“Israel has some of the largest and most innovative water projects in the world,” said Peter Tunnicliffe, Executive VP Global Market Development at CDM Smith. Tunnicliffe spoke as part of a delegation of over 40 heads of water solution companies, investors and government representatives who are in Israel this week, meeting with Israeli start-up companies and seeking out the next breakthrough technology and company in the water arena.
Yesterday’s event was a networking session organized by CleanIsrael and sponsored by Autodesk and featuring speakers from multi-billion dollar revenue companies from the U.S. One of the themes that rose from the panel and from discussions that followed it, was the need to create an ecosystem to support innovation, and this is why a number of government representative from Massachusetts came on the delegation. Massachusetts, like Israel, has strong academic, industrial, and investment community resources in the water arena, but the challenge is to have this entire ecosystem work efficiently together to enable innovative technologies to be implemented.
We spoke with Karen Golmer, a water professional with 30 years of experience (having worked for GE, and today serving as Global Executive Director Water & Energy Solutions at Diversey). “I came here to learn how things are done in Israel, how the ecosystem here works effectively,” said Golmer. When asked what it is about Israel’s water industry that makes it stand out she said, “I think there is no fear of failure in Israel,” and this openness to risk-taking is a key success factor.
Chris McIntire, SVP & President, Analytics at Xylem, told of how he founded a company which in time was bought by the ITT Corporation and became Xylem, and of what he looks for when scouting out the next technology breakthrough. Regular engineering services are being commoditized, and this, according to Pete Tunnicliffe, is why water companies like CDM Smith and Xylem are always looking for the next innovative idea. When asked about the barriers that technology companies face from municipalities on the way to implementation, Tunnicliffe noted that he thinks municipalities are loosening limitations a little. “Innovations are necessary to increase efficiency. At the end of the day this saves money, and that’s the main driver in the market today.”
Also on the panel was Earl Jones, Member of Liberation Capital, which recently invested over $6 million in Desalitech, invested in a second Israeli company (which Jones did not name) and is about to close a third such investment. “The work ethic and team effort here is like nothing else on the planet,” said Jones. His recommendation to start-ups? Connect to solution providers like CDM Smith and Xylem, who can provide the valuable connection to clients.