Marquette, A.O. Smith to partner on water technology study

Results to be reviewed by next U.S. president

Marquette occupies space on the sixth floor of the Global Water Center.

Last updated on July 7th, 2019 at 02:37 pm

Marquette University and Milwaukee-based A.O. Smith Corporation are drawing Milwaukee deeper into the national conversation on water technology as the two partner on a sector study intended to be reviewed by Congress and the next U.S. president.

Marquette occupies space on the sixth floor of the Global Water Center.
Marquette occupies space on the sixth floor of the Global Water Center.

The study, focused on advancing manufacturing and water solutions, aspires to reinforce the global competitiveness of manufacturing across the country as well as highlight ways to address pressing water problems.

The specific focal points of the study will include evaluations of the use and re-use of water and the energy-water nexus. The study will also pinpoint water-use related risk, detail new technologies that promote water use efficiency, and hit on national policies for water-manufacturing and energy.

Among the technologies the study will likely explore are advanced sensors for metering and monitoring and Internet of Things as well as technology aiming to enhance waste water treatment, re-use and purification.

“The availability of fresh water to large portions of the world is becoming a serious global problem,” Ajita Rajendra, chairman and chief executive officer of A. O. Smith, said in a statement. “With this need come opportunities for manufacturers to address the issue with new products and innovative fresh water technologies. We hope to do our part to ensure that U.S. manufacturing can play a role in this initiative.”

Marquette and A.O. Smith’s combined efforts will feed into the U.S. Energy and Manufacturing Competitive Partnership, a national action plan driven by the Council on Competitiveness.

“It is an incredible honor to join a national leadership effort that will shape solutions for the most complex water issues facing businesses from coast to coast,” said Marquette University president Michael Lovell, Ph.D. “We look forward to convening the brightest minds from both the public and private sectors to develop a bold and innovative action plan that will drive our country’s manufacturing sector forward.”

Those minds will come together on a team of academic and industry experts who will spend the next year producing the study. Their findings, to be delivered to the country’s top political figures, will aim to help crystallize energy and manufacturing priorities along with water-related technology and policies.

The study’s team, to be headed by Lovell and Rajendra, will be grounded by four “pillars,” according to Marquette and A.O. Smith. Those are infrastructure, talent, new technology and investment.

Both leaders will also serve on the national EMCP steering committee as Carmel Ruffolo, Marquette’s associate vice president for research and innovation, and Robert Heideman, senior vice president-chief technology officer at A.O. Smith, add their voices to the EMCP national advisory committee.

As part of Marquette’s focus on developing water technology, Lovell and Ruffolo – members of the Council on Competitiveness – attended the American Energy and Manufacturing Competitiveness Summit in Washington, D.C. The September meeting, populated by a cross sector of leaders in government, academia and industry, highlighted struggles faced by the energy and manufacturing industries as well as potential solutions to help strengthen the economy.

Both Marquette and A.O. Smith bring diverse experience with water solutions to the national initiative. Along with housing research projects focused on water problems and solutions, Marquette has supported the development of water technologies by faculty. The school also occupies space on the sixth floor of Milwaukee’s Global Water Center, where its faculty, staff and students can collaborate with companies and government groups on advancing water technology.

A.O. Smith, a manufacturer of residential and commercial water heaters and boilers, has developed fresh water purification and sensor technologies. The company also helped found the Milwaukee Water Council.

Marquette University and A.O. Smith plan to reveal more details of the study during a press conference on Friday afternoon.

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