Great Lakes Research Center newest PlanetM testing facility partner, expanding state’s testing environments to include marine-based autonomy

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Two startups, Shift Environment and Strange Development, receive funding from Office of Future Mobility and Electrification to test their mobility solutions at two Michigan Technological University facilities in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

  • OFME adds the world’s first designated maritime test site for autonomous technologies
  • Canadian-based mobility startup, Shift Environmental Technologies, is the first PlanetM testing grant recipient to leverage the Great Lakes Research Center’s capabilities, further strengthening the state’s international mobility ties 

LANSING, Mich. – PlanetM, part of the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification, is adding a new partner to its roster of premier testing facilities for companies looking to validate mobility solutions in Michigan.

Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC) at Michigan Technological University (MTU) is the newest PlanetM testing facility partner as a resource available for companies from across the globe to test and deploy connected and automated vehicle technologies on Michigan’s state-of-the-art proving grounds, in the National Airspace System (NAS) or in a freshwater ecosystem.

A leader in marine-based autonomy for more than 10 years, MTU’s GLRC is home to the Marine Autonomy Research Site (MARS) – the world’s first designated freshwater environment for testing autonomous surface and subsurface vehicles, vessels and related technologies. The site extends in a 30-mile radius from the waterfront campus, encompassing Lake Superior coastline and inland waterways and is open to companies, researchers, government labs, universities and other organizations looking to test the safety and operation of autonomous surface and subsurface vehicles – a unique asset only available in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

"Michigan Tech and the GLRC are proud to partner with the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification in developing deeper relationships with maritime autonomy industry partners," said Andrew Barnard, GLRC director. "The MARS facility, combined with PlanetM testing grants, will help to grow mobility solutions here in Michigan. With direct access to Michigan Tech's world-class researchers, the Great Lakes Research Center, the Keweenaw Waterway, Lake Superior, and partnerships with the U.S. Coast Guard and State of Michigan, we are uniquely positioned to provide expertise and testing services in the area of marine autonomy to a wide variety of industry partners."

“As the first designated maritime mobility testing facility in the world, our partnership with GLRC further solidifies Michigan as the ideal place to take mobility solutions from ideation to production – whether that be by land, air or sea,” said Charlie Tyson, technology activation manager at PlanetM, part of the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification. “We’re excited to showcase all this state has to offer when it comes to diversity of testing environments and how, through partners like GLRC, Michigan remains the global epicenter of future mobility.”

Vancouver Island-based mobility startup, Shift Environmental Technologies (Shift), has been awarded the first testing grant through the GLRC’s facility to test their autonomous maritime vessel. Shift’s vessel provides autonomous transport of materials, cleanup of freshwater or saltwater garbage, assists in search and rescue missions and will perform critical tests in Lake Superior through the GLRC PlanetM testing grant.

“Shift is anticipating this great opportunity to partner with the GLRC at MTU as a leader in testing and developing autonomous vessel technology,” said James Spencer, founder and CEO of Shift Environmental Technologies. “This will be a critical Test Driven Development step for OceanSled™ to get vital multi-disciplinary input for subsequent design iterations of our proprietary multi-use ASV. We look forward to continuing this partnership with PlanetM and MTU to commercialize a novel, resilient and affordable design.”

Also announced today, Michigan-based startup, Strange Development, has received a PlanetM testing grant to test its REVolution® technology at KRC’s Advanced Power Systems Research Center at MTU. Strange Development’s REVolution® technology delivers highly efficient, emissions-compliant, durable, engine systems with high power to weight ratios at a lower manufacturing cost critical to applications sensitive weight such as drones, EV range extenders, portable generators, powersports equipment, and maritime vessels.

“Michigan has had a rich history of being a leader and hub for innovative propulsion system technology and we at Strange Development are excited to continue that innovation with the partnership established with both PlanetM and MTU,” said John Krzeminski, founder and CEO of Strange Development. “Our goal at Strange Development is to develop innovative solutions to complex problems positively impacting the world that we live in and we are fortunate to partner with organizations that share our vision.”

To accelerate innovation, PlanetM’s testing grant enables startups and small to mid-size companies to access Michigan’s advanced testing facilities at a reduced cost so that their focus remains on enhancing and proving out their solutions, while deepening their ties to the state’s robust mobility ecosystem. Testing grant applications are evaluated on a rolling basis. To apply or learn more, visit

“With our close proximity to international borders and fresh waterways, it’s more important than ever to leverage all that our Great Lakes State has to offer,” said Tyson. “These partnerships have enabled opportunities to further strengthen ties between Michigan and Canada which is crucial to the development and deployment of future mobility technologies and policies. We look forward to seeing the exciting innovation brewing in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.”

About the PlanetM Mobility Grants
The PlanetM Mobility Grants, separated into two categories – testing and pilots – encourage mobility startups and corporations to deploy their technologies in Michigan, or prove out their technology at one of the state’s world-class testing facilities including Mcity at the University of Michigan (UM), American Center for Mobility (ACM), GM Mobility Research Center (GMMRC) at Kettering University (KU), Michigan Unmanned Aerial Systems Consortium (MUASC) and Keweenaw Research Center (KRC) at Michigan Technological University (MTU). PlanetM partners with NextEnergy to support project management services for each pilot program. The PlanetM Mobility Grant program has awarded more than $2 million in grant funding since its inception in 2018. For more information regarding PlanetM’s Mobility Grant program, visit

About Michigan’s Office of Future Mobility and Electrification (OFME)
The Office of Future Mobility and Electrification (OFME) brings together mobility and electrification efforts across Michigan’s government, academic and private sector to create long-term economic opportunity and accelerate the development, deployment and adoption of advanced mobility technologies. OFME works to increase mobility investment, expand smart infrastructure, enable the mobility workforce and accelerate electric vehicle adoption across the state to reaffirm Michigan as the global leader in transportation. It spans the existing foundation of successful state-led mobility initiatives through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the Michigan Department of Transportation, the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy, among others. Visit to learn more.

About Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is the state’s marketing arm and lead advocate for business development, job awareness and community development with the focus on growing Michigan’s economy. For more information on the MEDC and our initiatives, visit For Pure Michigan® tourism information, your trip begins at Join the conversation on: Facebook Instagram LinkedIn, and Twitter.