Cleveland Water Alliance
Amidst a global pandemic, the water industry represents one of the few sectors of economic growth in Northeast Ohio. Water stress is on the rise all over the world, and innovation is needed more than ever: clean, fresh water is critical to navigating our future with COVID-19 and beyond. A critical gap within the innovation cycle is the ability to innovate and trial solutions directly with customers. The Blue Economy Innovation Initiative is an Industry Challenge focused on growing the region’s water economy by providing innovators from all over the country the ability to conceive of, test, scale up and demonstrate innovative water technology directly with customers. The Initiative does this by 1) developing Accelerator Testbeds within four environments (watershed, utility, consumer, and industrial water-use), and 2) expanding Open-Innovation Challenge programming to convene customers and entrepreneurs across the Lake Erie Basin around key challenges and opportunities in the freshwater sector. As lead for this Initiative, Cleveland Water Alliance (CWA) is one of the most effective freshwater innovation clusters in North America. Fostering acceleration programs for new companies and emerging technologies, CWA and its partners are directly linked to more than 300 net new jobs annually within Cuyahoga County, as well as 16,000 jobs and over 300 water-expertise companies across Northeast Ohio. This Initiative bridges the gap in bringing new water technologies to market, while creating 270 new jobs and incubating 60 startups in Cleveland and the Lake Erie Basin, ultimately accelerating the impact of innovation on an increasingly water-stressed world.