innovation + H2O = colorado’s future

Colorado Innovation Network June 23, 2017

To address Colorado’s most challenging water issues, three inspiring Colorado organizations are connecting community leaders, entrepreneurs, and industry professionals in new, innovative ways.

From reverse pitch events to Google-inspired entrepreneur “sprints,” TAP-IN10.10.10 and Innovation Incubator (IN²) are developing breakthrough solutions and starting new ventures utilizing Colorado’s innovation ecosystem.

Although Colorado has always been at the forefront of water innovation, having been named one of the first water innovation clusters by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), these organizations are focusing on identifying core water challenges before investing in technology options.

With mounting pressures from climate change, pollution, population growth, and aging water infrastructure, Colorado’s water challenges are now bigger, more complex and too daunting for government to address alone. By engaging serial entrepreneurs and focusing on the problems, these organizations hope to build a thriving water innovation ecosystem in Colorado.

it’s time to “tap in”

The mission of TAP-IN is to create a platform for Coloradans to “tap in” to the creative current that flows throughout our state to solve our greatest water challenges. TAP-IN starts with real-world problems and calls upon our diverse innovation community to collaborate and partner to solve them. TAP-IN aims to support a high-impact water and innovation ecosystem in Colorado that results in action and solutions.

Entrepreneurs are accustomed to pitching ideas to potential investors, businesses, and customers. With TAP-IN, the tables are turned! End users from the water community pitch their specific challenges to entrepreneurs, equipping them with valuable insight into real needs while revealing potential new markets.

TAP-IN is a reverse pitch innovation challenge that aims to identify the precise problems the water community faces and to engage the entrepreneurial community to come up with innovative solutions. The goal is to build connections across communities to unleash the power of Colorado collaboration.

The next TAP-IN innovation challenge, Cultivate & Produce, will call upon end users working in agriculture, food, brew, and beverage to pitch their specific problems to the entrepreneurial, innovation, and business communities. Then, end users and attendees will discuss the problems, gather information that can power solutions, and build connections to innovate together.

addressing the wicked problems

In October, 10.10.10 will bring together prospective CEOs, successful serial entrepreneurs, subject matter experts, and city officials to address 10 “wicked” problems in water & infrastructure over 10 days (a “sprint”) with the goal of creating breakthrough innovation and market-based solutions that can change the world.

“Wicked” problems were first outlined by two Berkeley professors in 1973. They stem from numerous causes, spread in every direction and tend to become entangled with other wicked problems. Conventional approaches to addressing them usually don’t work. They can be a societal scourge, such as poverty, or a seemingly more specific problem, like Alzheimer’s disease.

Because wicked problems present tremendous business opportunities, 10.10.10 realized they could engage entrepreneurs, investors, and the market itself to confront them. But this can only be done with the right combination of entrepreneurial energy and insight. 10.10.10 harnesses this power and points it in the right direction. 10.10.10 is currently recruiting participants for the October event.

incubating scalable solutions

IN² is a technology incubator that fosters and accelerates early state technology companies that provide scalable solutions to reduce the energy impact of commercial buildings.

IN² is creating an ecosystem for early-stage technology stakeholders and innovators — including national labs, universities, and regional accelerator programs — to develop strong relationships that provide mentorship, funding, and technical assistance to the most promising commercial building entrepreneurs.

IN² is a five-year, $10 million program designed to facilitate early-stage technologies, funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation and co-administered by NREL.

Over the course of six to 18 months, participating companies have access to NREL’s world-class facilities and researchers who will test, validate, and incubate the companies’ technologies to help them meet critical validation milestones on their path to the commercial marketplace.

The technology company APANA was recently chosen for the IN² program. The APANA System offers an innovative smart water management system to reduce water waste. Their cloud-based analytic technology scans, pinpoints, and guides resolution of water waste by instantly alerting frontline staff and providing actionable guidance. APANA uses sensors and IoT devices to capture high-resolution data for constant analysis of when water waste is occurring. The IN² program is providing research assistance, test sites, and marketing exposure to further expand APANA’s growth.

water innovation around the world

As Colorado addresses some of our most challenging water issues, innovators around the world are working with governments to address water pollution, port management and sustainability, desalination, and energy generation. Watch how Israel’s Water Sensitivity Center is using innovation to capture and clean polluted groundwater before returning it to the aquifer, and how England uses floating solar panels to generate electricity for its water treatment plants.