Nevada Water Center of Excellence: Bringing Innovative Water Tech Companies to Vegas

The Nevada Water Center of Excellence is an independent team of stakeholders focused on one of the greatest issues facing Nevada: Water. The organization sprung out of conversations in 2011 about how to take Nevada’s proficiency in managing water and put that toward a new model for helping bring water technologies to market.

Nathan Allen“Our vision is to leverage Nevada’s expertise and partnerships to build a unique, locally-based innovation hub around water in the United States and to do that by very clearly defining what the opportunities in the water market look like,” explained Nathan Allen, Executive Director of Nevada Center of Excellence. “We want to connect foreign and domestic companies interested in the opportunities in water efficiency, monitoring, treatment, and sustainability to nationally respected decision-makers and help them get traction in the U.S. water market at-large.”

Allen says that due to the history of 20th century water development, many Americans tend to equate water management with largescale public works like the Hoover Dam. Others equate water management to the heightened awareness of water treatment processes that followed the rise of the environmental movement in the latter half of the 20th century.

“In this century, however, there’s a massive need for technologies to help extend the lives of aging water infrastructure as well as to improve the quality and efficient use of water in both the public and private sectors,” he explained. “Outside of water industry circles, I think the broad, general public does not have a good understanding of the role of technology in the water industry. With the energy and automotive industries, you hear a lot about renewable energy technologies and driverless cars, but water tech still has not captured the public mind in the same way.”

He argues that the average citizen underestimate the complexities involved in getting a new water technology adopted.

“It’s not like developing a new app or consumer product. There is real risk involved and new technologies have to be very safe and reliable. The complexity of the water industry is also a major hurdle for new technologies,” he said. “There are more than 50k drinking water utilities in the U.S.. They can both be public or privately operated and regulations and management structures can very significantly between state and municipal levels. As a result a lot of good technologies die on the vine simply because they can figure out how to get the right endorsements or navigate there way to the next sale. These are two types of hurdles the Nevada Center of Excellence has been set up to directly help businesses overcome.”

THE NEVADA CENTER OF EXCELLENCE MODEL

The Nevada Center of Excellence made a big splash in 2013 at the Singapore International Water Week. The Singapore International Water Week is the global platform to share and co-create innovative water solutions. The event gathers stakeholders from the global water industry to share best practices, showcase the latest technologies, and tap business opportunities.

Since the 2013 event, the Nevada Center of Excellence has worked alongside several companies, including Water Sharks and Echologics, to bring them to the Las Vegas market.

“Echologics makes an advanced leak detection system that can detect catastrophic water main breaks, the kind of thing you see on the TV news where water is gushing down the street, stopping traffic and causing massive property damage,” said Allen. “It’s an exciting advance for water utilities because they can now remotely monitor for leaks in real-time. Before Echologics, they’d dig up a whole street and replace the water pipes based on the age of the pipe rather than the detection of a real problem. Take a major tourist attraction like the Las Vegas Strip, and you really don’t want to be making it into a construction site unless your really have to. That’s why the water authority installed Echologics’ technology on a portion of the Strip to remotely monitor the water infrastructure running beneath Las Vegas Boulevard.”

Water Shark Systems is focusing on the global water crisis by using innovative leading edge technology to treat contaminated water internationally, helping preserve valuable water resources. Globally, the World Economic Forum has identified water-related crises as a chief global threat. As many water supplies around the world are threatened, and reliable sanitation continues to be underdeveloped in communities around the globe, there’s a need for portable, reliable water cleansing systems. These systems need to provide populations with access to clean water, and that’s where Water Sharks comes in.

“Water Sharks is solving a big problem for water users, and that’s creating access to clean water when normal water filtration systems are either offline or nonexistent,” said Allen. “Water Sharks designed and assembles small-scale custom water treatment systems. There are many applications for what they’re doing. The Nevada Center of Excellence helps to both verify their treatment systems and connects them with experts to develop new systems based on their customer needs.”

Allen says there are a lot of built-in advantages in Nevada for the work he’s doing with Nevada Center of Excellence.

“Being the driest state in the nation, Nevada has had to be very innovative from the start with respect to water,” he explained. “We have academic expertise with institutions like the Desert Research Institute. SNWA reduced water consumption in Southern Nevada by more than 40% in the past decade while the population doubled. And inherently the business climate in Nevada is very conductive to starting new companies. Meanwhile, we have marshalled partners and experts in water to build an ecosystem that helps foster the development of tech start-up companies in the water industry.”

Allen adds that the community has built the right industry ecosystem in Nevada. To that end, the Nevada Center of Excellence seeks to be the world leader in water technology, concentrating on conservation, resource planning, pumping, treatment, storage, distribution
and reuse.

“We have already identified water suppliers’ needs and priorities, and we are able to take entrepreneurs right to the top, to the people who make these decisions about what technology is used,” he says. “Having your technology installed, tested and vetted with major municipal utility and academic partners is a very powerful way for new companies to establish real market viability and product verification as they look to break into the U.S. water market.”

For the past few months, the Nevada Center of Excellence has been heavily marketing their commercialization fund, which provides promising water technology companies with funding to both access our network of partners in Nevada and help develop their technologies. Through the Nevada Water Center of Excellence and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, the State of Nevada is working to promote its commitment to innovation in water technology by awarding grants of up to $100,000 to international or local technology companies. Qualifying companies will be able to leverage existing U.S. West assets in the application of their water technology development. Requests for Proposals were due on December 1, 2015.

In addition, Allen and his team have been  working with a broader array of industries with water technology needs over the past few months. They have found success in connecting large water users with a problem to a technology company that has a solution.

Sandoval“We’ll be pushing to expand partnerships with industries that use a lot of water — industrial operators, agricultural interests, and additional water utilities — to create new lists of needs,” said Allen. “This will allow us to then recruit more technology companies to come to Nevada who have products in development that will potentially solve these water users’ problems.”

Allen says founders and entrepreneurs with promising water technologies can connect through the Nevada Water Center of Excellence networks to others who might be a good fit for the commercialization fund.

“In addition, we are establishing networks of global water partners in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East who are themselves networked among water technology companies in their respective regions,” he explained. “As a partner, we are happy to connect investors to our network. We currently have a grant opening posted through GOED for water technology companies to participate in our upcoming trade mission to China.”

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