Advancing Energy, Power and Control in the Midwest, U.S. and Globally
The energy, power and control (EPC) industry is comprised of companies that create and provide technology, components, products, systems, solutions or services tied to serving major energy, power and control segments. The EPC industry has made progressive strides in recent decades to become one of America’s largest clusters. The country’s increased consumer demand, advancement in energy innovation and complex supply chain make the U.S. one of the most attractive markets in the world. This monumental opportunity to advance the industry within the U.S. and globally, has not gone unnoticed by EPC companies, as well as educational and research institutions in the Midwest.
Specifically, the Mid-West Energy Research Consortium (M-WERC) was formed in 2009 to catalyze and advance Midwest leadership through industry growth, technology innovation and strategic collaboration. And already the organization has made great progress in elevating the Midwest’s role in energy, power and control throughout the world.
Opening State Border Lines
Milwaukee-based M-WERC (formerly the Wisconsin Energy Research Consortium) was formed to nurture private sector and academic collaboration to support the EPC cluster in southeastern Wisconsin. The state is rich with more than 900 energy sector companies that collectively employ over 100,000 people and generate about $38 billion in annual revenue. Wisconsin’s deep history of more than a century of industry experience and innovation has led to the boom in the state’s overall energy sector today. Some of the state’s leading companies in the industry include the Eaton Corp., Johnson Controls Inc., Rockwell Automation, We Energies and American Transmission Co.
In 2012, the organization decided to expand its geographic reach to eight Midwestern states – Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana, Iowa and Missouri. While Wisconsin has a large industrial base of EPC companies, the state is clearly part of a much larger ecosystem that has the potential to lead the industry—together these eight states lead the way with a total of more than 562,000 jobs in the EPC sector.
Lee Swindall, vice president of business and industry development for WEDC, believes that M-WERC can help position the Midwest organization to impact the global EPC industry, “It is industry-driven but also embraces academic research and strategic cooperation between companies in the EPC sector as well as public institutions,” Swindall said. “It is uniquely positioned to focus industry, academic and public efforts through a single starting gate to power large-scale industry growth.”
M-WERC Launches Global Energy Innovation Center
To help foster that growth and achieve M-WERC’s goal in advancing the industry worldwide, the organization recently announced plans for its Energy Innovation Center (EIC). 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. It brings 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
In August, WEDC 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 addition, in 2013, the City of Milwaukee provided a $122,000 grant for energy-saving upgrades at the building as part of its Me2 Program.
As M-WERC has seen with the development of other clusters in the region, the physical space – the building – creates an ecosystem that is often the catalyst that puts the cluster on the map. By developing an environment where entrepreneurs are paired with research institutions and mature businesses, the organization has created an environment designed to foster innovation.
“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. “M-WERC was founded to support and build on our region’s EPC 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, began in September. A grand opening is targeted for September 2015. A second construction phase is expected to begin around October 2015 and be completed by mid-2016.
“The close collaboration between industry and universities made possible by the Energy Innovation Center will help fuel Milwaukee’s growth as a global hub for the energy, power and control sector,” said Dr. Michael Lovell, president of Marquette University and chairman emeritus of the M-WERC. “The state’s support will pay dividends not only for our students, faculty and partners in business and industry, but also for the future economic vitality of our region.”