UConn Part of Coalition Vying for $100 Million Grant for Wind Energy and Blue Tech Projects

The proposal would position UConn Avery Point at the hub of a regional network of blue tech companies and startups

An image of the Avery Point campus captured via drone camera.

UConn Avery Point would be home to the new initiative, under the proposal (UConn Photo).

The University of Connecticut and five other partners were named regional finalists for a grant program that could award up to $100 million in funds for wind energy and blue tech projects.

The multi-billion-dollar program, called the Build Back Better Regional Challenge, offered through the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), provided 60 regional finalists with a $500,000 planning grant to submit a comprehensive proposal to the program. The coalition that included UConn is led by the Southeastern Connecticut Enterprise Region (seCTer) and includes the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments, the Norwich Community Development Corporation, and the Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board.

The Connecticut-based team, named The Offshore Wind Industry Cluster (OWIC), was one of 500 proposals that were sent into the Challenge, coming from all 50 states. In the UConn piece of the project, the team had two projects related to blue tech, which is technology innovation and creation in the maritime industry. The two UConn projects will focus on developing new technology as well as creating an incubator for startup companies.

Blue Tech Research and Development Center (Blue Tech R&D): The Blue Tech R&D is envisioned as a collaboration of the research capacity of UConn with innovation efforts of the offshore wind developers and original equipment manufacturers of undersea vehicles in a new building on UConn’s Avery Point Campus, with waterfront on the Thames River. The purpose of the Blue Tech R&D is to support the development, acceleration, and commercialization of both offshore wind and undersea vehicle technologies. There are many areas of dual applications of technologies into these industries. In this center, cross-pollinated innovation will occur as collisions between innovative thinkers create synergies in a waterfront, marine sciences-focused, world-class university setting. This proposed state-of-the-art facility will be 48,000 square feet.

Blue Tech Incubator and Accelerator: UConn will co-locate a business incubator within the Blue Tech R&D at its Avery Point campus in Groton to expand on their successful work in entrepreneurship and technology development in Storrs, the Technology Commercialization Services. Tied directly to the Blue Tech R&D, this strong commercialization program will allow new businesses which graduate from the applied research center to stay in the region and receive support for their growth particularly when owned by women, people of color, or other historically marginalized persons.

The new center and incubator, which would be located on the UConn Avery Point campus, would be perfectly positioned next to many of the major blue tech companies in the region.

“UConn Avery Point is proud to be at the epicenter of a region with a robust maritime history and flourishing blue tech industry,” says Annemarie Seifert, UConn Avery Point Campus Director. “The proposed Blue Tech R&D Center and business incubator are fantastic opportunities to advance academic and industry synergy and boost economic activity.”

The research would also closely align with activities happening within the Department of Marine Sciences at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and at UConn Engineering centers like the National Institute of Undersea Vehicle Technology, and the cross-collaborative Eversource Energy Center.

“In January of 2022, NIUVT will have around 90 different projects churning at UConn and URI that have strong ties to the naval industry, and the synergies of these projects will align perfectly with our overall mission of advancing the blue tech industry,” Richard Christenson, Co-Director of NIUVT and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, says.

“We are very excited to be part of the coalition that was named as a finalist for the Build Back Better Regional Challenge,” Evan Ward, head of the Department of Marine Sciences and Professor of Marine Sciences, says. “The Department of Marine Sciences, which is housed on the Avery Point campus, has over 40 years of experience working in the field of oceanography. The human and physical resources that are available in our department provide an abundance of synergistic opportunities with the Blue Tech R&D Center and the blue economy.”

Complementing that work are the activities occurring within the Office of the Vice President for Research, which is supporting the entrepreneurial ventures of countless students and faculty.

“The work of UConn researchers, including the startups in our incubator, have led to scientific and creative breakthroughs that have changed our state and nation for the better,” says Radenka Maric, Vice President for Research, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship. “The Build Back Better Regional Challenge presents the next great opportunity for UConn to apply our creativity and innovation to blue technology and support new interdisciplinary research projects and technology integration on offshore wind energy research, power grid resilience, reliability, and integration of renewables.”

The coalition will work over the next few months to finalize the details on all their projects and submit their complete proposal in March of 2022. For more information on the complete range of projects from the group, please click here.