Testbeds Front and Center on Global Stage at World Water Tech London

March 14, 2024
Bryan Stubbs

Reflecting on my trip to the World Water-Tech Innovation Summit in London, I'm excited to share more about this jam-packed experience. The summit, which drew over 500 participants from utilities, regulators, engineering firms, technology giants, investors, and startups, was a melting pot of ideas and innovations to drive greater climate resiliency. Over two days, I engaged in high-energy networking, absorbed the insights from thought-provoking panel discussions, and was inspired by impactful presentations from the UK’s Environment Agency and regional water utility and ministerial speakers from Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, and Morocco.

Global Interest in Testbeds

The central message that resonated with me throughout the event was unmistakable: the global community is keenly interested in the testbed approach as a means to accelerate technology development and adoption. This message was echoed in the corridors and meeting rooms where I had the privilege of engaging with numerous young companies. These innovators are looking to test their breakthrough technologies in the U.S. market through our testbed and seeking to make a significant impact on water technology and management practices.

The summit's agenda was packed, mirroring my own schedule with back-to-back one-on-one meetings. It was both humbling and exhilarating to see the eagerness of attendees to connect with me, underscoring Cleveland Water Alliance’s role as a critical hub for fostering global partnerships and collaborations. The message was loud and clear: there is a universal thirst for innovative approaches to water technology, and the testbed effort CWA presents is seen as a vital catalyst in this arena.

Key Insights and Trends

Discussions throughout the summit emphasized the urgency of addressing emerging contaminants, like PFAS, and HABs, reflecting a broader industry trend toward tackling these pervasive challenges. The emphasis on innovation was palpable, with many early-stage companies seeking opportunities to showcase their technologies in the U.S. market through our testbed. 

Memorable 1:1 Meetings and Strategic Partnerships

Among the many meetings, my interaction with Arup stands out as a highlight. Connecting with this London-based international environmental design collective offered valuable insights and the potential for future collaborations. Additionally, engaging with industrial solutions, large-scale investment funds focused on freshwater innovation, and specific technologies such as PFAS detection and low-energy pump tech also sparked a lot of excitement about future opportunities. These discussions broadened my perspective and highlighted the critical areas where our collaborative efforts can make a substantial difference.

Networking and Partnerships

Seeing partners like Hein Molenkamp from the Water Alliance in the Netherlands and the new managing director of the German Water Partnership, Boris Greifeneder, who extended an invitation for CWA to present at IFAT, was a reminder of the strong water cluster networks and collaborative spirit that underpin our work.

Panels and Roundtable Reflections

The roundtable discussions were particularly resonant, especially those around piloting and demonstrating technology. The skepticism expressed by some large water firms about the feasibility of real-world demonstrations was a poignant reminder of the challenges we face. However, it also highlighted the importance of forums like the World Water-Tech Innovation Summit in debunking myths and showcasing the successes of organizations like CWA in bridging the gap between innovation and application. I was proud to offer an alternative solution to these challenges with our testbed program for technology at any stage.

International Connections and Discussions

The meetings with representatives from Malta and Portugal, along with discussions on digital water management and the right to know water quality at the faucet, underscored our field's dynamic nature and stakeholders' diverse interests. Moreover, attending a session by the Environment Agency – UK's equivalent of the EPA– on aging infrastructure highlighted the critical need for substantial investment in long-lasting solutions—a lesson underscored by London's centuries-old sanitation systems.

Future Opportunities and Lasting Impressions

The summit's emphasis on sustainable financing and maintaining investment momentum spoke directly to the challenges and opportunities within the water technology sector. As we discussed ways to support startups and scale innovations globally, it was clear that the summit was a catalyst for growth. The shared experiences and insights from speakers, including Helen Wakeham of the UK's Environment Agency and Motaz Alsolaim from Saudi Arabia, underscored the global commitment to water innovation and sustainability.

Looking Ahead with Optimism

Our discussions on creating more testbeds and the strong market need for such platforms were inspiring. It's clear that CWA is at the forefront of meeting this demand, offering invaluable opportunities for a wide array of technologies to be trialed and piloted. This is a pivotal moment for us to scale up our efforts and extend our reach further into the global water tech landscape.

As I reflect on the summit's packed agenda, the engaging discussions, and the potential for future collaborations, I'm inspired by the collective dedication to tackling water challenges. The World Water-Tech Innovation Summit is a beacon for innovation, investment, and global partnership. As we look towards the next summit in 2025, I'm excited about the possibilities that lie ahead for expanding our testbed, fostering new technologies, and contributing to a more resilient and sustainable water future.

Bryan Stubbs
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Bryan Stubbs

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Bryan Stubbs is the Executive Director & President of Cleveland Water Alliance

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