WisBusiness: Experts hopeful Milwaukee can lead on freshwater science

By Russell Korinek

For WisBusiness.com

A panel of water technology experts told a roomful of industry players that with cooperative efforts from area universities, businesses and the government, Milwaukee can take the lead in water industry and research. 

 “We have a great base,” said Richard Meeusen, Badger Meter CEO and Milwaukee 7 Water Council co-chair, adding that there are more than 120 companies in the area that are involved in water technology.

 He said that the “beauty” of the area’s water-related companies is that they cooperate with each other instead of getting mired in business competition. 

 “I don’t compete with A.O. Smith,” he said.  “If A.O. Smith’s engineers want to use my flow lab at night, come and use it.”

 The remarks came during a Wisconsin Innovation Network luncheon Thursday at the Brookfield Suites Hotel.

 Brian Thompson, president of the research foundation at UW-Milwaukee, said that to grow the area’s water industry, a strong research component at the university is also necessary. 

 He said that UW-Milwaukee has the Great Lakes Water Institute, but the university plans to build on the strengths of that program to create a wider hub of research.

 “We have approval from the Board of Regents to plan the nation’s first school of freshwater science,” he said, adding that the university would also foster working partnerships with local companies to coordinate research with industry demands.

 Barry Grossman, a partner with the Foley & Lardner law firm, stressed the importance of innovation and getting patents on water technology innovations.

 The goal of the water council is to get industry, government and academia to work together in developing southeastern Wisconsin’s water industry leadership, Grossman said.

 “Our vision is that someday when a young entrepreneur has an idea for a water technology company, all of his relatives and friends and neighbors are going to say, ‘you need to go to Milwaukee,'” Meeusen said.