Lack of clean water is responsible for more deaths in the world than war, a stark fact that has made global water access a National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenge—and a potential point of leadership for researchers and business innovators in Massachusetts. To help advance that goal, the D’Amore-McKim School of Business sponsored the second annual Symposium on Water Innovation in Massachusetts in June, bringing together business leaders, policymak- ers, and academics to explore opportunities in the emerging clean water industry.
Northeastern researchers across disciplines—from business and management to engineering and science—are well positioned to play a major role in a statewide initiative to create a water innovation cluster that will enable Massachusetts to become the world leader in solving water- access issues across the globe.
Ron Whitfield, director of DMSB’s Business Sustainability Initiative and a SWIM symposium organizer, noted that the BSI promotes sustain- ability in research, teaching, and service as well as in its collaborations with industry. Sustainable business enterprises adopt strategies that define success in terms of the “triple-bottom-line,” said Whitfield: environmentally responsible, socially conscious, and financially successful. With the right technology innovations, those kinds of businesses can succeed in leading the state’s water initiative, he added.
Matthew Eckelman, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, co-chaired an exhibition of some of those new technolo- gies. In addition to cutting-edge ideas developed by more than 30 companies, the exhibition included two from a College of Engineering research center, the Puerto Rico Testsite for Exploring Contamination Threats. Doctoral student Ali Ciblak and postdoc Lily Rajic, show- cased their work on solar-powered electrochemical technologies for groundwater treatment, while researchers Annalisa Onnis-Hayden and Loretta Fernandez presented on advanced biological sensors for water contaminants, developed in Associate Professor April Gu’s lab.
Governor Deval Patrick, who opened the symposium, noted that a water-innovation cluster could advocate for its collective interests and draw talent to the region along the lines of the state’s other successful research innovation clusters