Cleveland Water Alliance launches Freshwater Innovation Fund

The Cleveland Water Alliance (CWA) in February announced the launch of the Freshwater Innovation Fund, a venture capital fund focused on investments in water technology. Through the Fund, Cleveland Water Alliance aims to provide opportunities for innovators and investors to accelerate positive impact on global water challenges by bolstering the water economy.

The Freshwater Innovation Fund will seek to invest in early-stage companies that are developing and deploying innovative water-related technologies for use in industrial, consumer, public utility, municipal and related applications.

“We face an urgent need and an unprecedented opportunity. Innovation around how we use, protect, remediate, and fortify water resources and infrastructure is critical to the future of our industries, communities, and economies,” said Bryan Stubbs, president and executive director, Cleveland Water Alliance. “Water stress – including climate change-related drought, aging infrastructure, and amplified storm events to concerns around contaminants and their impact on public health – is on the rise, negatively impacting our economic success and quality of life.”

As a leading facilitator of public–private collaboration in freshwater technological innovation, research and education, CWA matches market needs with promising water technologies. To demonstrate and validate those technologies, CWA developed a world-class water accelerator testbed comprised of sensors, buoys, and telecommunications network projected to cover 12,000 square miles of Lake Erie by end of 2023.

“Lake Erie is now the largest digitally connected body of freshwater in the world,” said Stubbs. “Our testbeds enable water tech companies from anywhere in the world to test with controlled variables under real-world conditions.”

CWA launched the testbed two years ago, leveraging a robust technology advancement ecosystem including more than 200 water industry partners, more than 30 utility partners, and 23 research institutions. As of February 2023, more than 40 technology trials, tests and demonstrations have completed, are in process, or are scheduled.

“Our testbed work uncovered a significant challenge facing water technologies: financing of early-stage water technology companies,” said Stubbs. “Through the Freshwater Innovation Fund, more innovators with great ideas will have access to capital to bring their ideas to fruition, right here in Northeast Ohio. That means more economic activity, stronger business attraction and workforce growth in our region.”

Managing the Freshwater Innovation Fund alongside Stubbs are Case Western Reserve University chief innovation officer Dr. Joseph Jankowski and Oatey Company vice president, international development Blake Oatey. Additional information, including how to join the initiative, is at www.wtrwrx.com

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