Two high level water experts from Israel, Michael (Miki) Zaide, Director of Strategic Planning for the Israel Water Authority and Oved Cohen, Deputy Director of Operations and Management, Hagihon Water Company of Jerusalem, recently returned from a tour of the Midwestern U.S. The delegation, which ran September 9-11, was arranged by the Consulate General of Israel to the Midwest and the Government of Israel Economic Mission to the Midwest, together with Israel NewTech.
Zaide and Cohen met with government officials, including Governor Sam Brownback, in Kansas where they also spoke at two universities as well as the Jewish community. After that they returned to Chicago to meet with Water researchers from Argonne National Lab, senior staff at the Chicago Water Department and finally traveled to Milwaukee for a presentation to the Milwaukee Water Council.
According to Bob Schwartz, Senior Policy Advisor at the Consulate General of Israel to the Midwest, the visit succeeded in sowing the seeds for future business cooperation: “Throughout the visit, it was clear that local water officials, academics and business people all hold Israel’s water expertise and technological innovation in the highest regard. Hopefully, new government, business and academic partnerships and exchanges will result from the contacts made during this trip.”
One of the highlights of the visit was a meeting with members of the Milwaukee Water Council’s Global Water Center. The center, a seven-story, $22 million, 100,000-square-foot technology and business incubator, was recently inaugurated. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on the center’s launch and activities:
According to its organizers, the converted 107-year-old warehouse on the city’s near south side is the most ambitious and complex undertaking to date in the effort to enlarge the region’s foothold in the $500 billion-a-year international market for systems that test, treat, monitor, conserve and transport water.
The idea is to create a shared space for established water-engineering companies, which will set up labs alongside university scientists, grad students and a new generation of start-ups. If they get the synergies right, the cross-pollination is meant to foster a culture of innovation and ultimately a new growth sector, said Dean Amhaus, chief executive of the Water Council, the Milwaukee trade group behind the broader civic effort.
The roster of tenants includes established international companies such as Badger Meter Inc. (sensors and meters), A.O. Smith Corp. (water heaters and filters) and Veolia Water North America (world’s No. 1 supplier of large-scale treatment systems).
There are also no fewer than 13 other water-related enterprises, large and small, including four start-ups that each have each been awarded $50,000 grants and subsidized rent under the Global Freshwater Seed Accelerator Program.
Adi Yefet, head of Water at Israel NewTech, which was involved in the organization of the Israeli delegation, concluded: “The Global Water Center taking shape now in Milwaukee represents one example of the opportunities that exist for Israeli water technology companies in this part of the U.S. There are substantial resources – financial, governmental, and academic – being invested in the water arena and Israeli companies have a lot of relevant technology expertise to offer.”