Prairie Research Institute

Net-Zero Center of Excellence



The Net-Zero Center of Excellence enables the transformative discoveries and innovations needed to achieve decarbonization and the sustainable transition to renewable energy sources through global partnerships.


The mission of the Net-Zero Center of Excellence is to bring together research institutes, academia, industry, government, financial institutions, international organizations, and societal stakeholders to enable the development, maturation, adoption, and implementation of net-zero technologies. These technologies will be deployed to address the needs of a society in transition from drivers such as climate change and energy markets. The Net-Zero Center of Excellence will leverage the broad expertise of its partners to train the future workforce to support the adoption of new technologies and processes and ensure long-term success.


  1. Create a research engine built on global collaboration to design and deploy at-scale net-zero solutions tailored to regional to global environments and needs.
  2. Conduct multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional collaborative research to develop holistic solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enable energy-based solutions through renewables.
  3. Develop and commercialize technologies that benefit stakeholders throughout the ecosystem and value chain.
  4. Support workforce development for the transition to net zero through education and entrepreneurship.
  5. Drive market transformations by promoting the adoption of net-zero technologies, incentivizing sustainable practices and solutions, and integrating them at industrial scales.

About the Director

Kevin OBrien, Ph.D., is the director of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) at the Prairie Research Institute. He joined ISTC in December 2013 after serving as president of Energy Commercialization, LLC, in the San Francisco Bay Area.

OBrien is a seasoned technology expert and project manager with more than 20 years of experience. He has overseen multimillion-dollar programs related to renewable and sustainable technologies in the U.S. and internationally, with project experience spanning Europe, the Middle East and Asia. His professional accolades include R&D Magazine’s R&D 100 Award and a Federal Laboratory Consortium Award for Technology Transfer.

OBrien’s energy expertise covers both supply and demand, with experience in renewable energy and traditional fossil fuels. He has focused on developing utility-scale solar projects, integrating technical, regulatory and financial considerations to advance these initiatives. Additionally, he has provided advisory services to the state of California and utility companies on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Previously, he built and directed an innovation program at the Stanford Research Institute, helping government agencies and private sector organizations leverage existing products and capabilities to explore new applications and markets.

Research biography

Illinois Experts Profile

Further details about the Net-Zero Center of Excellence are to come.