Tom Erickson, the longtime leader of the Energy and Environmental Research Center, will be stepping down from his role as CEO of the EERC and will transition to head up a new exploratory state research center.

Erickson, who has been with the EERC since 1986 when he was a student at UND and has been the CEO for the past five years, will soon become the new leader of the State Energy Research Center of North Dakota.

In April, the North Dakota Legislature passed a bill signed by Gov. Doug Burgum creating and funding the State Energy Research Center, which will operate from the EERC. The new center will receive $5 million per biennium to conduct exploratory and innovative research.

Under the legislation, 1 percent of oil and gas production and oil extraction tax revenues are allocated to fund SERC.

Erickson described the funding and program as an exciting new venture, which will focus on new technologies and research that is meant to benefit North Dakota.

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“It is funding we can utilize to go after brand new ideas and answer some of the ‘what if’s’ that we’ve been thinking about for awhile,” Erickson said. “At the end of the day, our focus is benefiting the state of North Dakota, whether it’s new materials from coal … or new methods to get oil out of the Bakken … or new ways to use agricultural crops to produce energy and fuels and chemicals. It’s limitless in the options we can explore.”

Erickson said the SERC will function somewhat similar to the show "Shark Tank," but on a different scale. Researchers will bring their ideas to the SERC and a team will evaluate the idea then work with the researcher to advance the concepts all the way through commercialization.

The center’s research is intended to facilitate the development and use of the state’s energy resources in a clean, efficient manner.

UND Provost Tom DiLorenzo said he will miss working with Erickson on various projects and added Erickson is well respected in the region and the world.

“Everyone who has met Tom in Grand Forks, across North Dakota and around the world knows that he is an outstanding leader, an honorable and ethical human being, a concerned manager and a faithful employee,” DiLorenzo said in a statement.

DiLorenzo will begin a series of listening sessions with EERC employees to gather input on finding Erickson’s replacement.

Erickson will stay on as CEO of the EERC until a replacement can be found, said Meloney Linder, vice president of marketing and communications at UND. Linder said the university hopes to fill the position by the end of the summer.