, for a fresh generation of agricultural technologies to usher in a second green revolution, - “one which permits sustainable yield improvements with minimal environmental damage and contributes to sustainable development goals.”

Plant-breeding technologies – often combining traditional knowledge with cutting edge biotechnological techniques – are already making real impact in meeting the challenge. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)’s Rice Market Monitor reports that rice production in Africa has risen consecutively for over seven years, and is forecast to rise further in 2008 to 23.2 million tonnes. A major factor in this growth has been the success of a new type of rice, known as the New Rice for Africa – or NericaTM.

The new rice was the result of years of work by a team of plant breeders and molecular biologists led by Sierra Leonean scientist Monty Jones at the West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA – now the Africa Rice Centre). When Dr. Jones set up the biotechnology research program in 1991, some 240 million people in West Africa were dependant on rice as their primary source of food energy and protein, but the majority of Africa’s rice was imported, at an annual cost of US$1 billion. WARDA’s objective was to produce a rice variety which was better suited to the harsh conditions in African.

Traditional varieties
There were two basic traditional rice varieties available to African farmers, each with very different characteristics:

o   Native African rice (Oryza glaberrima) had been cultivated in the region for some 3,500 years. It is tough and rugged. Its prolific leaf growth smothers weeds, and it has developed a high genetic resistance to disease and pests such as the devastating African rice gall midge, rice yellow mottle virus and blast disease. But its yield is poor, not least because the plants are prone to falling over when grain heads are full and losing grain through “shattering” before they can be harvested. As a result, O. glaberrima has been almost totally abandoned by farmers in favor of the more productive Asian rice. 

o   Asian rice (Oryza sativa), introduced into Africa by Portuguese sailors some 500 years ago, has largely replaced the African rice strains. Asian rice is high yielding. But it requires a plentiful water supply to thrive. Its smaller sized plants are easily overcome by weeds and are vulnerable to African diseases and pests. It is particularly ill-adapted to the upland rice growing areas in Sub-Saharan Africa, where small holder farmers do not have the means to irrigate the land or to buy chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

The obvious solution was to cross the two varieties. But having evolved separately over millennia, the two species are genetically so different that they will not inter-breed naturally. Repeated attempts to cross them had produced only sterile or unstable hybrids.

Working with partners from across the region and overseas, Dr. Jones’ team collected and classified all available rice strains – including a gene bank of 1,500 strains of the native O. glaberrima species, which had been in danger of extinction. They then began the painstaking process of selecting parents for the best combination of characteristics, crossing them to produce offspring and backcrossing the offspring with the O. sativa parent to fix the desired traits. After a series of failures, they turned to “embryo rescue” techniques, in which the cross fertilized embryos were grown on artificial media. By the mid-1990s they succeeded in producing robustly fertile plants, and so the first Nerica was born. Field testing of the new rice started in 1994, and with improved techniques many more lines were generated each year. There are now more than 3,000 Nerica lines.

Best of both worlds
While genetic differences between the two species had made breeding difficult, it gave the resulting new rice variety a high level of heterosis, i.e. the phenomenon in which the progeny of two genetically different parents outperforms both parents.

New Nerica varieties can smother weeds like the African parents, resist drought and pests or can thrive in poor soils. Like its Asian parents Nerica has a high yield. The grain head holds 300 to 400 grains compared to the 75 to 100 grains of traditional varieties grown in the region. Its strong stems and heads prevent shattering, and the taller plants make harvesting easier.

Moreover, the most popular Nerica lines take only three months to ripen, as opposed to six months for the parent species, thus allowing African farmers to “double crop” it in a single growing season with nutritionally rich vegetables or high-value fiber crops. As a further bonus, some of the new lines contain up to 12 percent protein, compared to about 10 percent in the imported rice sold in the local market. As WARDA director-general Papa Abdoulaye Seck comments, “Nerica is a powerful weapon on Africa’s fight against hunger and poverty.”

“ Though we wish it were not so, scientists in Africa are engaged in the greatest war on earth. They are waging war against poverty and hunger.” – Dr. Monty Jones

The new rice varieties are rugged, high yielding and fast growing: Bernard Bassene a rice farmer in etafoune holds traditional red hued Senegalese rice in his right hand and hybrid gm rice in the other
Technology from Africa for Africa
Monty Jones’ technological advances in the war against hunger won him the World Food Prize in 2004, and he was named last year by Time magazine as one of “The World’s Most Influential People.” The World Food Prize committee also highlighted Dr. Jones’ leadership and innovation in the follow-up phase of getting Nerica rice technology quickly into farmers’ hands. He built partnerships between WARDA, policy makers, NGOs and research services, trained farmers to become seed producers, and introduced community-based, participatory programs to disseminate the seeds rapidly and allow rice farmers – a majority of whom are women – an active role in planting and evaluating the new rice varieties and continuing outreach in rural areas.

As an upland rice, Nerica is not restricted to growing in paddies, thus enabling African farmers to grow rice in places not previously thought possible. In Nigeria, the new rice has resulted in over 30 percent expansion in upland rice cultivation. In Guinea the Nerica area has quickly superseded the modern varieties introduced by the national system. Since Uganda launched the Upland Rice Project in 2004, in which Nerica is a major component, the Ugandan National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) reports an almost nine-fold increase in the number of rice farmers from 4,000 to over 35,000 in 2007. At the same time, the country has almost halved its rice imports from 60,000 tonnes in 2005 to 35,000 in 2007, saving roughly US$30 million in the process.

And intellectual property? Helping agricultural research centers manage their intellectual assets as public goods is the raison d’être of the Central Advisory Service on IP (CAS-IP), a unit of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) to which WARDA belongs. WARDA and CAS-IP are holding ongoing workshops to determine how IP mechanisms could best support the impact of this agricultural success story. Nerica was registered as a trademark with the USPTO in 2004, and as the expanding range of Nerica products are adopted by ever more smallholder farmers, CAS-IP notes that it will be increasingly important to protect the quality associations that have been so carefully established by WARDA, and to ensure that any Nerica seeds acquired by a farmer are the real thing.

As WARDA declares with pride on its webpages, the New Rice for Africa, a technology from Africa for Africa, has become a symbol of hope for food security in a region of the world where one-third of the people are undernourished and half the population struggle to survive on US$1 a day or less.

Originally published (STORY 1) on AFP and (STORY 2) on WIPO MAGAZINE 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

NEWS POST: Bill Gates And Investors Launch US$1 Billion Fund To Fight Climate Change Through Energy Innovation
Bill Gates is leading a more than US$1 billion fund focused on fighting climate change by investing in clean energy innovation.

The Microsoft co-founder and his all-star line-up of fellow investors have announced the Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund, which will begin making investments next year. The BEV fund, which has a 20-year duration, aims to invest in the commercialization of new technologies that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in areas including electricity generation and storage, transportation, industrial processes, agriculture, and energy-system efficiency.

“Anything that leads to cheap, clean, reliable energy we’re open-minded to,” says Gates, who is serving as chairman of BEV and anticipates being actively involved.

The directors of BEV include Alibaba founder Jack Ma, Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani, venture capitalists John Doerr and Vinod Khosla, former energy hedge fund manager John Arnold, and SAP cofounder Hasso Plattner. The combined net worth of the directors is nearly US$170 billion, based on estimates of their individual wealth by Bloomberg and Forbes.

Gates had last year announced his intention to personally invest an additional US$1 billion in clean energy technology. He was also among the 28 wealthy individuals and families signed on to the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, a group broadly committed to investing in this area. The new fund, which includes many of them, is a next, concrete step toward actually deploying their capital.

Gates says that he’s been surprised that technology innovation isn’t discussed more as a solution to climate change, since clean-energy advances could limit any economic trade-offs from switching off carbon-emitting fossil fuels. “All of that takes place just as a normal market mechanism as you replace energy sources with other ways to do it,” he says.

But a recent wave of clean energy technology investing turned out miserably for many venture capital investors, with one study estimating that VC firms invested over $25 billion from 2006 to 2011 and lost more than half that money. Institutional investment in this area has remained limited as a result, which Gates and his fellow investors describe as a market failure that large-scale, long-term private investments can address.

Gates acknowledges that investing in energy is harder than investing in information technology: “People think you can just put US$50 million in and wait two years and then you know what you got. In this energy space, that’s not true at all.”

But he adds that it’s an uncrowded investing field. “It’s such a big market that the value if you’re really providing a big portion of the world’s energy, the value of that will be super, super big.” BEV estimates the global energy market at $6 trillion, with energy demand increasing by one-third by 2040.

The BEV effort suits Gates’s nerdy interest in science research and experience investing in energy technology. He has personally made extensive investments in various energy technology companies over the years, including nuclear energy startup TerraPower, which he helped launch and where he serves as chairman. His US$1 billion investment pledge from last year spans investments he has made subsequently, this fund, and other investments he might make down the line.

Energy storage technology is among the areas where BEV will likely invest as part of a first wave, as more efficient and cheaper storage permits greater reliance on intermittent clean energy sources such as solar and wind power.

Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg join tech titans to launch the Breakthrough Energy Coalition
One thesis driving the fund is that only governments have the resources to invest in fundamental research, through government labs and funding for university research, at a scale that is needed for breakthrough advances. Government funding in areas such as battery technology and materials used for solar power, for example, has seeded the growth of those areas, with their commercialization subsequently funded by private investors.

“You need investment to take things out of a research lab at a university like Stanford, or MIT, Berkeley, and many other places, or national labs, for example, they’re doing a lot of research,” says Arun Majumdar, a Stanford University professor who was the acting US undersecretary of Energy and is advising BEV.

Gates was involved in last year announcing an initiative called Mission Innovation, where 22 countries and the European Union aim to double investment in clean energy research over five years. The US is among those countries, but president-elect Donald Trump and his appointees have been vocal climate-change deniers and could potentially be skeptical of US investment in clean-energy technology.

“The dialogue with the new administration as it comes in about how they see energy research will be important,” Gates says. “The general idea that research is a good deal fortunately is not a partisan thing.”

The richest group of investors ever assembled?
Gates and his co-directors first convened at the Four Seasons hotel in Seattle in August for two days to hash out their approach to the fund, with Ma and Plattner conferencing in. Among the topics the group actively debated was whether there really was a good existing pipeline of companies to fund, and what that meant for how quickly they could invest, according to Arnold.

“Being a 20-year fund with patient capital that’s not needing short-term gains allows us to have a longer-term outlook as well as fund technologies that don’t fit into the traditional VC model as it exists today,” says Arnold.

The list of 20 initial investors in the fund is an even-more comprehensive catalog of the world’s richest and most powerful, including Kingdom Holding’s prince Alwaleed bin Talal, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Virgin’s Richard Branson, Bridgewater Associates’ Ray Dalio, African Rainbow Minerals’ Patrice Motsepe, Iliad Group’s Xavier Niel, SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son, and SOHO China’s Zhang Xin and Pan Shiyi.

The directors are currently recruiting a management team for the fund, the core of which Gates hopes will be in place within about three months.

The fund, which won’t charge investors management fees beyond its operating costs, will likely start with a temporary office in the heart of the US venture capital industry on Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park, California. It’s expected that the size of the initial fund will increase, with more investors coming on board, and it’s possible that Breakthrough Energy Ventures eventually launches additional funds.

Gates says that the success of the effort for clean, reliable, affordable energy depends on deploying far more than the US$1 billion in capital committed to the BEV fund. He plans to work personally to get strategic partners such as energy companies involved in funding and supporting the promising technology breakthroughs.

Originally published on Quartz