CERC was announced in 2009 and formally established through the signing of the Protocol in the same year. CERC builds upon over 30 years of U.S. and China science and technology collaboration. Under the Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement of 1979 and its 1991 amendment, the two countries have cooperated in a diverse range of fields, including basic research in physics and chemistry, earth and atmospheric sciences, a variety of energy-related areas, environmental management, and more.

In August 2010, DOE announced its selections of the first two research consortia, led by West Virginia University for Advanced Coal Technology and the University of Michigan for Clean Vehicles. In October 2010, DOE announced its selection for the third research consortium, led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory for Building Energy Efficiency.

In 2011, U.S. and Chinese consortia partners signed five-year joint work plans (JWPs), which outline high-level, mutually agreed-upon topics for CERC collaborative research in the years ahead. Following the signing of the JWPs, teams began developing ten-point plans, one for each CERC research project, to ensure mutual accountability for CERC research efforts.

From August to September 2011, technology management plans (TMPs) for each consortium were completed and signed. These TMPs are intended to guide development of CERC project- or IP-specific contracts and address the unique characteristics of each consortia as well as common elements that are shared in the plan framework. In September 2011, U.S. and Chinese government officials signed letters of endorsement of the three TMPs. A high-level ceremony was held in Beijing to showcase the signing.


The initial phase of CERC spanned five years (2011-2015) with notable accomplishments. In 2014 and 2015, CERC was expanded to include two new research tracks, water and energy technologies and fuel-efficient medium- and heavy-duty trucks, and extended for an additional five years (2016–2020).

At the start of its second phase, the leadership for the clean vehicles consortia transitioned to the Argonne National Laboratory. And in August 2015 and July 2016 respectively, the Department made awards to University of California, Berkeley to lead the Water and Energy Technologies consortium, and to Argonne National Laboratory to lead the Medium- and Heavy-Duty Trucks consortium.

At a high-level ceremony held in Beijing in July 2016, U.S. and Chinese officials signed an Amendment to the CERC Protocol, a Memorandum of Agreement for Advanced Coal Technology, and updated five-year Joint Work Plans (for Building Energy Efficiency, Clean Vehicles, and Water and Energy Technologies), and Technology Management Plans for Clean Vehicles and Water and Energy Technologies. In January 2017, U.S. and Chinese officials signed the Joint Work Plan and the Technology Management Plan for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Trucks.