Innovation Clusters: Water is Gold

Forget the gold rush.  A “water rush” is underway and water rich states are well positioned.

Just a few short years ago businesses expanding or relocating were likely to cite broadband and transportation networks among the most important factors in their decision process.  The Southwestern U.S. has been targeted for the majority of this investment activity. But with below average snowpack, higher temperatures, growing consumption, and extreme drought appearing to be the new normal, water has quickly become the new gold.

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Case Study: A Match Made in Energy

About the Energy Alliance of Greater Pittsburgh

The Energy Alliance of Greater Pittsburgh increases the scale of the region’s energy industry, creating and retaining jobs and attracting investment across a portfolio of energy-related assets, while continuing to advance our global leadership in improving the environment. A joint initiative of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and Innovation Works, the Energy Alliance is a strategic partnership of traditional and alternative energy companies, global leaders in material science and intelligent building technologies, academic, corporate and government researchers, and supply-chain providers in 32 counties across four states.

Challenge

As one of the managing partner organizations of the Energy Alliance, Innovation Works realized a pattern of disconnect between professionals across the greater Pittsburgh region’s energy sector and sub sectors. Since collaboration is vital to ensuring the success of the regional energy sector, this trend was worrisome. . Innovation Works needed to connect the dots among energy professionals, while measuring the successes of these connections to ensure future funding and support of the Energy Alliance.

Solution

The Energy Alliance, through Innovation Works, partnered with Fourth Economy Consulting to provide strategy development, project management and regional collaboration to the organization. A piece of this partnership included assistance for bridging disconnect amongst professionals across greater Pittsburgh’s energy sector. With third-party partners of World-Class Industrial Network (WIN) and SMaSh, Fourth Economy brought to life the EnergyMatch event. EnergyMatch is a networking event designed for industries, entrepreneurs, university and industry researchers, and the funding community to connect, develop new products, form research and development teams, collaborate on grant opportunities and seek investment capital. EnergyMatch is an “anti-conference.” Rather than speaking to participants through keynote addresses and breakout sessions, the event focuses on action-oriented networking intended to make real connections that produce real projects with tangible action items, next steps and follow-up. An online profiling form was developed by Fourth Economy and WIN to analyze a professional’s needs and assets, as well as the needs and assets of their employer or organization. These profiles were then analyzed and matched with one another with each attendee being matched to four to six fellow attendees. At the event, attendees received a personalized list of individuals to seek out throughout the evening. Attendees could also make matches on their own through general networking at tables labeled by energy sector (wind, coal, solar, distribution, etc.) throughout the venue. When a match was made, each person texted the follow-up for that match to a SMS texting system developed by SMaSh. A counter projected throughout the evening kept track of the number of connections generated as a result of the event.

Results

EnergyMatch event. Those individuals created a total of 439 “matches” as recorded by the texting technology. The average number of matches made by an attendee was 6.6 (with a median of 4) and the most matches made at the event was 39, by an individual who also won an iPad for their superior matching efforts. In a follow-up event survey, all participants rated EnergyMatch very highly:

  • 96% were either “satisfied” or “extremely satisfied” with the overall event.
  • 94% are “likely” or “extremely likely” to follow-up with at least one of their matches.
  • 97% said they would likely attend another EnergyMatch event.

Another EnergyMatch event is in the early planning phases for Fall 2011, with subsequent events to follow. Additionally, an online collaboration tool used to mimic the activities of the event is in development.

Quotes From Participants

[I liked] the opportunity to meet a variety of people from different backgrounds. I also liked that the point of the match was to introduce yourself to people – that is, that you didn’t have to know people ahead of time or be “connected.” Great atmosphere. Well organized. Nice mix of people. Texting contact info was good. [EnergyMatch] was a new/unique spin on traditional networking. Well intentioned and well organized. I liked the idea of being able to network with others who are in the energy/cleantech/green sectors, and I appreciate the opportunity to meet with so many different companies in one place, and learn about mutual interests. I spent my whole career on that problem…it must be why they matched us.

Also, check out Imagine Pittsburgh’s recap of the EnergyMatch event, featuring all of the event videos!