Strengthening its reputation as “the Energy University,” the University of Houston will lead a key national research center for subsea engineering and other offshore energy development issues, including research and technology to improve the sustainable and safe development of energy in the Gulf of Mexico.

The work is intended to reduce the risk of offshore accidents, oil spills and other deep-water disasters.

The Subsea Systems Institute is being funded by the RESTORE Act (Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States), resulting from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The initial $4 million in funding, to be split with a second center led by Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, will come from money given to Texas by BP after the 2010 oil spill. Total funding will depend on civil penalties levied in court.

The Subsea Systems Institute (SSI) will be led by UH, working with Rice University, the Johnson Space Center, Texas Southern University, Houston Community College and Lone Star College. It will serve as a liaison for industry and government regulators, testing and validating equipment, helping standard-setting institutions with neutral third-party knowledge and other best practices, developing new materials and science-based policies and overseeing workforce training.

It also will train future subsea engineers to work at depths and temperatures previously unexplored, capitalizing on the University’s experience operating the nation’s only subsea engineering program.

UH President Renu Khator had set getting a national research center as a goal in her annual address last fall — and this institute meets that objective.

“We are grateful for this grant, which is the culmination of years of work to establish UH as a vibrant and comprehensive partner with the energy industry,” Khator said.

SSI is one of two Centers of Excellence established in Texas with funding from the federal RESTORE Act, which requires that the five states along the Gulf Coast affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill create the research centers. The Houston-area Congressional delegation offered strong bipartisan support for UH as the lead institution for the center focused on offshore energy.

Ramanan Krishnamoorti, chief energy officer at UH, said the University’s location in the heart of the energy industry makes it a logical place for the Institute.

“A center focused on prevention is the right thing to do,” Krishnamoorti said. “A center in Houston is the right place to do it, and UH, Rice and NASA is the right team.”