Royal Dutch Shell plc and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on Wednesday agreed to collaborate over the next five years to research and develop “high-value, sustainable technologies” that innovate energy delivery.

As part of its commitment, Shell plans to invest a total of $25 million in the endeavor.

“Both Shell and MIT are globally recognized innovation leaders,” said Shell’s Chief Technology Officer Gerald Schotman. “This collaboration accents Shell’s commitment to develop new technologies and drive innovative solutions to address the global energy challenge. Our collaboration with MIT will form another important building block in strengthening Shell’s global technology leadership.”

Shell will invest $5 million a year beginning this year to the MIT Energy Initiative to fund a suite of projects focused on advanced modeling, earth science, biofuels, nanotechnology and carbon management.

“The lack of access to affordable energy poses a significant barrier to economic advancement around the globe,” said MIT President Susan Hockfield. “Together with the rapidly accelerating demand for energy, the need to develop environmentally sensitive and sustainable energy resources becomes increasingly acute. Our collaboration with Shell will drive energy innovations with the potential for significant, real-world impact.”

The MIT Energy Initiative, a priority of Hockfield’s, was established in 2006. The MIT research is focused on helping the world deal with the use of scarce energy supplies, as well as to seek alternatives to conventional energy sources like oil and natural gas.

Longer term, the Shell-MIT collaboration plans to address “future and emerging technologies that demonstrate game-changing potential for the energy industry.” Among other things the duo’s researchers will focus on a “broad array” of existing and new oil and gas technologies, including next-generation applications in nanotechnology, biochemistry, electronics and computer modeling.

Also to be studied are water treatment improvements, fuel efficiency, solar energy applications and enhanced catalytic technology for advanced fuel cells and smart grids.

Shell’s grant is considered one of the largest for the MIT initiative, but it’s far from the only one. In 2008 Italian Eni pledged $50 million over five years to explore solar power technologies. That partnership has resulted in several breakthroughs, including the construction of an ultra-flexible solar cell. BP plc has donated a total of $31 million to study ways to improve coal-fueled electric generation through reduced emissions. In addition Hess Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Siemens have sponsored energy research at MIT.

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