“Every day, talented and audacious people across the globe are creating clean energy solutions to make the planet a better place. In the current times, these innovators, inspired by their dreams of a sustainable future, bring hope and optimism to citizens. I warmly congratulate our Mission Innovation Champions whose achievements will inspire citizens around the globe to embark on the transition to clean energy.”
Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth
Meet the 2020 Mission Innovation Champions!
The Mission Innovation Champions Program seeks to celebrate and support innovative individuals who are accelerating the clean energy revolution by working on key clean energy research and technology developments. By supporting cross-border exchanges of ideas and talent and building a community of visionaries committed to the promise of clean energy research and development, the program activates and engages a new generation of researchers, inventors and leaders.
The 21 Champions listed below work in a variety of energy-related fields and industries. They are individuals with a track record of progressing creative new ideas that can drive the pace and scale of the clean energy revolution — they are the people inventing the products and services of the future or discovering the science that underpins them. The Champions were selected through a rigorous international competition, including peer-to-peer reviews and evaluations by a diverse panel of experts from around the globe. Applications were evaluated based on the audaciousness and creativity of the ideas or solutions proposed, their potential impact and the vision of the candidates towards addressing climate change challenges in the energy sector through innovation.
Anna Skarbek— Australia
CEO, Policy, Finance, Business Advice, and Evidence, ClimateWorks Australia
Anna Skarbek is the CEO of ClimateWorks Australia, working to develop the low carbon economy. A former banker and green policy adviser, Anna has led ClimateWorks since its creation in 2009, analysing emissions reduction opportunities and partnering with business and government to unblock barriers to their implementation. Co-founded by The Myer Foundation and Monash University, ClimateWorks has an independent and non-partisan approach that sees Anna working with multiple federal government departments as well as state governments and large corporations. She works with other stakeholders including investors, business, environment and civil society leaders.
Jüergen Mayerhofer — Austria
Juergen Mayerhofer has been working in the energy industry for over 18 years with various roles from consulting to management. Most recently, Juergen was managing director of software provider VisoTech, which under his management became a European market leader in software for automated power trading, leading to a successful exit to TMX Trayport in 2019. In his current role, Juergen is co-founder and CEO of enspired, heading for a future in which our natural human capabilities will be radically expanded by computer and robot systems. By using artificial intelligence, enspired offers trading-as-a-service on short-term power markets, supporting grid stability and the integration of renewable energy into the market. Juergen has an MBA from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, and is lecturer at the Vienna University of Economics for the university’s Energy Management Program. He is eager to use the Mission Innovation Champion role to help bring light to the opportunities innovation and new technology can bring to individual businesses and the humankind alike.
“As an experienced pioneer in the field of energy, I value the expansion of my network and exchange with experts to keep up to date with the latest developments in industry and technology.”
Phil De Luna — Canada
Program Director, National Research Council of Canada
Phil De Luna is Program Director, Materials for Clean Fuels Challenge Program at the National Research Council of Canada, where he leads a 7-year $57M multi-disciplinary collaborative research program to develop made-in-Canada technology for a sustainable energy and chemicals sector. His program is focused on CO2 conversion, H2 production, and artificial intelligence for materials discovery. De Luna is a pioneering carbontech expert with experience spanning cutting-edge topics such as carbon capture and conversion technologies and artificial intelligence for materials discovery. His research has been published in scientific journals such as Nature and Science and has been covered by mainstream media such as Newsweek, CBC, and The Independent. Phil was named to the 2019 Forbes Top 30 Under 30 – Energy list and was a finalist (1 of 10 worldwide) in the $20M Carbon XPRIZE. He holds a PhD from the University of Toronto in Materials Science & Engineering, where he was a Governor General Gold Medalist.
“I will use this opportunity to increase notoriety of the world class research being done in Canada, especially around AI for materials, CO2 conversion, and hydrogen technologies; and to develop international collaborations and partnerships with other government labs, academic researchers, or industrial users who can implement and scale Canada’s clean technology.”
Cristián O’Ryan — Chile
Founder, Endurance Electric
Cristián O’Ryan is a social entrepreneur with more than 10 years of experience. He is founder of Endurance Electric, a social company that seeks to alleviate energy poverty for vulnerable families in Chile and Latin America who are struggling with poor access, bad quality and inequality of energy services. Offering an independent and decentralized solar energy service, Endurance transforms the lives of families and communities through renewable energy.
Cristián is Global Innovator from Expo Live, Expo Dubai 2020 program, and previously was Co-Founder at SULI LAB, an innovative Chilean open source solar energy company. He is also former COO of the NGO “Desafío Levantemos Chile.” Cristián has executed more than 100 social impact projects all over Chile and has unique hands-on experience in the field successfully working with indigenous communities and post disaster environments.
“My vision is to allow families to finance the purchase of solar technology through additional savings and income, while gaining access to basic services, better education, and better health.”
Can Li — China
Academician, Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Professor Can Li received his PhD. degree in Physical Chemistry from the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics, CAS. He was elected as a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2003, a member of the Academy of Science for Developing Countries (TWAS) in 2005, a foreign member of Academia European in 2008, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2008. He was the President of the International Association of Catalysis Societies (2008-2012) and the president of the Asia-Pacific Association of Catalysis Societies (2013-2017). Currently, he is the chairman of Catalysis Society of China, Dean of Materials and Chemical School of USTC, and the director of the Dalian National Laboratory for Clean Energy (DNL). His research interests span spectroscopic characterization of catalysts and catalytic reactions, environmental catalysis, heterogeneous chiral catalysis. Over last 20 years, his research has focused on photocatalytic, photoelectrocatalytic and electrolysis water splitting and CO2 reduction utilizing renewable energy.
“I would like to call for more people to join in solar fuels research and organize national and international collaborative R&D programs with academic and research institutes, industrial companies and governments.”
María Luisa Hernández Latorre — European Commission (on behalf of the European Union)
Chief Executive Officer, INGELIA. S.L.
María Luisa Hernández Latorre is an Industrial Engineer, Executive MBA and CE-master in finance. She was born in Valencia in 1969 and speaks six languages. Her professional career focuses on sustainability and innovation. She is co-founder and CEO of Ingelia since 2009. Ingelia has developed an industrial HTC process to recover carbon and vital elements from organic wastes and produce biomaterials for the industry, replacing fossil coal and promoting bioeconomy. The HTC process presents a solution for organic waste management while contributing to the circular economy, protecting the environment and creating jobs. Ingelia is working on an international deployment, and currently has three industrial plants in the market and an extensive projects pipeline. The company holds 15 international patents, has obtained 3 EU-Seals of Excellence and several awards, including UNWTO-2011, Perseo-2011, EUBIA-2015, UK-E-Research Accelerator-2017, EC-Watify-2017, BIOVal-2018, EU-Price-Women Innovators-2018, EIT-Women-Entrepreneurship and Leadership-2018, and BiotechSME-2019. Ingelia addresses an innovative, resource-efficient, competitive, and sustainable economy.
“As a MI Champion, I will continue my efforts aimed at the commercialisation of large-scale, advanced hydro-thermal carbonization plants that would demonstrate the impacts of implementing cutting-edge innovations to produce high-quality, commercially viable hydrochar with significant impacts on reducing CO2 emissions.”
Krish Sankaran — Finland
Chief Executive Officer, Radical Innovations Group AB
Dr. Krishnaswamy Sankaran is a Swiss citizen of Indian origin based in Finland. He is the Chief Executive Officer of Radical Innovations Group Ab, a Finnish clean energy and circular economy company based in Vaasa, Finland. He is an established industrialist and entrepreneur with a demonstrated track record in energy, utilities, infrastructure, manufacturing, and recycling industries. He has served in various operational and leadership roles in industries, the World Economic Forum, and the European Commission in more than 16 countries and 4 continents.
Sankaran received a Doctorate in Engineering Sciences from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology ETH Zurich, Switzerland, Masters from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology KIT, Germany, and a joint Executive Masters in Organisational Development and Leadership from the Wharton School, Columbia University, INSEAD, and London Business School. He has several years of training in yoga and Advaita Vedanta, an Indian traditional system of philosophy.
“Innovators often wonder how they can make their efforts more visible and reachable to global audience. Thanks to MI Championship for providing a great platform supporting and celebrating our efforts in driving the “clean-and-circular” energy, material, and economy transition.”
Ondine Suavet — France
Co-Founder & General Director, MyLight Systems
Did you know that enough solar energy hits our planet’s surface every hour to meet humanity’s power needs for an entire year? Solar energy is a truly global solution to a global problem, which is why Ondine Suavet, an engineer specializing in semiconductors, worked and studied in countries as different as Japan, the United States, and Germany before pursuing an MBA from INSEAD in 2013. In 2014, she and her brother co-founded MyLight Systems in France with one goal: to make solar energy the primary source of electricity for households and companies thanks to smart solar self-consumption. Mylight Systems has grown its revenues more than 25% per year, and is now managing more than 20,000 energy-positive sites across 15 geographies. She remains deeply convinced that despite everything Mylight has achieved, they are only at the beginning of the story, as less than 1% of homes are equipped in France.
“Shifting from fossil fuel to clean energy power production is one of the key components to cutting down carbon dioxide emissions, and I want to make sure everyone hears that message.”
Hans Marius Schuster — Germany
Chief Executive Officer, Arena Innovation
Hans Marius Schuster is the founder and CEO of ARENA INNOVATION, which combines the advantages of clean energy solutions with digitalization under its proprietary Digital Single Hydrogen-Society Platform by means of the ready-made IT-Tool Be-Circle for planning and simulating a circular economy. Mr. Schuster is an IT engineer from the University of Applied Sciences Giessen-Friedberg, Germany and a certified European Research and Innovation Funding Programmes Professional from the School of International Business and Entrepreneurship – Steinbeis University Berlin. He has built up consortia for and advised many large-scale projects for European programs like H2020, FCH-JU, and CEF. He is also Chief Advisor of the ASEM CCSTI of Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in Beijing, China, represents the standardization committee ASRO/CT 395 – Hydrogen in Energy Systems, and has engaged in numerous activities of Fuel Cells Clusters in Germany and Japan.
“My goal is to establish a so-called ‘Digital Single Hydrogen-Society Platform’ to foster the energy transition and true international collaboration beyond technical, political and geographical borders. As a Mission Innovation Champion, the impact of my vision will definitely increase significantly.”
Purnima Jalihal — India
Head, Energy and Fresh Water, Ocean energies: Energy from Waves, Marine Currents, Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion, National Institute of Ocean Technology
Dr. Purnima Jalihal is a senior scientist who heads the Energy and Fresh Water group in the National Institute of Ocean Technology, India. She has led device developments for harnessing energy from waves, marine currents, and ocean thermal gradient (OTEC). The wave-powered navigational buoy for ports is now being transferred to industry. The marine hydrokinetic turbine was successfully demonstrated, and a design for small off-grid devices is now available. She was a tremendous contributor to setting up of the first-ever ocean thermal gradient based desalination plant at Kavaratti island in the Lakshadweep group in the Arabian Sea, which helped transform the lives of the small island community which had a serious lack of drinking water. She is now working towards scaling up the technologies and attempting to power a desalination plant using OTEC. She has a PhD in Civil Engineering from Duke University in the United States.
“With 30% of the large Indian population living along the long coastline where both energy and water are scarce, renewables like Ocean Energy are needed. I am fortunate to be leading the technology development of ocean renewable energies and ocean thermal desalination.”
Alessandra Giannuzzi — Italy
Research Collaborator, INAF-OAS Bologna
Dr. Alessandra Giannuzzi works as Professor of Optics and Physics at Benigno Zaccagnini Institute (IBZ) and as collaborating researcher at National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF) in Bologna where she received her PhD. in Astrophysics, in the field of new optical solutions for solar concentrators. Technological similarities between ground based telescopes and some types of solar concentrators suggest that design principles used to optimize telescope mirrors can be applied to improve optical efficiency in concentrators that employ reflective components. Working from this observation, she has demonstrated the possibility to enhance solar concentration efficiency and to manage sunlight irradiance for multiple purposes related to clean energy production.
“As a Mission Innovation Champion, I will have the chance to promote solar energy technology in Italy and to attract new attention toward renewable energy and solar energy research.”
Yoshiki Takagiwa — Japan
Principal Researcher, National Institute for Materials Science
Yoshiki Takagiwa is a Principal Researcher at the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS), Japan. He received his Ph. D. in Materials Science from the University of Tokyo, Japan (2009). He was an Assistant Professor at the University of Tokyo (2009-2015) and a visiting associate at the California Institute of Technology (2012-2013). He joined NIMS as a permanent researcher in 2015. He has over 60 publications, including academic papers and book chapters. His current research interest is to investigate non-toxic and low-cost thermoelectric materials. He developed an environmentally friendly Fe-Al-Si-based thermoelectric (FAST) material, combined with experiment, theoretical calculation, and machine learning toward social implementation. The current FAST materials project is focusing on the development of an autonomous power supply for IoT sensors and devices using a small temperature difference – less than 5°C at room temperature.
“My research topic is to develop an autonomous power supply to drive sensor devices using low-temperature waste heat. As a Mission Innovation Champion, I would like to focus on open discussions to integrate all-scale clean energy technologies to realize a sustainable society.”
Amador Honorato — Mexico
Research Scientist, Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Forestales, Agrícolas y Pecuarias (INIFAP) (National Research Institute of Forestry, Agriculture)
Dr José Amador Honorato Salazar is Research Scientist at the Experimental Centre, Puebla of the National Research Institute of Forestry, Agriculture and Livestock (INIFAP) of Mexico. He received a BS in Forest Engineering with a major in Forest Industries Technology from the University of Chapingo, Mexico in 1987, an MS in Forest Industries Technology from the University of Wales, Bangor, UK in 1991, and a PhD in Wood Science (with wood chemical modification) from the University of Wales, Bangor, UK in 1995. His work at INIFAP has focused on wood science, wood products and uses of lesser-known woods of Mexico. His current research topics include physicochemical characterisation and use of lignocellulosic materials for bioenergy and bioproducts. He has also been involved in research collaborations with national and international research institutions.
“I will promote and propose projects that accelerate the use of lignocellulosic biomass in the production of clean energy, as well as the development of innovative sustainable processes.”
Jaafar Mounir Benabbou — Morocco
Managing Partner, Affordable Transport & Cleantech, SEC2020
Jaafar Mounir Benabbou is General Manager of Solar E-Cycles Morocco, and co-founder with Roger Christen. Born in Paris, he earned a bachelor’s degree in science and mathematics at Hassan 2 High School in Safi, Morocco and attended preparatory classes for engineering at Lycée Marceau, Chartes, France. He graduated from ESCA EM business school with a master’s degree in market and corporate finance. At the start of his career, he held several advisory financial positions with major real estate and investment banking organizations (CBRE, OREMA Capital). Since then, he elected to be an entrepreneur to positively impact society and the environment for future generations.
He is a central player in promoting the Solar E-Cycles approach as an affordable, clean, and smart mobility and power solution across Africa, based on renewable solar energy and light electric vehicles that are designed for urban and rural service in last-mile delivery and other applications.
“Our teams are passionate and seriously engaged in this project to make affordable clean mobility for Africa through innovative solar electric tricycles. We design for different applications, like people transportation, last-mile delivery, street vending, and off-grid energy.”
Suleyman Er — The Netherlands
Research Group Leader, DIFFER
Dr. Er has passion and commitment to fundamental scientific research aimed at the study and discovery of energy materials. He studied chemistry at Bilkent University in Turkey and obtained his PhD in physics from University of Twente in the Netherlands. Subsequently, he worked as Young Energy Scientist Fellow, first at Harvard University in the USA, and then at Leiden University in the Netherlands. During this time, he has been involved with various small- and large-scale ambitious research projects on energy conversion and storage. Dr. Er is now leading the Autonomous Energy Materials Discovery [AMD] Research Group at the Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research and the Center for Computational Energy Research, the Netherlands. [AMD] develops and uses autonomous virtual materials discovery frameworks – powered by multi-scale high-throughput simulations, artificial intelligence methods, and advanced data-infrastructures – to accelerate the discovery of new functional molecules, 2D and 3D materials for the innovative conversion and storage of energy.
“As a scientist and Mission Innovation Champion, I want to help public and business leaders in making wise decisions for clean energy transition.”
Annemie Wyckmans — Norway
Professor, Smart Positive Energy Cities, NTNU Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Annemie is a professor and leads NTNU Smart Sustainable Cities at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Faculty of Architecture and Design. Her main goal is to promote smart sustainable cities, through research, innovation and education. She leads several open innovation-based projects and platforms with the public and private sector in Norway, EU and China. Amongst others, she is Coordinator of the +CityxChange smart city lighthouse project, the EERA Joint Programme on Smart Cities, the Horizon Europe Norwegian Urban Partnership and the URBAN-NORWAY-CHINA Innovation Platform on Sustainable Urbanization. Annemie’s projects typically aim to merge ambitions of clean energy in cities with sustainable, resilient, inclusive and safe communities. Her projects create safe spaces in which the public and private sector, academia, and civil society can come together, discuss, test, fail, try again and eventually find good solutions for their local environment.
“I create cooperation frameworks that bring experts and citizens together to integrate the positive-energy city of the future with the safe, healthy and inclusive communities we all want to live in, ensuring social, economic and environmental sustainability.”
Sang Jun Sim — Republic of Korea
Professor, Korea University
Professor Sang Jun Sim is currently a professor in the department of chemical and biological engineering at Korea University. Prof. Sim has been working in bioenergy production, CO2 conversion into value-added product, and microalgal strain development for industrial application. He has been the leader of the national research program, which is a major project for carbon capturing and utilization in South Korea. Prof. Sim has authored three books, six book chapters, and 230 original/review SCI papers. He was awarded National Scientist of the Month, Young Scientist Award in the National Academy of Engineering of Korea.
“I believe in the potential of Microalgae as a key solution to clean energy innovation. Microalgae is not only a promising platform for CO2 capture, but also an abundant source of renewable bioenergy. As a Mission Innovation Champion, I will collaborate with other people to support the sustainable and competitive energy resource.”
Malak Al-Nory — Saudi Arabia
Provost, EFFAT University
Dr. Al-Nory is an expert in clean water and clean energy resource management and strategic planning. She is an advocate for women’s empowerment, women in clean energy, and women in STEM. She is an established researcher with published research and national and international research collaborations including with the MIT Engineering Systems Division, MIT Lincoln Lab, and many others. She is an editorial board member in a number of journals, including the Nature NPJ Clean Water Journal, and Advisory Board member with the MIT Technology Review Arabia. She was appointed as Clean Energy Education and Empowerment (C3E) Ambassador by the Saudi Ministry of Energy, Industry, and Mineral Resources, representing Saudi Arabia in Clean Energy Ministerial.
Dr. Al-Nory received a PhD degree in information technology from George Mason University, USA in 2009. She joined the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), MA, USA as a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Clean Water and Clean Energy. She was with King Saud University of Petroleum and Minerals from 2013 to 2015, and visiting scholar in the Department of Mechanical Engineering in MIT from 2016 until the present. She is currently the provost of Effat University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
“I would like to further my research to prove that renewable desalination can become a viable solution, technically and economically, and furthermore desalination capacity can be used as clean energy storage.”
Jan Skjoldhammer — Sweden
CEO & Founder, Marine Energy, NoviOcean, Novige AB
Jan Skjoldhammer’s mission is the same as his company’s: “NoviOcean, saving the climate with profitable wave power.” His educational background is as an officer, economist, air transport pilot and instructor. Having had an innovative mind from an early age, he drew several patent ideas in the fields of sports, maritime, aviation and renewables, just to see others take them to market much later. When given some freedom of choice after a business deal, he decided to resign his job as an airline captain and devote his time to fight the climate crisis through his most important innovation: an “inverted hydro power plant at sea.” Given the uniqueness of the design, with a cost per MWh ¼ of what wind power had at a similar stage, NoviOcean expects to fulfill its mission: to deliver to the world huge amounts of clean low-cost electricity and hydrogen, from our ocean´s giant untapped resources.
“Becoming a Mission Innovation Champion for me, means an opportunity to show the world the uniqueness of our product and the huge potential it brings for the climate. I am inviting philanthropist and foundations to join us in reducing the GHGs on an immense scale”
Ehab El-Saadany — United Arab Emirates
Professor & Director, Khalifa University
Dr. Ehab El-Saadany is IEEE Fellow and Professor in the EECS Department at Khalifa University, and Adjunct Professor at the ECE Department, University of Waterloo, Canada. He is Director of the Advanced Power and Energy Center (APEC). He received his BSc and MSc from Ain Shams University, Cairo, Egypt in 1986 and 1990, and his PhD from the University of Waterloo in 1998. Between 2000 and 2019, he was with ECE at Waterloo, where he was the Director of the Power MEng program between 2010 and 2015. An internationally recognized expert in the area of sustainable energy integration and smart distribution systems, he is the author of 420+ international journals and conference papers. He is the two-time recipient of the Canada Research Chair Award in Energy systems (2009-2014) and Smart Distribution Systems (2014-2018). Dr. El-Saadany is editor of the IEEE Transactions on Smart Grid and Power Systems and member of MBR Academy of Scientists and the Chair of the Engineering Advisory Board for MBRAS.
“In an energy-hungry society, the dream that we all have is to develop a renewable, clean and affordable communities where everyone can have access to cheap electricity. This ultimate goal can only be attained through devotion and collaboration of different individuals, utilities, and governmental entities.”
Michaela Kendall — United Kingdom
Dr. Michaela Kendall is CEO of Adelan (Birmingham, UK), one of the world’s first fuel cell businesses. Adelan works towards commercialising a clean energy technology she co-invented in the early 1990s. Dr. Kendall managed industrial R&D programmes at Adelan funded by the US, EU and Chinese governments. She started her career as an environmental scientist, building a 30 year career which addressed the emissions, security and cost of energy. Faculty positions in America, Asia and Europe enabled Dr. Kendall to work with powerful strategic policy networks and businesses at the US EPA, the UN, the NIEHS, HEI, NYU in New York and UNIDO Hydrogen Centre in Istanbul, Turkey. She holds academic posts (including three Visiting Professorships) at several UK universities and is building a national UK fuel cell strategy. Her goal is to build the widest international cooperation to realise the ambitions of global hydrogen and fuel cell pioneers.
“As a MI Champion I will have greater opportunity to advocate for female scientists to be funded equally to male colleagues by governments and investors. Like the female global leaders who most successfully handled COVID-19, women help solve problems such as climate change. 99% of investments go to male-led businesses, defying logic and slowing decarbonisation. In 2021 I will leverage the greater visibility provided by the MI Championship to ask legislators to fund female science, ask investors what percentage of their funds go to female businesses and request that governments fund women scientists equally! Female scientists must be equally resourced to lead, not silenced.”