HAMILTON, Ohio -- Three area firms are part of a global initiative to identify and help companies working on water technologies to produce the cleanest water supply possible in a time when water supplies are "at high risk in terms of quality."
The global initiative is called Pipeline H2O, which is a new water technology commercialization program managed by The Hamilton Mill in Hamilton, a business incubator. This startup program is supported by a coalition of regional cities, utilities, universities and startup organizations throughout the Greater Cincinnati region.
In a news release, Hamilton Mill announced its first class of startup companies to be part of the initiative. The inaugural group includes eight companies from across the U.S. And, in that contingent are firms from the Greater Cincinnati area: kW River Hydroelectric, of Hamilton; Searen, of Cincinnati and WEL Enterprise of Covington, Kentucky. The call for applications was initiated last year. The release shows that 66 applications were received from across five continents representing 14 different countries.
Pipeline H2O's application review process included multiple rounds of evaluations to select the initial class of eight companies.
"We are thrilled with the quality and quantity of the applicants for the initial Pipeline H2O class. The high quality of the applications made it very difficult to select the initial members," Rahul Bawa, chairman of Pipeline H2O and The Hamilton Mill, said in the release. He added: "The Greater Cincinnati region has some of the best water resources and municipal water in the nation and we are looking forward to making a substantial impact for each of these companies to find customers and generate revenue."
Antony Seppi is the Pipeline H2O director and "point-person" on the project. Seppi said to understand the water challenges facing the U.S. and world, all one needs to do is recall Flint, Michigan, and the lead that contaminated its city water supply.
Seppi noted that a 2016 USEPA congressional report listed $270 billion as the amount of capital investment needed to address water quality issues worldwide.
"This ($270 billion) is the investment opportunity for businesses that are in this sector -- the water-tech sector," Seppi said.
So when will the public see results?
"Startups take the time to mature, in particular, startups in the water industry, as there are numerous regulations and licensing that is required to get into this market," Seppi said. "That being said, these startups can have an impact tomorrow if they connect with the right business that sees the need and value proposition in the product."
Seppi said the brewery scene, in particular is one industry that needs a solution now. "If they can cut costs as it pertains to recycling or reusing water, they can reallocate those costs elsewhere," he said, "(like) hiring more employees."
kW River Hydroelectric developed the Williams Cross-Flow Turbine, the release noted, which minimizes environmental impacts, eliminates modifications to dam structures and makes a river safer for recreational use
Paul Kling, the founder of kW River Hydroelectric, said he is thrilled to be one of the startups.
"We formed kW River Hydroelectric, began stepping through business formation phases, partnering relationships with other firms and developing a product far superior to any other in our market category," he said in email. "Just over three years later, we find ourselves with the honor of being selected for the inaugural session of Pipeline."
Kling added, "We earnestly look forward to participating in the Pipeline process and utilizing the opportunity to present what we believe is world-changing technology."
Searen is an "Aquatech" company focused on providing superior water-treatment solutions, according to the release, which utilizes sustainable technologies, including the exclusive and patented Vacuum Airlift (VAL).
The VAL is a state-of-the-art water-treatment device that can replace aging legacy hardware, drive sustainable operations and decrease operating costs by consolidating multiple pieces of equipment into one simple treatment solution.
Emmanuel Briquet, the founder of Searen, emphasized this initiative is crucial.
"It is coming exactly when we need it," he said. "It could not be better timing."
Briquet said he is thrilled to be included in the Pipeline H2O project because of what it can accomplish.
"It is time for the U.S. to take care of its water," he said. "We have a lot of water, but a lot of it is at high risk in terms of quality."
Briquet believes the water-treatment sector must expand its influence to resolve problems or "we are going to face huge troubles," like what happened in Flint.
WEL Enterprise, the release said, has developed the first ever system to handle all treatment and reclamation of wastewater on one platform. By using leading technologies, WEL's system lifts pollutants and exceeds the EPA (NPDES) permit limits.
Katrina Eckard, founder & CEO of WEL Enterprise, said, "I am extremely excited to be a part of the Pipeline H20 program, especially as WEL has been accepted in their first class," she said in an email.
Eckard said that WEL calls Hamilton its home base now and is working directly with Pipeline's team. She said WEL is building a groundbreaking industrial waste system: Municipal Brew Works. The brewery's waste streams will go through a series of treatment and reclamation processes in which water, substances, and other elements will be recycled back into the brewery operations, Eckard said.
"We have designed the entire platform of membranes, technologies, and mechanical equipment that will handle wastewater from start to finish," Eckard said. "Pipeline H2O will be providing the support, resources, and network needed to meet our goals with this system."
The Pipeline H2O program will run from February through May and will introduce the selected startups to various value-add resources throughout the region, according to the release.
Seppi said local companies and other startups may benefit from potential funding, access to customers and partners and mentor networks.
What happens after May?
"We plan to continue the program," Seppi said. A once-a-year program. This class is our first cohort and we will see how they do and make any necessary changes to improve the program going forward."
The release pointed out that the water-tech commercialization program was brought to Cincinnati through a partnership between several different organizations: Village Capital, U.S. EPA, Cincinnati Water Works, Confluence, the University of Cincinnati's water center, Xavier University's Center for Innovation, the City of Cincinnati, the City of Hamilton, Cintrifuse and The Hamilton Mill.
EPA gave its blessing to this WTIC project in 2011. And Seppi was quick to praise the contributions of Confluence in that interim.
"Confluence is a major partner of ours in this endeavor and they have built a tremendous network of resources throughout the region since receiving this designation," Seppi said.
Melinda Kruyer, executive director at Confluence, said, "Water, the world's most crucial natural resource, is facing unprecedented challenges today. The solutions to these challenges will come through innovation."
Any chance President Trump may scrap this program?
"We will continue to run the program as long as the market need is there," Seppi said. "Some of our partners may be impacted by the new administration, but this is a local/regional program that is completely independent of federal involvement. We are nonprofit 501c3 funded through our members."
Who benefits from this public-private initiative?
Seppi believes the startups, local and regional municipalities, business and industry and the overall region will benefit.
"More attention will be paid to the Cincinnati/Southwest Ohio region as a hub of innovation around water," Seppi said. "More of these startups will potentially want to work in this region."
And lastly, he said, "it is water. Water impacts everyone."