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Innovation & Startups

Water, the next step. Growing a future Pittsburgh industry cluster


The region is taking the next step toward the creation of a thriving industry around our abundant water supply, a Water Innovation Consortium that will inspire innovation, sustainability and collaboration among the more than 3,000 water-related firms here.

The first economic analysis of the local water industry sector, Pittsburgh's H2Opportunity Report, was released this month, providing a snapshot of water-related industries and the potential for growth. The study follows on the heels of Pittsburgh World Environment Day and the two Water Matters! conferences held in 2010.

In a nutshell, the region has the clout to generate a cluster of water-related industries, from energy to wastewater and desalinization technologies and products. More than 3,000 companies provide water-related components, products and services that provide 34,000 jobs and more than $5 billion in direct economic activity.

By putting together a "cluster model" similar to the Milwaukee Water Council, the group will organize and advance regional opportunities and coordinate existing resources aligned with those opportunities.; think PLSG and the Pa. Nanomaterials Commercialization Center  which drive life sciences and nanotechnology growth in the region. 

The study also identifies four pilot projects to drive the region forward:  supply and treatment, components, services and transportation. Two promising growth industries are identified as water treatment and water desalination with a mix of companies from Siemens Water Technologies and Calgon Carbon Corp. to newer firms such as Cardinal Resources and Epiphany Solar Water Systems.  

"This represents a different way of bringing partners to the table," says Jerry Paytas, vice president of research analytics, Fourth Economy, the author of the study. "It's an open cast-call approach to bring in the right players."

"We see our role as enabling the success of the teams that will focus on the areas they see as critical to the region's water future," says Jan VanBriesen, director of the Center for Water Quality in Urban Environmental Systems, which will coordinate the consortium.   "The consortium is really a 'bottom up' effort to bring together the region's extensive expertise and innovation in water issues." 

The study was commissioned by the WED Partnership, foundations and companies working with the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and Sustainable Pittsburgh.

To learn more about how to get involved, contact Dave Nakles at CMU.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Jerry Paytas, Fourth Economy; Jan Van Briesen, Carnegie Mellon; Sustainable Pittsburgh

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Photograph copyright Brian Cohen
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