World Water Day is March 22 but the celebration around water started early on March 14-15 at the Water Gala and Innovation Forum hosted by Imagine H2O. The Water Gala is when Imagine H2O showcases the water tech startups applicants selected for the current year. These companies will be given the resources to develop, launch, and scale water technologies that will change the water game. They will be given access to partners committed to deploying water innovation, investor access, industry visibility and mentorship for industry experts.
The Innovation Forum was all about deploying water technology, often times in municipalities. The end goal being to help these companies obtain the skills to grow, thrive, and become sustainable within a client base that is typically risk averse with a lethargic procurement process. We highlighted East Bay Municipal Utility District in California in our e-book–the Essential Guide to Financing Smart Water Projects— as leaders in smart technology adoption. Clifford Chan, the director of operations and maintenance, was on the panel titled, Overcoming Barriers to Deployment.
Among other things Mr. Chan discussed the importance of partnerships to drive innovation. “We cannot succeed as innovators without collaborating, both internally and externally,” Chan explained. “Too often we try to solve problems on our own. When we try to solve all the industry’s problems on our own, we will fail.”
Partnerships allows water utilities to share the financial burden. When seeking partnerships, they often will turn to peers for input, however, big players like Suez caution about taking a cookie cutter approach to deployment. As Catherine Ricou, vice president at Suez, stated, “You can’t say, well your neighbor is doing it, this is how they did it, now go. You have to tailor your approach and restart the process.”
Related to funding, David Neitz, chief technology officer at CDM Smith, suggested following the “lean startup” theory including the idea to build-measure-learn. “Do small investments, see what works, and either kill it or invest more in it. Adjust and target to the right outcome,” said Neitz.
The experts in the room mirrored closely the lessons from the e-book. The water industry has plenty of room for improvement, but the feeling at the forum was one of excitement and hope for innovation in the industry. At the gala, Imagine H2O president, Scott Bryan, asked the group to look around at the water technology startups around the room–poised to change the water game across the world. He offered up the opportunity to tell that story–not the normal doom and gloom. As a stakeholder in the smart water world, we strive to tell that story and to be a partner with utilities to meet the barriers they face to innovation and growth. Let us know how we can serve you, the customer.