By David J. Swiderski and Karen Frost
Many people have heard about The Water Council, a non-profit organization in Milwaukee, WI. After being here for several months, our company has seen several interesting features that would be of interest to many in the water treatment industry. For many years, technology accelerators have been developed by different governments and countries; it seemed like many of the advancements were coming only from those locations. There are three main groups that might have interest in what is available at The Water Council: those interested in water technology, those running a business interested in research and those wanting to start up a business but are looking for help.
Interest in water technology
The Water Council’s online research and collaboration site is for individuals in the water and water technology space. The Global Water Port (www.globalwaterport.com) is a social community, connection and collaboration site, as well as a powerful research portal that connects people from around the world in a Facebook or LinkedIn type of interface. The only tool of its kind of which we are aware, it was developed to enhance connectivity within the water technology sector and among those interested in finding solutions to water-related challenges.
This platform allows companies to share information and collaborate privately or widely with key researchers and others. Individuals from any water-related industry, organization or enterprise can use this to look at visual patent landscaping, seek suppliers who are working on new technology, view trends and advances in different areas and search by patents, web or published material. It also has an Ecosystem tab that allows the visitor to find contact information for all of those who are doing research, specializing in or publishing about a certain field or technology. Most of the views and information that before were only visible to huge companies are now openly available through this online resource.
Running a business or needing research
If one is interested in doing research or validating their own creation, there are several universities and labs one can work with to create a research agreement, as well as have testing, piloting or development done with a wide array of specialized lab equipment and options. Three academic institutions, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and Marquette University, are all onsite in the Global Water Center, the physical location of The Water Council. In addition, the Water Equipment and Policy Center (WEP), run under the auspices of the National Science Foundation, offers additional opportunities to engage. Access to a wide range of rapid prototyping equipment is also available, including 3-D printers, 3-D machining, laser cutting machines and a number of allied industrial design firms, all of which are focused on water technology.
Still another program of interest is The Water Council’s new Research & Commercialization initiative. Run by The Water Council’s Chief Technology Officer, the initiative:
• Identifies members’ needs
• Scouts technologies within federal and university labs, entrepreneurial efforts and private R&D
• Engages a multi-disciplinary group of industry and subject-matter experts to analyze accrued innovations
• Populates a proprietary database with vetted technologies and detailed analyses to expedite the development of solutions to world water challenges
• Provides a technology showcase and searchable database for members to identify and advance promising technologies that align with their goals
• Serves as a synthesizer of technologies, matching promising technologies and emerging research among the member base
Have a great idea or want to start a business?
If you just have a great idea or want help with commercializing your idea, there are a number of tools and programs that can be very helpful. Each year, The Water Council’s Business Research Entrepreneurship in Wisconsin (BREW) Accelerator program competition is held. It awards $50,000 (USD) to winners, offers reasonable rates on office space in the Global Water Center incubator offices, provides mentoring and classes on how to scale up, and provides contacts within the industry to license or attract investment. As there are many water technology companies with offices in the building and a large number of visitors, the exposure is greater than one could obtain walking through dozens of trade shows over a number of years. If one needs to file a patent, there are firms immediately available that specialize in intellectual property and legal counsel.
If one is interested in water and technology and wants to connect to others with the same interest, or perhaps an interest to develop something new or work with new advancements, The Water Council provides both a virtual and physical home in which to flourish. It is good to see that the innovation behind the early industry companies that so densely inhabited the Milwaukee area and surrounding counties has remained, although the strength of the area has diminished somewhat over the past decade. New technologies are coming to commercialization; we have little doubt the best is yet to come and can only benefit our industry with more talented people working together.
About the author
David J. Swiderski currently works for Aquor and is based in Milwaukee, WI. He formerly worked with Liquitech, Pentair, Grupo Novem, Bucyrus International, Osmonics, First Star Bank and has been involved in the water industry for 24 years. Karen Frost is responsible for The Water Council’s business development programming. She runs The Water Council’s Small Business Channel to promote the growth and development of small businesses operating in water technology. In addition to connecting local and national small businesses to the regional ecosystem of partners, Frost also serves as the site administrator for the Global Water Port, an online collaboration and research platform for the water/water technology industry. She has a background in program management, grants management, economic development and marketing.
About the companies
Aquor established its R&D office at The Water Council and works in coordination with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Aquor is a private-family business first established in 1954, with over 100 offices and factories and about 1,500 employees. The company is dedicated to the distribution, manufacture, assembly and installation of water- and fluid-related products and services.
The Water Council, founded on a century of discovering inventive solutions for water issues, was established as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in 2009 by Milwaukee-area businesses, education and government leaders. The Water Council links global water technology companies, innovative water entrepreneurs, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, acclaimed academic research programs and some of the nation’s brightest and most energetic water professionals to achieve business and economic development goals. To learn more about The Water Council and its other programs and initiatives, visit www.thewatercouncil.com. A video introduction of the Global Water Port can be viewed at www.globalwaterport.com for the interactive tools mentioned in the article and to sign up for a no-cost user account.