The Water Council

    The Water Council: Thriving in the Global Water Economy

    Since the creation of The Water Council in 2009, the non-profit group has convened talent and nurtured connections among global water technology companies, innovative water entrepreneurs, government agencies, and acclaimed academic researchers.

    Early in The Water Council’s existence, the orga­nization’s leadership recognized the cluster’s position extended well beyond the Milwaukee region as it came to understand the global reach of its water technol­ogy companies and higher education water research programs. It quickly became apparent that the size and strength of Milwaukee’s water technology industry and academic programs put The Council at the same level as a small country.

    The Water Council understood that to successfully tackle water efficiency and productivity it was necessary to partner with a wide range of experts including research­ers in higher education institutions, engineers within water industries, and technicians in public water utilities. This issue is too complex, too large, too immediate and too critical for any one organization to tackle. For that reason The Council created a powerful partnership of businesses, governments at all levels, numerous higher education institutions and civic and community organizations to face this issue head-on together. Our entire Wisconsin educa­tion system is expanding and aligning to include water programs, certificates, degrees and a career pathway.

    In 2013, The Water Council brought all of these partners together to share in the celebration of the grand opening of the 98,000 square foot Global Water Center during Milwaukee Water Week. A pivotal event in The Water Council’s effort to transform the Milwaukee region into a World Water Hub, focusing on economic development, research and education in freshwater.

    The Global Water Center is located in the rapidly redeveloping Walker’s Point neighborhood in Milwaukee; triumphantly looking out over the city skyline. Once known as an industrial powerhouse, today the Center is the epicenter for the development of new water solutions that will impact the United States and world. Surrounded by a mix of new urban housing, restaurants, high-end food producers, and creative entrepreneurs; the Center’s influ­ence will dramatically expand as the nearby Reed Street Yards are developed into a water technology park.

    Less than five years after formation, The Water Council has seen its membership grow from five found­ing members to over 160 members while hosting visitors from around the world, including: politicians interested in the water cluster’s work and atmosphere at the Center; 15 international trade delegations from China, India, Af­rica, Canada and Europe looking to establish operations and form partnerships with local companies in the region; and water professionals excited to partake in the synergy that exists in Milwaukee.

    That synergy will be apparent when The Water Council hosts their most prestigious group, the International Water Association’s Board of Directors, during Wa­ter Summit 2014 in June. This year’s theme is Thriving in the Global Water Economy, something The Water Council has succeeded at tremendously in its short history.

    As The Water Council and state of Wisconsin continue to garner international attention and attract foreign water technology companies, our focus remains: to further develop our confluence of water expertise and resources to provide the current and leading-edge technology and solutions needed to succeed in the world water marketplace.

    Wisconsin’s blue technology economy is unlike anywhere else in the world.

    A historic moment for The Water Council and our mem­bers occurred at 247 West Freshwater Way when the Global Water Center opened its doors on September 12, 2013 and a vision became a reality. The Center is a state-of-the-art facility meant to support and nurture water-related startups to independence, while also providing research space for universities and established water-related companies.

    The century-old, brick and timber, converted warehouse is an ode to the industrial past that built Milwaukee, and a symbol of the shift from a heavy manufacturing past, to a reimagined, blue economy, that has been brewing for over a century. The building was a $22 million catalytic project for the redevelopment of Reed Street Yards, a 15-acre global water technology park and showcase for water and energy management.

    The development of the Global Water Center is an im­portant milestone as it established a highly visible base for The Water Council and a platform to grow Milwaukee’s water technology cluster. The Center currently houses 30 organizations and features:

    State-of-the-art water flow lab

    • Global video conferencing technology, lecture hall and green roof

    • Collaborative business and academic research environment

    • Water-related technology facilities for universities

    • Development facilities for existing water-related companies

    • Accelerator space for new and emerging water technology companies


    Tianjin, China – Participated in Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s trade mission to China and spoke about Milwaukee’s efforts to establish itself as a water-centric city at the National Governors Association Summit.

    Qingdao, China – Participated in a conference led by the International Water Association and the Chinese Desalination Association.

    Paris, France – Together with SEDIF-Paris, The Water Council launched the first international exchange forum for large water services.

    Stockholm, Sweden – Presented at the OECD Cities and Green Growth: Urban Evolution Conference.

    Washington, D.C. – Participation at the Council of the Great Lakes Governors.

    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Presentation at the International Economic Development Council.


    IEDC Bronze Award for Economic Development – The Water Council received the Bronze Excellence Award in the Technology Based Economic Development Category from the Inter­national Economic Development Council (IEDC).

    WCREW Impact Award for Achievement – The Global Water Center received the Impact Award for Achievement from the Wisconsin Commercial Real Estate for Women (WCREW).


    Centrisys Corporation – Water Environment Federation’s Innovative Technology Medal

    Kevin Shafer, Executive Director, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District – Water Utility Infrastructure Management Journal’s 2013 Water Infrastructure Management Award

    Kohler Co. – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense Sustained Excellence Award

    MillerCoors – United States Water Alliance’s 2013 U.S. Water Prize

    Paul Jones, Executive Chairman, A.O. Smith Corporation – Milwaukee Business Journal’s 2013 Executive of the Year

    PaveDrain – Imagine H2O’s Early Revenue Track in the Innovations Business Plan Contest

    Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation – International Economic Development Corporation’s Silver Excellence in Economic Development Award in the category of Public-Private Partnership


    Business. Research. Entrepreneurship. In Wisconsin.

    Embracing the shores of Lake Michigan, Milwaukee, once a patchwork of industrial plants and breweries now leverages a mix of waterfront and warehouses to attract and encourage entrepreneurs with innovative, new technologies, academia and existing water-related businesses. There is definitely something big brewing in Milwaukee, and it’s not just beer!

    The BREW, formerly the Global Freshwater Seed Accelerator, debuted in 2013 and is the first-ever mentor driven business accelerator program focused on freshwa­ter solutions. In partnership with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, The Water Council has lever­aged the program to attract emerging water technology startups from around the world, and transplant them in the Global Water Center.

    The goal of The BREW is to unleash unique water technology startups, expand Milwaukee’s Global Water Hub by accelerating results, and inspire action to create further opportunity in the water industry. After an ap­

    plication and interview, up to six businesses are awarded a $50,000 grant, invaluable resources, and strategic as­sistance to support each start-up to commercialization.

    During the six-month accelerator program, winning entrepreneurs receive:

    • Low-cost rent in a suite in the Global Water Center, and option to extend the lease for another 6 months

    • Business model and operations training through The Water Council and University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (UWW) Institute for Water Business

    • Access to faculty and students from the University of Wiscon­sin-Milwaukee (UWM) School for Freshwater Sciences

    • Access to the Global Water Center’s Flow Lab and facilities

    • Mentorship from dozens of area water technology experts

    • Attendance to conferences and pitch sessions with The Water Council

    • Access to investment capital funding sources, and most valu­able of all, the Water Technology Network

    The winners of the inaugural awards include:

    • H2Oscore, a company that provides personalized water data analytics to homeowners and businesses;

    • Microbe Detectives, a DNA-based, microbial sequencing, analysis, and identification company for water samples;

    • Noah Technologies, a water leak detection company, utilizing highly sensitive, sophisticated leak detection technology;

    • Vegetal i.D, a French Company that has created an innovative control system for run-off for green roofs; and

    • NEW Works, a company that offers, hands on, quick turn­around, workforce development training in water management for the entire water cycle.

    These companies, and future classes of The Brew, will serve as mentors to the next wave of startups entering the program.

    Round II of The BREW accelerator program begins in September 2014 when the second class of entrepreneurs call the Global Water Center home and grow their ideas from concept to self-sustaining, independent enterprises.


    ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Working in the Global Water Market – The Water Council has tapped into new markets across the world pro­viding our members opportunities to explore new business and to be able to address water issues in other parts of the world. In 2012, Milwaukee began working in Laos with its French partners Syndicat des Eaux d’Ile-de-¬rance (SEDIF), a consortium of 149 water utilities surrounding Paris, to bring water systems to impoverished areas of that country. Future areas are in India, China, Kenya and South Africa.

    In 2013, The Council hosted investors and partners from Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Morocco, Netherlands, South Africa, and the United Kingdom and partnered with the German American Chamber of Commerce to co-host a Water Technology Roundtable highlight­ing innovative German and American water-technology companies at the Global Water Center.

    Moving forward in 2014, a global solutions team of specialists in water-related fields will be developed to deploy to inquiring markets, the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) will announce their voluntary global water standard, and a Global Consulate Program will be developed that invites consulate entrepreneurs to participate in The BREW.

    Reed Street Yards – The Water Council’s Global Water Center has been the catalyst for the redevelop­ment of Reed Street Yards, a designated Global Water Technology Park. RSY will include a micro-water/waste­water utility facility, to test technology for use in urban

    and rural settings, as well as a water plaza that will feature new systems to reduce run-off from the site.

    Leadership Strategic Vision – Developed in 2013, the Leadership Strategic Vision will act as a plumb line to synchronize The Council’s mission, goals and strategic plan for future growth, and long-term, reposition The Council as an international organization headquartered in Milwau­kee, while maintaining our core principals.

    TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT: National Science Foundation’s Industry/University Collaborative Research Center – In 2013, industry members funded 6 water projects and the NSF provided $400,000 in additional support; 1 patent application and 3 invention disclosures were submitted; research resulted in 20 journal/conference publications; and, 15 students and post doctorate researchers were funded.

    Milwaukee Institute Partnership – Milwaukee Institute offered its high performance computational systems and services to tenants at the GWC, including technical consult­ing in computational biology and fluid dynamics applications.

    M.O.U with Tianjin, China – The Water Council signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area Eco Center. The alliance draws on innovations of each of the groups to create an innovative, entrepreneurial-based commer­cial system between Wisconsin and Tianjin, China.

    Catalyst Grants in Water Technology – The Water Technology Accelerator (WaTA), a collaboration between the UWM School of Freshwater Sciences and College of Engineering and Applied Science, UW-Whitewater, and The Water Council, provides world-class labs and equipment for UWM researchers and their collaborators to move innovative science to commercial application and develop technologies suitable for pre-production prototype formulation and evaluation. UWM and UWW were awarded $3 million from the UW Incentive Grant Program to develop the Water Technology Accelerator. Catalyst Grants in Water Technology are available to develop new intellectual property and technologies.

    TALENT DEVELOPMENT: Student Chapters – Launched in 2010 at UW-White­water, expanding student chapters are making waves across campuses at UW-Platteville, UW-Milwaukee, UW-Parkside, Marquette University and Gateway Technical College, creating a talent pool for the water industry.

    Internships & Youth Apprenticeships – The Water Council partnered with the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board to fund and support newly created internships for college students in the regional water clus­ter. The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Develop­ment created a new Water Resources Youth Apprentice­ship program pairing high school juniors and seniors with water treatment facilities.

    Silicon Valley of Water Day during Young Profession­als Week – The Water Council partnered with NEWau­kee’s Young Professionals Week to create a day devoted solely to the water industry in Milwaukee, sponsored by Badger Meter and Rexnord.

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