June 29, 2023 - 2:28 pm

Coalition applauds $15 million in funding for Freshwater Research & Innovation Center

By 20Fathoms

This article was originally produced by Traverse Connect.

Traverse City, Mich. – The Traverse City Freshwater Research & Innovation Center Project is set to receive $15 million for the Freshwater Research & Innovation Center project in Traverse City as part of the Michigan State fiscal year 2024 budget passed by the Legislature on June 28. The budget now heads to Governor Gretchen Whitmer for a likely signature. 

Once complete, the Freshwater Research and Innovation Center will establish the Grand Traverse region as a global hub for applied freshwater innovation, offering research, education, commercialization, new business incubation, and startup acceleration programs. Housing the Research and Innovation Center on the geographic epicenter of the Great Lakes will establish Michigan’s role as a leader in the freshwater blue economy. The project is a collaborative effort of 20Fathoms, Discovery Center & Pier, Michigan Technological University, Northwestern Michigan College, and Traverse Connect. 

Matt McDonough, CEO of Discovery Center & Pier, noted, “This level of support from our local legislators and the Governor is really remarkable. The State’s investment gets us significantly to our goal for the Center’s first and main facility which will get us up and running”.

The funding will be used to launch the first phase of the Freshwater Research & Innovation Center facility housing research, lab, and business incubation space, as well as the completion of Discovery Pier, which will provide dockage for research and education vessels and a four-season marine technology classroom and laboratory. The research and development of freshwater technology, combined with private sector investment, incubation, and acceleration of startup companies will generate significant return on investment from regional and state economic growth, the formation of new advanced technology businesses and the creation of high-paying scientific, technical, and professional jobs for Michigan. 

“By co-locating research, education and commercialization partners, this new facility will generate tremendous opportunity for job creation, business development, and economic growth,” said Warren Call, president and CEO of Traverse Connect.

“This is an exciting opportunity to build upon the expertise and proud history of NMC’s Great Lakes Water Studies Institute. By taking a regional and collaborative approach, we are able to leverage all of our strengths for the benefit of the community and make a difference on a global scale,” said Jason Slade, vice president for strategic initiatives at Northwestern Michigan College. 

“In recent years, 20Fathoms and our partners have proven that Traverse City can incubate successful, growing startups,” said Eric Roberts, Executive Director of 20Fathoms. “The Freshwater Research and Innovation Center will generate significant research, leading to additional startup and small business opportunities that will allow our community to build a robust startup ecosystem and accelerate the growth of new businesses.”

“Michigan Tech is pleased to collaborate with the team in Traverse City in the creation of the Freshwater Research and Innovation Center,” said Rick Koubek, President of Michigan Technological University. “This new center represents another step forward in our growing relationship with the Traverse City region in support of our Great Lakes.” 

About Discovery Center & Pier

The Discovery Center & Pier works to connect people of all ages, needs, and abilities to the Great Lakes through education, science, and recreation. DC&P offers educational and recreational programming to over 500 youth and young adults annually and is redeveloping its Pier and campus to be a base for Great Lakes recreation, education & research. For more information, visit:

About Michigan Technological University

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 6,800 students from 60 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, the University offers more than 125 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure. For more information, visit:

About Northwestern Michigan College

Northwestern Michigan College is a publicly funded community college that serves people, organizations and businesses. NMC serves more than 50,000 learners annually in the Grand Traverse region and beyond, offering associate degrees, professional certificates and bachelor’s degrees through the Great Lakes Maritime Academy and Great Lakes Water Studies Institute, including Michigan’s first community college bachelor’s degree. Partner universities grant baccalaureate, graduate and doctoral degrees through the NMC University Center.

About 20Fathoms

20Fathoms is the home of technology and entrepreneurship in Northern Michigan. Initiatives include startup incubation services, a coworking space, and workforce development. By providing industry expertise, business support, educational programming, and a vibrant community and workspace, 20Fathoms removes barriers and provides the resources to help businesses and careers grow. For more information, visit: 

About Traverse Connect

Traverse Connect is the lead economic development organization for the Grand Traverse region, which supports area businesses through a combination of business attraction and retention strategies, talent development efforts, and strategic coordination among partner agencies. Traverse Connect is the lead entity serving the region in support of business growth and development, alongside partner organization Venture North Funding and Development. For more information, visit: