ISLAMABAD: The development in Pakistan is constrained by the ongoing energy crisis that is deeply connected with the country’s security challenges and ever-growing demand for power. Over the past few years, chronic energy shortages have cost Pakistan up to four percent of GDP downfall. The closure of hundreds of factories, paralysed production, and increased unemployment are the worst outcomes of the energy crisis for a developing economy. The country also lacks a skilled workforce in this important sector; both in the industry as well as academia. The launch of US-Pakistan Centre for Advanced Studies in Energy at National University of Sciences and Technology (USPCAS-E) by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in collaboration with the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and Arizona State University (ASU) is an effort to fulfill this pressing national need. This partnership builds on existing talent in Pakistan by providing university faculty with exposure to new technology and an opportunity to collaborate with other experts in their fields. Akif Zia Khan, faculty member at USPCAS-E, NUST, who is specialised in smart grids technology, visited Arizona State University (ASU) this year to attend a series of meetings on curriculum, lab equipment, and applied research projects with peer faculty and fellow researchers at the Power Systems Research Centre (PSERC). His collaborative work with Dr George Karaday of PSERC during his stay at ASU is now playing an instrumental role in developing new curriculum and availability of modern power hardware in the loop smart grids laboratory for Electrical Energy Engineering Programme at USPCAS-E at NUST. He said the facilities available in smart grids laboratory would help the researchers to model, simulate and validate different domains of electric power grid adding that the power quality analysis and energy auditing can also be performed with the equipment available with this laboratory. The various entities under the umbrella of Pakistan Electric Power Company (PEPCO) as well as industries, which can utilise the available facilities in the laboratory for development and validation of their prototypes, Khan said. Akif Zia Khan said the opportunity for him to participate in different technical workshops and events hosted by the IEEE Power and Engineering Society chapter at ASU resulted in an extraordinary capacity building of the faculty under this exchange programme and Khan is committed to replicate the same teaching and experimental facilities at NUST campus that he observed at ASU. Dr Naseem Iqbal, assistant professor at USPCAS-E, NUST, who specialises in fuel cells technology, visited ASU under the same exchange programme. Dr Iqbal worked with a research group at the Polytechnic School, ASU, led by Prof A M Kannan, a renowned expert in fuel cell technology. During his visit, Dr Iqbal utilised the resources around him to throw his research forward. “The main bottle neck in the fuel cell development is the platinum metal loading on catalyst which increases the overall cost for this technology. I developed a process to lower the Pt loading on electro catalyst for Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFC). This contribution will help the industry in lowering the cost of fuel cell and improve portable fuel cells application, and improve energy production” said Dr Naseem Iqbal. He has also initiated a feasibility analysis in collaboration with Hyundai Motors Group for the development of novel electro catalyst with ultra-low platinum metal loading for fuel cell vehicles to mainly lower down the cost of fuel cell technology by developing cheap catalyst. He said this exchange programme has forged important research collaboration between ASU and NUST that will cultivate a stronger research culture among Pakistan’s academics and assist university faculty to execute applied research projects. “These research projects will address some of the most pressing energy concerns facing Pakistan today. Faculty and students at NUST are geared to undertake projects for efficient energy storage and electro-chemical reduction of CO2 for converting it into useful chemicals for improved environment,” he added. The US-Pakistan Centre for Advanced Studies in Energy initiative is part of USAID’s larger US $127 million investment in collaboration with Higher Education Commission (HEC) that will harness applied research to find innovative and practical solution for Pakistan’s energy, water, agriculture, and food security challenges. USPCAS-E is designed to support Pakistan’s economic development by strengthening the relevance and responsiveness of universities products, including applied and policy research along with skilled graduates, in accordance with the needs of the public and private sector. USPCAS-E, in collaboration with academic research, emphasising on practical, solution-based, industry-specific research and development, both for the training and development of students, and for providing support to the Pakistani university.