2022 — Progress Report

Revolutionizing Safety
Through Science

Cramer Portrait
Dr. Christopher J. Cramer
Senior Vice President, Chief Research Officer
UL Research Institutes

A Message From Chris Cramer

The world changes more quickly and profoundly than we can sometimes imagine. Alongside its challenges, change creates extraordinary opportunities, sparking ingenuity and motivating people to move forward in an entirely different way. 

UL Research Institutes — indeed, the whole UL enterprise — is a case in point. To better address urgent safety challenges related to today’s rapid pace of technological innovation, we made a historic $1.8 billion financial commitment in early 2022 to dramatically expand the scale and scope of our safety science work. 

We also restructured, launching UL Standards & Engagement as a separate standards development and public safety advocacy organization to enable each part of the UL enterprise to focus on what it does best.

Science for a Safer World

As the pace of technological change accelerates, we continually reevaluate and revise what it means to live and work safely.

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New advances in energy, chemistry, engineering, and medicine have revolutionized the social and economic well-being of people everywhere, improving our quality of life in ways that were unimaginable when UL Research Institutes was founded in the 19th century. Technological progress enabled the human population to reach 8 billion on Nov. 15, 2022, even as scientific advances continue to transform our world at breathtaking speed.

We strive to build safety into these scientific innovations. By necessity, our definition of safety — of what it means to create a safer world — remains open to possibility and, like the world around us, continuously evolving.

Increasingly, our work reflects a growing awareness of the unintended consequences of the world’s extraordinary technological progress, which manifest as troubling milestones: record temperatures, rising sea levels, collapsing ecosystems. Humanity’s influence on the world has become so profound that scientists refer to our time as the Anthropocene, a geologic epoch in which people are the principal architects of our planet’s future.

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The endpoint of transformation during the Anthropocene is unknown. Will human activity continue to drive change much as it has, but faster, and with greater collateral damage? Or can we curb the unintended consequences of emerging technologies to ensure that their benefits flow equitably to people and places everywhere?

Even if the answers to those questions remain to be seen, we do know that they are likely to be decided during our lifetimes — by our collective response to climate change and other environmental hazards, and by what we do to build and guide technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence, which have nearly limitless potential to reshape our world.

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We have good reason to believe that we can forge a safer path during the 21st century than we did in the 20th. For one, our tools to detect and respond to risk have become much more sophisticated. So has our collective understanding of what’s at stake. As a result, experts around the world — scientists, engineers, technologists, regulators, policymakers, and more — are creating new partnerships to address the challenges we face.

UL Research Institutes is uniquely positioned to lead this work. For nearly 130 years, we have been developing the processes, partnerships, and expertise to guide innovation and advance public safety. We’re scaling up our approach — and applying it to our selected grand challenges.

Science for a Safer World 1

Tackling Three Grand Challenges

Building resilience for a sustainable future

Advancing individual and societal health in the 21st century

Promoting safety at the human-digital interface

By applying our expertise to today’s global challenges, UL Research Institutes continues to set the agenda for safety science. We’re working to ensure that the technologies that define the 21st century are designed with safety, security, and equity in mind — and advance those values around the world.

Setting the Agenda for Safety Science

As a global safety science leader, research is at the heart of our mission. We tackle the tough questions with a scientific rigor and objectivity trusted throughout the world.

Our best-in-class researchers strive to weave safety into the fabric of technological innovation through an established approach. First we collaborate with experts around the world to evaluate public safety and health concerns, then set research agendas and design methodologies based on the science required. From there, we select research parameters, conduct the research, review findings, and establish action plans.

It‘s a meticulous and transparent process that underscores the integrity of our scientific research. Our findings support the development of standards and best practices for the safe use of evolving technologies while paving the way for regulatory and behavior change.

We aspire to do even more. Deploying a multidisciplinary approach that engages the ingenuity of top minds across scientific disciplines, we are building on our legacy to dramatically increase both the size of our research operation and its scope. Our aim is to catalyze the field of safety science through collaborative research so that risks are mitigated in the earliest stages of technological advancement.

Read on to learn more about the research institutes and offices comprising ULRI that take on our grand challenges in pursuit of a safer, more secure, and resilient society.

Advisory Board to the Chief Research Officer

Chief Research Officer Chris Cramer has created an advisory board to guide him as he leads the expansion of the research institutes and their collective impact on society. Board members met for the first time in October 2022 and will continue to meet semiannually.

Dr. Marilyn Black 1

Our Chemical Insights Research Institute (CIRI) helps detect, reduce, and eliminate the dangers that environmental and chemical pollutants pose to human health. 

Dr. Marilyn Black leads CIRI. 

Dr. Judy Jeevarajan 1

Our Electrochemical Safety Research Institute (ESRI) examines the safety and performance limits of storage batteries and other renewable energy technologies, while exploring ways to overcome those limits.  

Dr. Judy Jeevarajan leads ESRI. 

Dr. Jill Crisman 1

Our Digital Safety Research Institute (DSRI) aims to partner with other safety-minded organizations to develop tools to help protect individuals from rapidly evolving digital threats.

Dr. Jill Crisman leads DSRI.

Steve Kerber

Our Fire Safety Research Institute (FSRI) investigates emerging issues in fire safety through field testing, laboratory studies, and modeling, with the goal of equipping the world’s fire services with the information they need to save lives.

Dr. Steve Kerber leads FSRI.

Dr. Stuart Miller 1

Our Materials Discovery Research Institute (MDRI) studies new materials at the atomic, nano, and meso scales. Its research highlights both risks and applications, including ways we might harness new materials to advance sustainability, safety, and health. 

Dr. Stuart R. Miller leads MDRI.

Deepa 500px

Our Office of Partnerships builds out, oversees, and manages all major partnerships for UL Research Institutes, including competitive sponsored research activities, awards, prizes, the Advisory Board to the Chief Research Officer, our annual research symposium, and relationships with other key organizations. 

Deepa Shankar leads the partnerships office. 

Dr. Kelly Keena 1

Our Office of Research Experiences & Education (OREE) creates educational materials and designs research experiences to broaden student understanding of safety science and contribute to the cultivation of the next generation of safety scientists.

Dr. Kelly Keena leads OREE.

Grand Challenge #1

Building resilience for a sustainable future

Many solutions to climate change — among them solar panels, storage batteries, and electric vehicles — are technologies. They will play a vital role in driving down global carbon emissions.

But like most technologies, they also have the potential to create unintended consequences. For example, storage batteries are vulnerable to thermal runaway and fire; they also currently require metals like lithium and cobalt, which are often extracted through dangerous mining practices.

Left alone, these and other problems will undermine the world’s transition to a clean energy future.

That is why we are working to build safety into the design, development, and deployment of renewable energy technologies.

Grand Challenge #2

Advancing individual and societal health in the 21st century

New manufactured products and chemicals play an important role in societal progress: They make crops more productive, medicines more effective, and structures more durable, to name just a few benefits. But in most cases, the long-term impact of these chemicals on people, other species, and ecosystems is poorly understood.

What we can say with certainty is that synthetic chemicals are ubiquitous in the world, from the ocean floor to the human bloodstream. Many persist and accumulate in living things, and some can inflict harm in subtle ways over long periods of time.

We are working to bring these chemical concerns to light — focusing in particular on air pollution, electronic cigarettes, 3D printer emissions, and flame retardants, which pose global risks to health.

Grand Challenge #3

Promoting safety at the human-digital interface

We are right now in the early stages of a technological revolution powered by digital intelligence. Artificial intelligence and machine learning have already begun to transform our understanding of disease and human biology; they help fly our planes, staff our companies, and enforce our laws; and experts say there is still more change to come.

We are also becoming familiar with problems in the digital ecosystem, from the erosion of privacy and the misuse of data to black box algorithms that quietly reinforce human biases. It is critical that we solve these problems while the technologies driving them are still nascent.

We aim to do just that, by developing new frameworks for digital safety in partnership with experts worldwide.


Our public safety mission endorses broad, global cooperation so that we can advance safety science for the public good. To successfully work for a safer world, we must move forward in a way that represents both our stakeholders and the global community we seek to serve.

Safety science must embody the perspectives of everyone it’s supposed to protect — no matter who they are, what they look like, or where they live. In short, an inclusive world is a safer world.

box inclusive world 500pxThat’s why we aim to ensure that our research — and the solutions we design — reflect the perspectives and needs of the diverse cultures on the front lines of the world’s urgent safety challenges. In practice, our commitment to inclusivity means encouraging a wide range of voices. It means doing more to ensure our efforts incorporate the full diversity of our world.

And it underscores the importance of collaboration and partnerships. When we work with people of different races, genders, economic backgrounds, and more, we can examine existing safety challenges from new angles. We can solve problems more quickly, investigate, and address complex issues related to safety and sustainability, and we can build a more resilient society.

Partnerships enable us to call upon our deep reservoir of trust and credibility to collaborate with leaders and address shared challenges.

When more people make a breakthrough discovery or build a coalition for progress, it helps advance a vision of the world in which we all want to live.

Organizationwide Partnerships * US Agency for International Development  * World Economic Forum
CIRI * National Institutes of Health * U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
DSRI * Center for Advancing the Safety of Machine Intelligence, Northwestern University * Cybersecurity and Digital Trust, World Economic Forum
ESRI * Purdue University * India Energy Storage Alliance
FSRI * International Fire Safety Consortium * Fire Department of New York
OREE * Arizona State University’s Regional Centre for Expertise * GEM Consortium


Our researchers share their knowledge in numerous ways, from scholarly journal articles and conference presentations to public service announcements and videos. Below are the peer-reviewed journal articles and technical papers we published in 2022 that address the grand challenges on which we are focused.


A Research Agenda for the Chemistry of Fires at the Wildland-Urban Interface: A National Academies Consensus Report” — Environmental Science & Technology 

Battery Hazards for Large Energy Storage Systems” — ACS Energy Letters 

Effects of HVAC on Combustion-Gas Transport in Residential Structures” — Fire Safety Journal 

Perspective — On the Safety of Aged Lithium-Ion Batteries” — Journal of The Electrochemical Society 

State-of-Electrode (SOE) Analytics of Lithium-Ion Cells Under Overdischarge Extremes” — Energy Storage Materials 

Theoretical Modeling of Solid-Liquid Phase Change in a Phase Change Material Protected by a Multilayer Cartesian Wall” — International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer 

Validation of CFD Fire Model Pressure Predictions for Modern Residential Style Structures” — Fire Safety Journal 

Consensus study report: 

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine: The Chemistry of Fires at the Wildland-Urban Interface 

Technical reports: 

Analysis of Search and Rescue Tactics in Single-Story Single-Family Homes Part I: Bedroom Fires 

Analysis of Search and Rescue Tactics in Single-Story Single-Family Homes Part II: Kitchen and Living Room Fires 

Analysis of Search and Rescue Tactics in Single-Story Single-Family Homes Part III: Tactical Considerations 

Exposing Fire Service Hose in a Flashover Chamber: Report of Test 

Four Firefighters Burned in Residential House Fire Georgia 

Safety in the Recycling of Lithium-Ion Batteries

A Pilot Study To Quantify Volatile Organic Compounds and Their Sources Inside and Outside Homes in Urban India in Summer and Winter During Normal Daily Activities” — Environments 

Airborne Contamination During Post-Fire Investigations: Hot, Warm and Cold Scenes” — Firehouse Magazine 

Characterizing Exposure to Benzene, Toluene, and Naphthalene in Firefighters Wearing Different Types of New or Laundered PPE” — International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health 

Effect of Live-Fire Training on Ventricular-Vascular Coupling” — European Journal of Applied Physiology 

Emissions and Chemical Exposure Potentials From Stereolithography Vat Polymerization 3D Printing and Post-Processing Units” — ACS Chemical Health & Safety 

Firefighters’ Urinary Concentrations of VOC Metabolites After Controlled-Residential and Training Fire Responses” — International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health 

Hemostatic Responses to Multiple Bouts of Firefighting Activity: Female vs. Male Differences in a High Demand, High Performance Occupation” — International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 

Hierarchy of Contamination Control in the Fire Service: Review of Exposure Control Options to Reduce Cancer Risk” — Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene 

Impact of Repeated Exposure and Cleaning on Protective Properties of Structural Firefighting Turnout Gear” — Fire Technology 

Metal Compositions of Particle Emissions From Material Extrusion 3D Printing: Emission Sources and Indoor Exposure Modeling” — Science of the Total Environment 

Oral Microbiome of Electronic Cigarette Users: A Cross-Sectional Exploration” — Oral Diseases 

Testing of Liquids With the Cone Calorimeter” — Fire Safety Journal 

The Unknowns of Vaping: Oxidative Stress, Toxicity, and DNA Damage Across the Device Lifetime” — The Toxicologist: Supplement to Toxicological Sciences 

 Technical reports: 

A Summary Report: Dosimetric and Toxicological Analysis of 3D Printer-Emitted Particles 

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) Released From Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) 

Executive Leadership Team

Together with our research institute leaders, the executive leadership team carries out UL Research Institutes‘ mission to promote safe living and working environments throughout the world under the direction of President and CEO Terrence R. Brady and our Board of Trustees.

The leadership team’s commitment to rigorous science, collaboration, education, and application of our findings ensures that everything we learn reaches the people who need it to make our communities safer.

Board of Trustees

Governance of UL Research Institutes is directed by our distinguished board of trustees. Our board members bring their safety science expertise and deep knowledge of global issues to their thoughtful stewardship of our organization.

With his demonstrated leadership and advocacy experience, President James M. Shannon leads the board and helps drive our goals forward, encouraging transformative change for a safer and more resilient society.

We thank the board members for their support and counsel as we advance the UL Research Institutes strategic vision to be regarded as the preeminent institution addressing our selected grand challenges and broader public safety concerns.

Terry Portrait
Terrence R. Brady
President and CEO, UL Research Institutes
Board Chair, UL Standards & Engagement

In Closing

This has been a historic year for UL Research Institutes (ULRI). We have transformed our organization — dramatically increasing the scale and scope of our efforts — as we focus our expertise on the three grand challenges discussed throughout this report.

We will continue to expand as we work to extend and deepen the impact of safety science in pursuit of a safer, more sustainable world. Still, we recognize that today’s complex issues require collaborative, multidisciplinary solutions. As we grow to address today’s complex global issues, we welcome collaboration with like-minded partners.

It’s an approach embedded in our history. Since our founding in 1894, we have partnered across disciplines and sectors to help identify and mitigate public safety risks. Our collaborative research approach has always been an essential component of our effort to build a future with safety science at its core.

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