Peters accompanies governor to Israel to explore water research partnership

UWM Engineering & Applied Science Dean Brett Peters accompanied Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on a trade mission to Israel last month, and they returned home with a signed letter of intent to collaborate on developing new water technology.

Under the agreement, the Water Equipment and Policy Center and the Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev will explore the potential for working together on water-related research to develop new technologies.

Three men pose for a photo.
Brett Peters (center), dean of UWM’s College of Engineering & Applied Science, stands with Jack Gilron (left) and Noam Weisbrod, both of Ben Gurion University’s Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research.

UWM leads the Water Equipment and Policy Center; Marquette University is the other academic member. Established by the National Science Foundation, the center is one of 69 industry/university cooperative research centers that facilitate collaborative innovation among universities, governmental agencies and private companies, whose membership pays for the cost of research in a shared intellectual property arrangement. One of the center’s goals has been to bring in an international partner.

“We wanted to learn about the Zuckerberg Institute’s objectives moving forward to see if there was any possibility for collaboration,” Peters said. “We’re encouraged by the opportunities we discovered. Our next steps will be to determine possibilities for direct collaboration and/or complementary research.”

A key goal of the trade mission was to promote Milwaukee as a regional hub for water technology and establish relationships with other regional leaders, both nationally and internationally. Israel, which faces challenges of supplying water in an arid environment, has long been a leader in water technology.

The Zuckerberg Institute serves as a national center of expertise and training on water-related problems, focusing on water management. Desalination, “smart water” and influencing consumer behavior are a few areas the institute specializes in.

Four men and a woman pose for a photo.
Members of the Wisconsin delegation that visited Israel last month stand outside the Israel Innovation Authority. From left are Brett Peters, dean of UWM’s College of Engineering & Applied Science; Karen Frost, vice president of business development for The Water Council; Dean Amhaus, president and CEO of The Water Council; Gov. Scott Walker; and Kevin Shafer, executive director of MMSD.

Peters met with Ben-Gurion Professors Jack Gilron and Noam Weisbrod, among others, to outline water-related issues, highlight potential solutions and consider opportunities for collaborative research. Weisbrod is director of the Zuckerberg Institute, while Gilron heads up the institute’s Department of Desalination and Water Treatment.

A second letter of intent activated an existing agreement between the Water Council and the Israel Innovation Authority. The partnership commits matching funds to pilot and develop new Israeli technology in the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District and other Wisconsin-based water utilities.

“These partnerships will strengthen the sector in both countries, and are expected to open new markets to water technology companies in Wisconsin and Israel,” Walker said.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. organized the trip to Israel as part of its goal to develop new partnerships in the water technology sector, encourage investment in Wisconsin and increase exports.

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