Milwaukee brews collaboration on advanced energy, water tech

Wisconsin is positioning itself as a leader in technology development for two crucial industries, water and distributed energy.

Located in downtrodden areas of Milwaukee in need of economic development, two new centers will offer space for collaborative academic-private sector research and incubators for start-up businesses. The goal is to become a national hub, attracting and growing companies that can fill in industry gaps in clean energy and water.

The Global Water Center opened last year and quickly rented its space. A 17-acre "water technology park" will bring researchers and water companies together to develop innovations in water management and quality — as the "the Silicon Valley of water technology." Five businesses already are graduating from the water incubator, funded by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

Renovation starts this fall on The Energy Innovation Center, which will be housed in a former research building. Its mission is to accelerate innovative clean energy technologies in distributed energy — such as microgrids — energy efficiency, building controls and manufacturing processes.

The Mid-West Energy Research Consortium is headquartered there. Its 76 members include Johnson Controls, Rockwell Automation and state engineering schools.

Johnson Controls recently opened the largest advanced battery research facility for electric vehicles in Wisconsin.

"Similar to water, energy is an important sustainable global resource that powers industry and commerce," noted Mike Laszkiewicz, vice president, Rockwell Automation. "For example, manufacturing plants use more than one-third of U.S. electric power. By accelerating innovation in this rapidly growing global market through regional collaboration, this center will energize new and existing businesses."

Other tenants will include industry associations, university and private researchers, government energy programs, economic development offices and workforce education programs.

Wisconsin isn't the only state to build such centers. New York opened NY-BEST, for budding entrepreneurs in energy storage technologies.

Top image of Global Water Center by The Water Council. This article first appeared at SustainableBusiness.com.