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Duke, GM To Jointly Explore Fuel-Cell Technology Issues

January 12, 2004

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke University and the General Motors Corp. (GM) have reached an agreement on a multi-year, interdisciplinary teaching and research project aimed at furthering worldwide efforts to develop hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles by 2010, the university and company announced Tuesday.

Duke’s Fuqua School of Business is spearheading the project, with significant participation from the Pratt School of Engineering and the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy.

The project formally begins Wednesday, Jan. 14, with the launch of a graduate-level course for students at Duke called “Interdisciplinary Issues in Introducing Radical Technological Change in the Established Business.” It will teach students to understand and manage a broad set of opportunities and issues associated with revolutionary technology change.

GM has given Duke an initial donation of about $500,000 for the project.

“We are thrilled to be right in the middle of this technological revolution that has broad, global implications,” Fuqua Dean Douglas T. Breeden said.

Heading GM’s interaction with Duke on this initiative will be Larry Burns, vice president of research and development, and planning. “We are reinventing automobiles around fuel-cell propulsion systems using hydrogen as an energy carrier,” Burns said. “We believe this technology holds the key to removing the automobile from the environmental debate, while at the same time making vehicles more fun to drive, safer and more useful to customers.

“This is a top priority for General Motors,” Burns added. “Collaborating with Duke’s outstanding faculty and students is providing GM with an excellent opportunity to further explore the technical, policy and business aspects of strategic decisions involving disruptive technological change.”

The research portion of the project is titled “Management of Radical Technological Change” and will be conducted by Fuqua professors Will Mitchell, Michael Lenox and Wes Cohen. Fuqua Executive-in-Residence James F. Rabenhorst is responsible for coordinating all aspects of the initiative.

“GM’s sponsorship will help advance the research agenda of these talented faculty members, link this research to an ongoing course, and provide value to the parties trying to implement radical change,” Rabenhorst said.

Officials of the Pratt School of Engineering said this project could be a model for both university-industry collaboration and interdisciplinary, mission-focused education. “Students from engineering, business and public policy will learn how technology and policy are linked in creating revolutionary change in our culture,” said Pratt Dean Kristina M. Johnson.

The public policy implications of fuel-cell technology are vital to its success, said Bruce W. Jentleson, director of the Sanford Institute of Public Policy.

“New technology, especially in the global marketplace, raises many policy-related questions,” Jentleson said. “How will the development and implementation of such initiatives affect environmental policy, the international energy economy, and political and regulatory decision-making? These are compelling and complicated issues.”
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General Motors Corp., the world’s largest vehicle manufacturer, employs 341,000 people globally in its core automotive business and subsidiaries. Founded in 1908, GM’s global headquarters is in Detroit.