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By Dean Amhaus, The Water Council President & CEO

In August 2022, a group of business, educational and community leaders met to discuss a vision for Wisconsin in 20 years.

We see Wisconsin as the go-to place for manufacturers and utilities to find water and energy solutions in a changing environment. As solutions are discovered, we will shepherd them through the startup, scaling and commercialization process to quickly make them available to anyone who needs them.

In short, Wisconsin will export water and energy resiliency solutions to the rest of the world.

Our Resiliency Innovation Engine will enjoy the support of our elected representatives, the investment community and a diverse workforce fed by strong talent development.

The vision was compelling to the National Science Foundation. It awarded The Water Council and our partners – MKE Tech Hub Coalition, Wisconsin Technology Council, Marquette University, Madison Region Economic Partnership, Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing and Productivity, and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee – $1 million to develop the engine as part of its Regional Innovation Engines Program.

Wisconsin is already a global hub for water technology innovation and energy, power and controls solutions. It is also known for its research universities and boasts the top manufacturing workforce in the country.

Our engine will align those strengths to help manufacturers and utilities adapt to a rapidly changing world. Climate change is already causing more extreme weather, increasing the risk of flooding, power outages and other devastating problems. Some areas are experiencing too much water, while others are drying out. Manufacturers and utilities need to be resilient to handle these challenges now and in the future.

The NSF development award will help us build out the engine concept over two years and prepare an application for phase two, a launch award of up to $160 million over 10 years.

That kind of money would be transformational for the region. But we are building this engine whether we receive a launch award or not. We believe it is critical to Wisconsin and the world, and we are confident we will find the necessary support.

Over the next two years, we will connect with Wisconsin manufacturers and utilities to learn about their water and energy challenges. We will map existing and needed programs for supporting solutions from research to commercialization. We will expand pathways within the investor community and develop comprehensive, inclusive workforce and talent development plans.

We can’t do it alone. I invite you to contact me to learn how you can get involved. This work is too important to wait.