Officials from the Mid-West Energy Research Consortium (M-WERC) recently unveiled plans for the new Energy Innovation Center (EIC), a facility that is intended to accelerate the development of innovative technology in the energy, power and control industry.
The center is housed in the Century City Tower at 4201 N. 27th St. in Milwaukee (formerly Eaton Corp.). Its mission is to affirm and leverage the Midwest’s standing as a global hub for the industry by providing a collaborative space designed to attract, grow and develop companies. The center is intended to bring together industry and academic scientists, engineers and business leaders to conduct joint research, jump-start innovative technologies, transition prototype products to the commercial stage, and nurture startup companies.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) has awarded M-WERC more than $850,000 in grants for the center. The project also received a $50,000 grant from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority. In 2013, the City of Milwaukee also provided a $122,000 grant for energy-saving upgrades at the building as part of its Me2 Program.
“With the Energy Innovation Center, M-WERC will establish a fully integrated ecosystem for companies, individuals, and a variety of economic development and academic organizations that will catalyze energy, power and control technology and industry development,” said Alan S. Perlstein, executive director and CEO of M-WERC. “This organization was founded to support and build on our region’s energy, power and control industry cluster, and the center will focus on supporting and growing companies to fill industry gaps.”
Construction on the $9.6 million center, which will occupy 65,000 square feet of the Century City Tower, is expected to begin in September. A grand opening is targeted for September 2015. A second construction phase is expected to begin around October 2015and be completed by mid-2016.
“Just as the Global Water Center has put Milwaukee and Wisconsin on the map when it comes to water technology, we believe the Energy Innovation Center has the same potential for the energy, power and control sector,” said Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. “Southeastern Wisconsin already is home to some world-leading companies and research universities in the sector. This is an opportunity to harness that innovation all in one place.”
Added Brett Peters, dean of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s College of Engineering & Applied Science: “Having these new resources right here in Milwaukee, where UWM’s microgrid testbed is just getting under way, offers tremendous potential, especially for industries in Wisconsin, to get in on the ground floor of a profitable emerging market in distributed energy systems. We are excited about the work ahead.”
M-WERC envisions the center as a resource for both entrepreneurs — independent individuals with ideas they want to transform into successful businesses — and “intrapreneurs”: individuals employed by companies who have an idea that they want to turn into a profitable product or service offering, Perlstein added.
The center will be home to M-WERC’s EPiC Incubator, which will utilize the resources of M-WERC and its partners to enable startups to successfully incubate, demonstrate and commercialize clean energy technology. lt is anticipated that the EPiC Incubator will be supported by WEDC’s Seed Accelerator Program in a manner similar to The BREW Program at the Global Water Center.
M-WERC was founded in 2009 by three universities and four industrial companies as the Southeast Wisconsin Energy Technology Research Consortium with the mission of conducting collaborative and transformative energy-related seed research. M-WERC’s stated goal is to make the Midwest region the leader in energy, power and control. It has five core mission areas: technology innovation; market and industry expansion; public policy support; workforce development; and organization development and strategic collaboration. It encompasses the states of Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Missouri.