Thirty speakers, 200 people, over 110 companies! Thank you for attending!
“IF YOU HAVE A STAKE IN WATER, YOU’D BETTER HAVE A SEAT AT SWIM.”
– Carolyn Dykema, Massachusetts State Representative
Highlights and Insights from SWIM 2015
The May 20th, 2015 Symposium on Water Innovation in Massachusetts (SWIM) in Boston, Massachusetts convened 200 water leaders and experts from more than 110 companies and featured 30 speakers from across disciplines and sectors. The theme for the year was “The Outlook on Water Innovation” and experts from finance, industry, business, government, academia and the entrepreneurial community gathered to share their insights on water technology trends, barriers to technology adoption, innovative tools and business models, and the most intriguing solutions capturing industry attention. The Symposium also presented the Headwaters Innovation Prize, an award that was voted on by attendees. SWIM was hosted by the New England Water Innovation Network (NEWIN)) and Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business.
The SWIM opening remarks and keynote included a welcome from Earl Jones, Chairman and President of the New England Water Innovation Network (NEWIN). Earl discussed how global headwinds such as population growth, urbanization, industrialization, climate volatility and others are challenging the water access and quality essential for public health, economic development, and environmental resilience. Jim Matheson, CEO, Oasys Water, spoke about the role of technology in solving global water challenges and introduced keynote speaker Usha Rao-Monari, CEO, Global Water Partners Development, Blackstone. Ms. Rao-Monari’s keynote,”The Role of Innovation and Capital…Does Technology Matter?” described water as “a sector that has finally found it’s grove… and one of the most important infrastructure sectors that there is.” Ms. Rao-Monari discussed the changing competing demands for water noting manufacturing and electricity generation are projected to be the biggest users by 2050. She also posed the question: “can technology save us?” to which she responded “Yes, but…” highlighting changing regulatory standards, constraints of capital budgets, and the major dilemma that without engagement from users, it is difficult for a technology company to achieve adoption. The key recommendation from Ms. Rao-Monari was a call for technology developers to engage the industry users early in the lifecycle of development to refine and modify their technology, informed by user input. Following Ms. Rao-Monari’s keynote Jim Matheson led a panel “The Role of Innovation and Capital and the Challenges/Importance of Getting to Scale” which included Usha Rao-Monari, Nadav Efraty of Desalitech, John Quealy of Canaccord Genuity, and Jonathan Kaledin of Natural Systems Utilities.
In the afternoon, Patricia Florissi, Vice President, Global CTO Sales, EMC Corporation, gave an invigorating keynote “‘Big Data’, Water and Innovation” stating that big data is transforming the way we live and think and this matters because “we are living in an era of decentralization technology, democratized entrepreneurship, and innovation without permission…. where every industry needs to consider the structural changes they face and redefine their business to stay relevant.” Ms. Florissi discussed some incredible new technologies made possible by big data such as software-driven cars and closed her presentation with the message that “innovation is the answer.” Following Ms. Florissi’s keynote, a panel was assembled to discuss “Big Data and the Water Industry” led by Marcus Gay of Novus Technical Services and including David Nanto of NEC, Gigi Karmous-Edwards of Fathom, Michael DeJesus of IHS and Alex Bedig of OptiRTC.
SWIM was also honored to welcome Secretary Mathew Beaton, Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. Secretary Beaton addressed the importance of water quality and availability, the need to find equitable and affordable solutions, and highlighted the water quality challenges in Cape Cod where water quality is compromised by high levels of nitrogen from septic systems. Secretary Beaton also announced the MassCEC ‘s first Water Technology Industry Roadmap and expressed enthusiasm for the growth of a water technology hub in Massachusetts.
SWIM Announcement: Release of the MassCEC Massachusetts Water Technology Industry Roadmap
Alicia Barton, CEO, Massachusetts Clean Energy Center spoke in the afternoon about the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) Water Technology Industry Roadmap. The Roadmap identified 93 companies working in the water technology industry with over 5,000 workers and generating $2.8 billion in total state economic output (see figure 1). This Roadmap highlights the strength of Massachusetts’ innovation infrastructure “with world-class universities conducting water research and generating intellectual property, a strong network of resources for early-stage companies, a collection of large, established water technology companies and a tradition of water entrepreneurship.” Following SWIM and the MassCEC Water Technology Industry Roadmap launch, the Boston Globe featured NEWIN and leading local water technology companies like Desalitech in a May 21, 2015 article ”Water technology growing swiftly in Massachusetts” which notes that the Massachusetts water technology industry shows triple the growth rate of other sectors. Further, Governor Charlie Baker’s commitment of $800,000 in funding for innovative water-technology projects in Massachusetts was covered in the Boston Business Journal which also featured 10 Massachusetts’ companies making waves in water technology.
The 2015 Headwaters Innovation Prize
The Headwaters Innovation Prize is presented at SWIM and helps teams find early investment to nurture and grow nascent ideas, businesses, and technologies. The Prize invests in teams focused on innovating and creating scalable change within the water sector and 2015 Prize applications arrived from water startup companies across the US. Five judges deliberated and chose three finalists to compete for the Headwaters Innovation Prize at the Symposium. The scoring framework assessed each companies’ product solution, payment/pricing, market opportunity, finances, team, presentation quality and funding readiness. The top three finalists were ED4India, WaterHero, and Anfiro and each presented their technologies and business plans at SWIM. Following their presentations the audience was given time to connect with the company representatives during networking breaks and final votes were requested by the afternoon with Anfiro voted as the 2015 Headwaters Innovation Prize winner. Anfiro develops ultra high-permeability reverse osmosis membranes for desalination, purification and water treatment.
The prize included a $2,500.00 check, in-kind legal services from Goodwin Procter LLP, mentorship by a network of water investors and executives and an invitation to further present and showcase their technology at SWIM. Former Headwaters Innovation Prize winner, Drinkwell, shared a video from India to recognize the importance of the Headwaters Innovation Prize for their startup, noting the transformative nature of the Prize for their business and highlighting the SWIM network as “a truly special and different community of support focused on solving the global water crises”. The NEWIN team has been inspired by the success and impact of Drinkwell and we look forward to watching Anfiro grow and providing mentorship and support for this water technology startup.
NEWIN and SWIM
Earl Jones, Chairman and President, NEWIN, introduced NEWIN and NEWIN Exchange, a test bed network that will demonstrate how NEWIN can facilitate “Accelerating and De-Risking Water Innovation.” In this pitch, Karen Golmer, Executive Director for NEWIN presented an overview of how a network of testing sites around New England is evolving and Dr. David Reckhow, Professor, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, provided an in-depth look at UMass Amherst, where three different testing facilities are under development. One of the Amherst facilities is actually the Water Innovation Network for Sustainable Small Systems, (WINSSS) a recipient of an EPA grant in 2014.
The MassCEC Water Technology Industry Roadmap noted that water technology clusters “have been established worldwide to promote regional economic growth and job creation by supporting the accelerated development and commercialization of innovative water technologies” and NEWIN is the water technology cluster for New England committed to accelerating water technology innovations to market and fostering greater collaboration across the water industry to engage stakeholders and support entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Please stay tuned as we develop a SWIM Summary Report with further insights from the five afternoon breakout sessions (1. Technology Mimicking Natural Ecosystems, 2. Innovations in Finance and Business Models, 3. Impacts of Oil Prices on Water Innovation, 4. The Evolving Role of Government in Water, 5. Water in China) and the two panel sessions, “The Role of Innovation and Capital and the Challenges/Importance of Getting to Scale” and “Big Data and the Water Industry.” We also look forward to sharing updates on NEWIN Exchange, the Test Bed Network and new programs our team is developing to establish New England as a water technology hub and accelerate innovative water technology to market to improve global water challenges.
Thank you to everyone that participated in SWIM 2015. We appreciate your feedback and survey responses that will help inform next year’s content, logistics and program and look forward to welcoming you back next year for SWIM 2016.
SWIM was made possible thanks to the support from our various sponsors including:
- Northeastern University
- Northwind Strategies
- Massachusetts Clean Energy Center
- Weber Shandwick
- Worchester Polytechnic Institute
- Oasys Water
- Umass Amherst
- Cleantech Open Northeast
- New England Clean Energy Council
Thank you to the Headwaters Innovation Prize judges:
- Karen Golmer, Executive Director, NEWIN
- Earl Jones, President and Chairman, NEWIN
- John Lienhard, Professor and Director, Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab Director, Center for Clean Water and Clean Energy at MIT and KFUPM Director, Rohsenow Kendall Heat Transfer Laboratory, MIT
- Jonathan Shapira, Associate, Goodwin & Procter
- Ron Whitfield, Executive Professor and Director, Business Sustainability Initiative, Northeastern University