Better Link Utilities with Universities 

Fostering stronger connections between utilities and universities for research, development, and testing of innovative solutions is a priority for LIFT. Improved collaborations and engagement provide win-win scenarios for both sectors and advance new technology development and deployment. 

LIFT Affiliates can help foster an improved utility-to-university ecosystem for innovation where new water solutions are developed through meaningful partnerships and interaction. Resources and activities at the national level are underway, which can be used to help encourage, support, and guide LIFT Affiliate efforts, including:

  • Workshops and Guidance
    As part of an NSF-GOALI project, Dr. Nancy Love, University of Michigan, and Dr. Charles Bott, Ph.D., HRSD are conducting a series of workshops in 2016 and 2017 related to connecting universities and utilities. Outputs will include guidance for universities and utilities on how to best work together.

  • University-Utility Directory for Partnerships
    In 2016, WERF will establish a directory to help interested academics connect with interested utilities for the purpose of partnership and collaboration on research and technology development and implementation. The directory will be incorporated into the LIFT Link platform. 

  • WERF-NSF Collaborative Funding Program on IR²
    In summer 2015, WERF and NSF entered into a partnership to support research and technology development and demonstration for intensification and resource recovery (IR²) at wastewater facilities. WERF and NSF anticipate funding up to $3 million over the next four years of this research effort, with the first year being a pilot program. One of the goals of this WERF-NSF collaboration is to strengthen the connections between academics, water resource recovery facilities, and other stakeholders to help solve water industry issues related to IR², as well as to better link basic research, applied research, and demonstrations. 

LIFT Affiliates and their members will soon be able to use guidance that is being developed to better connect utilities and universities in their region, and to develop and implement additional initiatives and activities such as internships, scholarships, faculty sabbaticals at utilities, programs to encourage and reward student growth and achievement in innovation, and more. 

Potential University Benefits:

  • real-world training and experience for students, and increased employment potential post-graduation
  • synergies with practitioners in developing new technologies and processes
  • additional patent opportunities
  • improved understanding of end user R&D needs
  • better outcomes and higher likelihood of solutions being adopted and implemented by industry

Potential Utility Benefits:

  • new solutions and insight into utility problems
  • low-cost technical problem solving
  • identification of new talent for staffing and/or contracting
  • proactive and progressive approach to problem solving
  • minimized risk for innovative technologies (e.g., through research and piloting) for faster adoption and cost savings