MILWAUKEE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Wisconsin’s strength in water technology is being showcased at the 2018 Water Environment Federation’s Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC) event, which begins Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. At North America’s premier event for education, training and making business connections in the field of water quality, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and The Water Council, a Milwaukee-based nonprofit organization that drives economic, technology and talent development to support the global water industry, are collaborating to highlight the latest innovations and advancements from Wisconsin’s water technology hub.
More than 50 Wisconsin companies are joining The Water Council and WEDC at the event to raise awareness for Wisconsin’s thriving water technology sector, which produces $5.7 billion in annual sales with more than 37,000 employees working across 200 companies.
Visitors are encouraged to stop by the Wisconsin Water Innovation Pavilion, Booth # 3345 at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center during the exhibition dates of Oct. 1-3. Subject matter experts from The Water Council will be available in the booth to discuss the topics listed below.
Tech Challenge initiative to identify innovative water technologies
On Oct. 2, The Water Council will announce a new initiative called Tech Challenge, which is designed to identify innovative water technologies with the potential for commercialization. In addition to supporting two business accelerators and a technology pilot program, The Water Council will host several Tech Challenge competitions, each built around specific topics selected by company sponsors, with the application process starting Nov. 1.
“Our corporate sponsors are looking for innovative ideas to help them solve critical water-related challenges, and these ideas can come from an individual, lab, another business or from within the United States or abroad,” said Dean Amhaus, president and CEO of The Water Council. “If you have a great idea, these companies want to hear about it and the big prize for everyone is a successful partnership that delivers a great solution and can generate revenue for everyone.”
Wisconsin ‘BREWS’ water technology innovations
The success of the BREW (Business - Research - Entrepreneurship - In Wisconsin) Accelerator will be highlighted at WEFTEC, along with the opening of applications for the next class of the BREW Accelerator and a round of BREW Corporate powered by A. O. Smith Corporation. The Water Council created the BREW in 2013 to provide a magnet that would attract the most promising water technology entrepreneurs to Wisconsin and help them get through the early stages of starting a company.
The BREW curriculum aggressively focuses on customer discovery and business model validation, with coaches and mentors brought in for guidance. Application submissions will be accepted Oct. 2-Nov. 30, and selections for the new class will be announced Feb. 2019. In the previous five classes, 34 startups have been trained with 90 percent still in business. As a result, 90 jobs have been created, 18 patents have been issued and 22 patents are pending. The unique mix of programming geared toward early stage water companies, along with direct connections to the industry, makes the BREW, a member of the Global Accelerator Network, a valuable experience for any water technology entrepreneur.
“The BREW is internationally recognized for surfacing water innovations and we are eager to get to work with yet another group of startups that will help further our impact,” said Steve Glynn, director of innovation for The Water Council. “We need help addressing the world’s water challenges, and we believe this program does that.”
With a focus on students and young professionals, Wisconsin works to grow its water industry workforce
With an emphasis on its talent development initiatives, The Water Council will place a focus on its internship placement program as well as be involved with various WEFTEC talent events including a service project, student design competitions and a career fair.
“It’s difficult to find any area of the world that isn’t affected by water quality,” said Karen Frost, vice president of economic development for The Water Council. “We need to do everything we can to connect the next generation of water professionals with Wisconsin’s water technology businesses so that we can continue to make strides on addressing this important global issue.”
As one example of this matchmaking, The Water Council will promote a program it developed to connect students from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) with internships at Wisconsin water technology companies to encourage young African-Americans to consider careers in water technology and enhance the sector’s diversity. The program recently completed its first year by connecting five students from Tuskegee University with internships with three Milwaukee water industry businesses, with plans to expand to additional schools in 2019.
During WEFTEC, key Water Council partners from Wisconsin universities will serve as judges for the student design competition; The Water Council and WEDC will promote the state’s boundless opportunities in water careers and Wisconsin’s excellent quality of life at the career fair; and The Water Council and WEDC are co-sponsors of a service project, in which volunteers (with a focus on students and young professionals) will construct a bioswale and an educational infographic at a community center in a New Orleans neighborhood.
The Water Council named as a prime example of a successful economic cluster and Milwaukee globally recognized as a water hub
The Water Council continues to receive accolades as a model for effective economic cluster development, most recently in a July report from the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution, which named the Milwaukee region’s water technology cluster as “a prime example” of a successful cluster hub. The report also stated that The Water Council and partners have “established the region as a top global hub for innovation and solutions to the world’s water challenges.” The study featured The Water Council as one of five case studies that reflect a successful industry cluster. According to the case study, the region’s water cluster consists of 175 firms generating $10.5 billion in revenue and employing more than 20,000 workers in the region.
“Becoming a viable cluster requires a great deal of forethought, patience, commitment and collaboration,” said Amhaus. “It was great to receive recognition for our ability to do this successfully, and to be recognized as a model for success for others to reference and take action from.”
The Water Council also recently launched the Oasis, a co-working space specifically intended for water technology entrepreneurs and professionals. Located within the one-of-a-kind Global Water Center, which is also home to The Water Council and the BREW Accelerator, the co-working space is partly intended to serve as a “soft landing” space for water sector entrepreneurs from within the region, nationally or internationally who are looking to locate in the Milwaukee area, and can use the temporary space while searching for a permanent home for their companies. In this co-working space, water entrepreneurs and professionals can tap into Milwaukee’s unique combination of public and private, research and industry, all working collaboratively—without the commitment of a long-term lease and at a low price. Thus, the space serves as an “on ramp” for more companies innovating in the water sector to choose Milwaukee as their home.
To find out more about how WEDC and The Water Council are helping to solve global water challenges visit here.