Expansive Partnerships to Accelerate Innovation in the Water Quality Industry

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WERF and WEF to Advance the LIFT Program Through New Opportunities in the Water Quality Industry.

The Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF) has recently taken steps to exponentially increase opportunities to adopt innovative technologies in the water quality industry. Traditionally seen as a risk adverse industry, those who treat wastewater are transforming their work into a hotbed of innovation.

Since WERF and the Water Environment Federation (WEF) formed the Leaders Innovation Forum for Technology (LIFT) to remove barriers to implementation of innovative technologies in the water quality sector in 2012, the group has galvanized over 100 of the largest wastewater treatment facility owners from both the municipal and industrial sectors to work together to identify, select, pilot test, and deploy new technologies to improve efficiency and recover resources embedded in wastewater. Now LIFT is taking water innovation to the next level.

In September 2014, WERF and WEF convened a group of water industry thought leaders in Washington, D.C. to build on the initial successes of LIFT and chart a course for the next phase of the program. A resulting plan for “LIFT 2.0” lays out a path for accelerating, informing, promoting, and funding innovation; creating an innovation environment; and growing and connecting innovators. LIFT 2.0 activities will help foster “technology highways” between utilities, academics, consultants, and technology providers; prioritize high reward, multi-beneficial technologies; develop platforms and web applications to support innovation; facilitate and grow a national and international innovation ecosystem; mitigate and manage new technology risk; and identify new regulatory and policy approaches to create the space for innovation. To signal their commitment to implement that plan, WERF and WEF entered into a memorandum of understanding with a formal signing in Chicago last month.

"WEF is committed to working with WERF to implement the next phase of LIFT," said Eileen O'Neill, WEF Executive Director. "Our participation in LIFT is directly in line with WEF's goal to provide a platform for water sector innovation, and LIFT will continue to pave the way to the more rapid adoption of innovative technologies and approaches that can improve efficiency and recover resources embedded in wastewater."

Additionally, since September, the reach of LIFT has expanded. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) committed funds to several specific LIFT projects. Other government agencies and research foundations have expressed interest in partnerships as well. In February, WERF entered into a partnership with Isle Inc., an independent technology and innovation consultancy specializing in clean technologies. WERF will work with Isle to identify and pilot test technologies that can accelerate innovation in the water quality community.

According to Larry P. Jaworski, Interim Executive Director of WERF, “we are justifiably proud of the success of LIFT. It has grown from several initial participants just over two years ago to several hundred participants. As we explore the next generation of LIFT, successful collaboration with other technology development programs will be critical to the continued growth and success of our efforts.”

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The Water Environment Research Foundation, a nonprofit organization formed in 1989, is America's leading independent scientific research organization dedicated to wastewater and stormwater issues.

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Carrie Capuco
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