Ecolab Hosts Minnesota Water Technology Business Summit
Mar 27, 2014
Minnesota’s Water Technology Leaders Gather at Ecolab’s Schuman Campus to Discuss Global Opportunities for Minnesota’s Water Sector
Minnesota was founded on its abundance of water, a resource as critical to the world today as it was hundreds of years ago. With an impressive number of water businesses, strong talent and a favorable economic environment, the state is poised to emerge as a global leader in water technology at a time when scarcity of fresh water is creating daunting challenges for businesses, communities and individuals in every corner of the world.
On March 25, more than 130 leaders from Minnesota’s water businesses, academia and the public sector gathered at Ecolab’s Allan L. Schuman Campus to discuss just how Minnesota can capitalize on its unique expertise in water to position the region as a formal “water cluster.” The concept, coined by a Harvard researcher, focuses on supporting growth of existing water tech companies, attracting new investment, expanding the talent pool and leveraging natural resources to attract industry to the region.
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) hosted the event in partnership with Greater MSP, a nonprofit dedicated to regional economic development. The event featured University of Minnesota research on the characteristics of the state’s emerging water cluster. Ecolab Chairman and CEO Doug Baker provided the keynote remarks, outlining recommendations to strengthen the industry in the state. Speakers included representatives from other Minnesota-based global businesses including, Pentair, 3M and Aeration Industries. In addition, international trade representatives from the United Kingdom, Israel, Germany and Canada shared perspectives on export opportunities and the potential for international investment in the region.
Baker’s remarks focused on Ecolab’s global water expertise, the insights the company gains from working on the ground at more than 1.3 million customer locations, and how these insights drive innovation in the water space. Baker sees significant opportunity in water for both Ecolab and the region, but believes it will take a “big bang” catalyst to drive water users to invest in the level of innovation required to dramatically reduce global dependence on fresh water. “Both regulation and market pricing of water could serve as catalysts to drive behavior change related to water use,” said Baker. “In my opinion, assigning an accurate cost to water based on real risks will be most effective in shaping smart business decisions about water to fuel innovation.”
There was agreement among summit attendees that the region is poised to move from a nascent cluster of companies to an active leader in water technology, but to do so will require a concerted effort by the public and private sectors. “As a region, we need to focus on unleashing the potential of research institutions such as the University of Minnesota to drive innovation,” said Baker. “The University needs to serve as a pipeline for ideas and needs to collaborate with business to tackle challenges that drive innovation.”
Regional water stats:
- Four of the world’s top seven companies for membrane technology – a system for treating water – are in Minnesota
- Ecolab, GE and Pentair were identified by City Research & Analysis as the top water reuse companies in the world
- Minnesota ranks among the top 10 exporters of water and water technology in the United States, with more than $729 million in foreign sales in 2012.
- The water technology sector employs more than 15,500 people in Minnesota
- Minnesota ranks fifth nationally for employment in manufacturing water pumping equipment
- The Twin Cities has the largest concentration of hydrologists in the United States