) -- Often mistaken as an entrepreneurial wasteland, the American Midwest is surging ahead in fresh-water research, one of the most important commodities in the next two decades, and emerging as a powerhouse in life sciences, where advancements traditionally have been considered the bailiwick of Boston and San Francisco.
University of Wisconsin in Madison
last month said a team of scientists have grown multiple types of retinal cells from iPS cells. The scientists picked up from life-sciences work conducted on the east and west coasts at the
University of California
as well as
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Scientific entrepreneurs at landlocked schools tend not to make business connections as well as Harvard and MIT. There were 18 biotechnology venture-capital deals in New England during the second quarter as opposed to eight in the Midwest.
To help with horn-tooting efforts, there are groups like the
Wisconsin Angel Network
, which encourages the world to notice startups in the Badger State. "Midwestern entrepreneurs don't shout enough about their successes, so we shout for them," says Joe Kremer, director of the Wisconsin Angel Network.
The Midwest has an edge in some areas. "We have 20% of the world's surface fresh water," says Teresa Esser, managing director of Silicon Pastures, a group of angel investors who fund startups in the Great Lakes region of the U.S.
That makes the area ripe for research and development on the critical resource, whose demand is growing in emerging markets. Meat-based diets, becoming more popular in countries including India, require twice the water relative to vegetarianism. And energy production also requires water.