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Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center receives maritime, mobility funding

The GLRC, DockTech, Lilypad and the Mackinac Economic Alliance have received a total of $247,997 in state grants.
Maritime infrastructure image.
Maritime infrastructure image.(WLUC)
Published: Oct. 15, 2021 at 2:54 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WLUC) - Friday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer joined the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification (OFME) and the Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy (EGLE) to announce funding for four projects that will address climate, energy, and mobility challenges in the Great Lakes region through innovative maritime solutions.

Michigan Technological University’s Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC), DockTech, Lilypad and the Mackinac Economic Alliance have received a total of $247,997 in grants to research, test, validate and deploy new water-based mobility solutions and support innovations in water infrastructure through the funding provided by OFME and EGLE.

“The Great Lakes State is uniquely suited to tap into the abundant water-based resources available in our backyard to research sustainable solutions that will support Michigan’s maritime industry and preserve our greatest natural resource for generations to come,” said Governor Whitmer. “These new projects will allow us to support this critical workforce while continuing to create a more innovative and environmentally-friendly future for our state.”

The Great Lakes form North America’s largest inland transportation corridor and are located at the center of the continent’s industrial heartland. The region is also home to a quarter of North America’s population and accounts for 55 percent of North America’s manufacturing and service industries. This proximity to manufacturing industries and key shipping routes makes the Great Lakes Region an ideal place to research and develop maritime technology and water-based mobility solutions.

On Tuesday, the Michigan Council on Future Mobility and Electrification (CFME) released its annual report on the progress made in the state toward enhancing Michigan’s mobility ecosystem, and next steps needed to ensure Michigan continues to be the epicenter of future transportation solutions around mobility and electrification. Today’s grants support specific projects that are building on those recommendations.

Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy Grant Recipient:

Michigan Technological University’s Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC) received a $99,997 grant from EGLE through the Michigan Great Lakes Protection Fund to help advance the region as a hub for the maritime industry.

The GLRC is one the Great Lakes region’s leading research institutions specializing in water-related science and launched the Marine Autonomous Research Site (MARS) in 2018 as the world’s first freshwater designated maritime test sites for autonomous technologies. This grant will allow the GLRC to engage stakeholders to increase action in areas of research, business development, workforce preparation, and development of standards for design and testing of maritime autonomous systems.

This funding will also support the implementation of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers Regional Maritime Strategy, which aims to double maritime trade, reduce the environmental footprint, and support the region’s industrial core. The GLRC is working toward creating smart and autonomous maritime systems to improve mobility and safety on the lakes for mariners.

The Smart Ships Coalition (SSC), housed at GLRC and supported by MARS brings industry, government, and academia together to develop technology, safety protocols, and policy surrounding the incorporation of autonomous maritime systems into the mobility solutions of tomorrow.

“Beginning with the indigenous people in the Great Lakes basin, the Lakes and connecting waters were our region’s first transportation corridors to move goods efficiently, said Liesl Clark, EGLE director. “We can continue that tradition today in ways that both add economic muscle and protect the world’s greatest freshwater resource.”

This investment also aligns with the Great Lakes Commission’s Action Plan for Growing the Great Lakes Blue Economy, a recently released roadmap for collective action and a challenge to regional leaders to take strategic action to leverage the economic potential of the Great Lakes and our abundant freshwater resources.

The Plan recommends building blocks for growing the Great Lakes economy and is the result of the work of over 50 Great Lakes agencies and organizations convened by the Great Lakes Commission.

Michigan Mobility Funding Platform Grants Recipients:

DockTech: DockTech received an $8,000 grant to provide maritime stakeholders with data insights for better, faster shipping. 

In partnership with Michigan Tech’s GLRC, this project will install equipment on a research vessel to enhance safe navigation of the Marine Autonomous Research Site (MARS). This data will also contain historical data such as shipwrecks for other researchers and the public.

Lilypad: Lilypad, the world’s first truly sustainable Aquatic Mobility Platform (AMP), received a $40,000 grant to support demo and pilot activities in Saugatuck, Michigan.

Lilypad provides frictionless rental access to water recreation for all rental consumers using state-of-the-art clean mobility technologies and operator assistance technology for ease of operation, route guidance, and docking. These features make it available to rental customers with little to no knowledge of boating.

Mackinac Economic Alliance: Mackinac Economic Alliance received a $100,000 grant to explore clean electrification of ferries traveling to and from Mackinac Island in partnership with GLRC.

Michigan Tech’s GLRC is designing a testing regime to determine hydrological energy flow, direction, and generating capabilities from hydrokinetic turbines in the historic river depths of the Straits of Mackinac. Tech will analyze the energy requirements of the ferries and recommend the technology best suited to generate and store electricity for new or retrofitted ferries in the Straits and various vessel types within the Great Lakes.

“We have a unique opportunity in Michigan to enhance our climate resilience, embrace maritime technology R&D and ultimately strengthen our Blue Economy in the Great Lakes region through water-based innovations,” said Trevor Pawl, Michigan’s Chief Mobility Officer. “Mobility is much more than autonomous and electric vehicles. We can leverage our land, air, and water here in Michigan to continue bringing equitable, sustainable, and accessible mobility solutions to residents and businesses across the entire state.”

The Office of Future Mobility and Electrification, in partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Michigan Department of Transportation, launched the Michigan Mobility Funding Platform to provide grants to mobility and electrification companies looking to deploy their technology solutions in the state of Michigan.

The state says these projects build on mobility-related announcements made by the administration in the past month, including the first round of Michigan Mobility Funding Platform grants to accelerate mobility and EV investments in the state; the Lake Michigan EV Circuit to install charging infrastructure and create a new EV road trip route along Lake Michigan; the nation’s first wireless charging infrastructure on a public road in the U.S; deployments in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood including a robot delivery program to address last-mile delivery challenges and the Detroit Smart Parking Lab, a new public/private collaboration launching the nation’s first-of-its-kind, real-world test site for parking solutions; and an MOU between Michigan and Ontario on cross-border activities to spur technology innovations and transportation solutions that enhance crossings by land, air, and water.

Learn more about how Michigan is leading in transportation mobility and electrification at www.michiganbusiness.org/mobility.

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