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(Chicago) – A new multistate partnership including the Discovery Partners Institute, part of the University of Illinois System, will create a hub of research and economic development around water resources in the Great Lakes region.

Great Lakes ReNEW, funded by up to $160 million over ten years through the National Science Foundation Regional Innovation Engines program, is a collaboration of more than 50 partners led by Current, a Chicago-based water innovation hub, and includes research institutions, industry, investors, government, and nonprofit organizations.

“The Great Lakes are a vital natural resource for the health, wealth, and security of our entire nation,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “That’s why I’m thrilled that Current was selected to receive this federal award that will help transform our Great Lakes region. Thanks to investments like these, our top-tier workforce, and our industrial resources, we’re leading the clean water and energy revolution.”

At the University of Illinois System, Great Lakes ReNEW will engage a broad spectrum of departments and research centers to address comprehensive concerns ranging from economics and data sciences to community and economic development, climate resiliency, environmental justice, governance issues, social equity, policy analysis and advocacy.

Within DPI’s project scope is a “science gateway” to foster collaboration, share computational methods and data while integrating complex data and computing infrastructure. DPI will develop a science gateway for the partners in the project and the general public to share data and simulations to allow for smooth knowledge exchange between the different partners.

“We are thrilled to support this essential initiative for water innovation with Current and with the extended community of Great Lakes ReNEW partners,” said Venkat Venkatakrishnan, Director of Research at Discovery Partners Institute and Professor of Computer Science with the University of Illinois Chicago. “I am confident that through our network of research scientists and community stakeholders we’ll discover bold new solutions to local and global water challenges.”

The overall mission of Great Lakes ReNEW is to “turn waste into wealth” and seeks to invent new materials, processes and sensors that facilitate the extraction of toxic chemicals and valuable minerals and nutrients from wastewater. These innovations will create economic opportunities for the Great Lakes region, as industries transform harvested materials into batteries, fertilizers and clean energy.

Workforce development initiatives will also be central to DPI’s Pritzker Tech Talent Labs and other programs at the University of Illinois Chicago to ensure that residents of Chicago and other Great Lakes communities fully benefit from the economic opportunities created by this emerging field. Activities include curriculum development, job training and career coaching for a rapidly evolving “blue economy” built around water resources, as well as explorations of policy and economic issues such as water financing.

“This engine will be anchored in Chicago, which is becoming a national epicenter for clean water innovation,” said Mayor Brandon Johnson. “I want to congratulate Current, the University of Chicago, and Argonne National Laboratory for their ambition and ingenuity, which is going to create an untold number of jobs right here throughout the lifecycle of this grant.”

Participation in ReNEW will benefit University of Illinois System faculty and students, providing access to a broad network of research collaborators, water technology testbeds and incubators and partnerships with companies and community groups. These opportunities will enable accelerated technology development and adoption and provide students with expanded research experiences and job training in a new economic sector.

Great Lakes ReNEW was one of 10 groups across the United States chosen as an NSF Regional Innovation Engine from a pool of more than 700 submissions. The collaboration includes partners from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin, and is led by Current, the Chicago-based water innovation hub.