REFRESCH, an acronym for Researching Fresh Solutions to the Energy/ Water/ Food Challenge in Resource-Constrained Environments, is a Third Century Initiative project led by Prof. Johannes Schwank of the Energy Institute. The Third Century Initiative is a highly competitive $50 million, five-year funded research program developed by the Office of the Provost. Its goal is to provide freedom for researchers and students to tackle real problems, to learn immersively and together, and to prepare the University, as it approaches its bicentennial, for a third century of research leadership. REFRESCH itself is a $3 million program funded for three years.
In the exploratory stage of Phase 1, the REFRESCH team, together with leaders from governments around the world, examined real cases of resource-constrained environments where a variety of pressures are at work, such as energy supply, access to sufficient food, clean water for drinking and hygiene, and water for energy production. Through this process, Gabon, Kazakhstan, and Highland Park, Michigan were chosen as the locations for REFRESCH’s efforts.
The major goal of the project’s Phase 2 is to focus on promoting the multidirectional application of ideas and technology solutions to and from local and global settings, specifically solutions to energy/food/water challenges. The team will draw on the University’s rich, multidisciplinary resources and location in the nation’s manufacturing heart to begin exploring solutions to specific solvable, scalable problems that are identified. Education is a major part of REFRESCH, both in the involvement of students and in the development of a best-practices method of interacting with communities to achieve sustainable designs to meet human needs. If relationships with universities in Gabon or Kazakhstan arise as a result of REFRESCH’s efforts, exposure to working with persons of a different culture would be expected to deepen the educational experiences of students, provide additional insight into developing solutions, and improve sustainability.
Along with the Energy Institute, the team includes investigators from the College of Engineering, the School of Natural Resources and Environment, the Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute, the Ross School of Business, and Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, and Stamps School of Art and Design.