The Water Council and its partners have been awarded $1 million from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) to plan a Regional Innovation Engine in eastern Wisconsin addressing water and energy resilience for manufacturers and utilities.
The Water Council applied for the two-year grant with its lead partners MKE Tech Hub Coalition, Wisconsin Technology Council, Marquette University, Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing and Productivity, and Madison Region Economic Partnership.
“We know businesses and communities are desperately in need of solutions to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. With its strong water and energy solution companies and leading research universities, Wisconsin is uniquely positioned to provide those solutions,” said Dean Amhaus, president and CEO of The Water Council. “This Resiliency Engine could be a true game-changer in terms of local economic development and assisting companies here, across the U.S. and globally adapt to the realities of climate change and the growing nexus of water and energy challenges.”
The grant is awarded through NSF’s highly competitive Regional Innovation Engine program meant to advance critical technologies; foster partnerships across industry, academia, governments and nonprofits; promote and stimulate economic growth and job creation; and more. At the end of the two-year Development Award, the Engine team will apply for a Launch Award of up to $160 million over 10 years.
“These NSF Engines Development Awards lay the foundation for emerging hubs of innovation and potential future NSF Engines,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “These awardees are part of the fabric of NSF’s vision to create opportunities everywhere and enable innovation anywhere. They will build robust regional partnerships rooted in scientific and technological innovation in every part of our nation. Through these planning awards, NSF is seeding the future for in-place innovation in communities and to grow their regional economies through research and partnerships. This will unleash ideas, talent, pathways and resources to create vibrant innovation ecosystems all across our nation.”
The primary region for the aspiring Engine – from Milwaukee west to Madison and from northern Illinois to the Fox Valley and Green Bay – already boasts many of the necessary resources, including renowned research universities, leading energy and water technology companies, and a strong manufacturing sector. The goal of the Engine is to align these resources around the theme of water and energy resiliency while ensuring the area offers a strong innovation pipeline and diverse, trained workforce to identify needs and quickly move solutions from the laboratory to the factory floor.
“Working with water is embedded in Wisconsin’s DNA,” said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. “Those same roots run deep in manufacturing and its relationship to energy and water use. The nexus of the three will result in innovation that can address climate change, confront rising energy prices, create efficiencies and encourage private investment. As a partner in the Resiliency Engine, the Wisconsin Technology Council will work to lever related resources across the state.”