NSF Engines Award a Watershed Moment for Inclusive Innovation in Cleveland

by | Jan 30, 2024

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – January 30, 2024

Media Contact:
Reanna Karousis
rkarousis@thefundneo.org / 216.456.9811

Fund for Our Economic Future Among Cleveland Partners in Multi-State NSF Regional Innovation Engine

CLEVELAND—Cleveland is among three Great Lakes water hubs that together could unlock up to $160 million over 10 years toward critical water technology innovations and inclusive workforce development. The Great Lakes ReNew collaborative, led by Chicago-based Current and represented locally by the Fund for Our Economic Future (Fund), the Cleveland Water Alliance, and TIES (Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM) today was named a Regional Innovation Engine Type-2 awardee by the National Science Foundation.

One of 10 groups across the U.S to be named an NSF Engine, ReNew brings together connected testbed capacities through water hubs in Chicago, Cleveland and Milwaukee and represents more than 50 partners across research institutions, industry, investors, government and nonprofit organizations. Great Lakes ReNew aims to transform waste into wealth by developing “selective separation” technologies to remove dangerous “forever chemicals” and valuable minerals from wastewater, with deliberate attention to economic inclusion.

“The Cleveland Innovation Project embraced water technology as a priority growth area for Northeast Ohio, and today’s award builds on past local philanthropic and state investments and highlights the importance of technological and workforce innovation for a healthier, more equitable future,” said Fund President Bethia Burke.

“This is an exciting opportunity to demonstrate that our region is a global destination for freshwater innovation,” said Bryan Stubbs, President and Executive Director of Cleveland Water Alliance (CWA). “We have invested over $10 million in our Smart Lake Erie Watershed infrastructure to accelerate solutions for worldwide issues like emerging contaminants, and this is an exciting, collaborative opportunity to showcase the world’s largest digitally connected freshwater body right here, surrounding Lake Erie.”

“TIES is pleased to join other leading organizations to leverage the Great Lakes for their immense and vast power to drive learning and economic opportunity,” said Jan Morrison, founder and CEO of TIES. “While considered shallow as Great Lakes go, Lake Erie runs very deep in terms of opportunity. We are excited to begin this work to extract value from Lake Erie and other Great Lakes while supporting the development of a ‘blue economy.’”

“By working together, we can ensure that we have both clean drinking water and innovative wastewater infrastructure to protect public health, provide for a high quality of life and enable economic and employment vitality,” said Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who has established water technology as a priority through the H2Ohio plan.

The NSF Engines award is the third recent major win for national innovation investment across Northeast Ohio in recent months, with Case Western Reserve University winning an NSF Engines Development Type-1 Award, and Akron named a Regional Tech Hub for Sustainable PolymersRegional Tech Hub by the U.S. Department of Commerce in October.

“These are the kinds of investments needed to future-proof our businesses and build a more equitable tomorrow,” Burke said.

The National Science Foundation’s announcement about the 10 Regional Innovation Engines named today can be found here. More information about Great Lakes ReNew can be found at greatlakesrenew.org.

About the Fund for Our Economic Future

The Fund for Our Economic Future is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization working to advance a more equitable economy in Northeast Ohio. This civic collaborative brings together leaders across sectors and throughout the region to collectively invest in, test and amplify strategies to enable the region to achieve its full potential. Since 2004, the Fund has developed enduring strategies to grow the everyone economy—where good jobs and rising incomes are within reach for all residents. Learn more at thefundneo.org.

About the Cleveland Water Alliance

Cleveland Water Alliance (CWA) is a global leader in facilitating innovation for the water economy, having established the Lake Erie Watershed as the largest digitally connected freshwater body in the world. Supported by a robust testbed infrastructure and world-class industry expertise, CWA leverages collaborative research and multi-sector partnerships to support market-driven innovation and sustainable solutions for regional and global water challenges. Since our founding in 2014, CWA has invested over half a million dollars directly into early-stage innovations.

About TIES

TIES is a transformative educational consulting firm working to make STEM accessible and actionable for all.  Based in Cleveland, TIES’ footprint is global as the founder and operator of the STEM Learning Ecosystems Community of Practice, a 111-member initiative serving more than 70 million learners worldwide with a foundational commitment to equity and workforce.