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National Science Foundation Symposium Features Presentation by Tom Siebel on the Impact of His Cross-Collaborative Research Initiatives

ARTICLE BY: Corrie Goldman

Thomas and Stacey Siebel Foundation

May 12th 2016

On April 6, 2016 Tom Siebel, Chairman of the Thomas and Stacey Siebel Foundation, was among the distinguished leaders from industry, academia, and government who spoke at a National Science Foundation (NSF) symposium on the future of engineering research.

Held at the Keck Center in Washington, D.C., the day-long event kicked-off an NSF-sponsored study that will investigate how to revitalize NSF engineering research centers. Attendees included representatives from the centers as well as members of the broader engineering community.

The symposium, entitled “Exploring a New Vision for Center-Based, Multidisciplinary Engineering Research,” marks the beginning of a 21 month-long investigation by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and the National Materials and Manufacturing Board. Their task is to develop develop a twenty-year vision with high-level, strategic recommendations for how the NSF can accelerate multidisciplinary engineering research.

The presentations informed the committee as they considered how to address issues such as new models for innovation that will connect NAE research to real-world impacts, and how to continuously facilitate breakthrough engineering research.

In opening remarks, NSF director France C√≥rdova said she wants NSF engineering research centers to “evolve with the times” and “serve the needs of our country” to ensure that the U.S. remains a global leader.

Siebel, who has been supporting cross-collaborative research for 15 years through the Thomas and Stacey Siebel Foundation, said he works to “make change happen.” In his presentation, Siebel described the impact of the Siebel Scholars program, the Siebel Stem Cell Institute, and the Siebel Energy Institute.

Siebel Scholars, a group of nearly 1,000 of the top students and alumni from prestigious business, bioengineering, computer science, and energy science graduate programs, advise the Foundation on how to solve some of society’s most pressing challenges.

At their annual conference, Siebel said the “very active, collaborative community” of Siebel Scholars has tackled issues ranging from class warfare to the threat of nuclear proliferation. Conference proceedings led to the development of the Siebel Stem Cell Institute and the Siebel Energy Institute, as well as other impactful initiatives.

The Stem Cell Institute was established after a Siebel Scholars conference on the same topic, to foster collaboration between researchers at Stanford University and UC Berkeley and, said Siebel, to “get them working together with visiting scholars from around the world.” In the nine years since the Stem Cell Institute was founded, Siebel said “sparks have been flying” with researchers developing treatments for Stage 4 breast cancer, melanoma, and sickle cell anemia.

The Siebel Energy Institute, which was developed during discussions at several Siebel Scholars conferences on energy, was founded in 2015. The multidisciplinary, multinational effort facilitates collaboration between leading energy science researchers and industry partners to “dramatically increase the safety, the reliability, lower the cost, and reduce the environmental impact of power generation and delivery,” said Siebel.

The NAE study, “A Vision for the Future of Center-Based, Multidisciplinary Engineering Research,” will evaluate large-scale, multidisciplinary engineering research in the United States and other parts of the world.

The symposium’s four panel topics reflected the multipronged approach the NAE is taking in its survey. Siebel presented during the “The Evolving Global Context for Center-Based Engineering Research” session. The three other panels explored:

Trends in Undergraduate and Graduate Engineering Education
New Directions in University-Industry Interaction
Emerging Best Practices in Translating University Research into Innovation

Attendees were encouraged to share their ideas during breakout working group sessions.

The committee overseeing the NSF project plans to issue a rapporteur-authored summary of the symposium in January 2017. A final consensus report will be published in April of 2017.

Videos of all of the talks are available for viewing on the National Academy of Engineering website.

Media Contact:
Corrie Goldman
cgoldman [at]