Massachusetts Water Mission to Israel Looks to “Win Inbound Innovation”

12/5/12Follow @gthuang

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stood up during the Q&A and started talking.

He was the former chairman of Israel’s national water utility, and he made the case that his country leads the world in water deals, dollars, and technology. Its home market is small, so it has to globalize, he said. But there’s currently no “Silicon Valley” of water, no epicenter of water companies in the United States. Massachusetts has a huge water industry, he said, and it could be a key place for Israeli companies to grow.

“We didn’t know this. This was new to us,” says David Goodtree, a co-chair of the Massachusetts-Israel water mission. “We did some work, and he was right.”

Indeed, the Boston area is home to a burgeoning cluster of more than 30 startups in the water innovation sector (see image below), such as desalination firm Oasys Water—where Matheson, a VC with Flagship Ventures and co-chair of the trip, is CEO. What’s more, bigger companies like CDM Smith and Xylem have a strong local presence in water treatment and analysis. Goodtree, a former Akamai exec who organized a water innovation symposium in May, estimates that Massachusetts water businesses bring in over $4 billion in annual revenues.

The water industry sits at the intersection of engineering, construction, goods and services, and plenty of academic research. “There’s this innovation wave just beginning to blow through it,” Goodtree says. And as he sees it, the state stands to gain a lot if Israeli water companies choose to expand to Massachusetts and open local offices, as opposed to going to California, New York, or Asia. “We’re in a global competition to win inbound innovation,” he says.

So far, the numbers tell a pretty compelling story outside the water industry. According to a report from Stax, in 2009 there were more than 100 Israeli-founded companies with a presence in Massachusetts, and they employed some 6,000 people in the state and had $2.4 billion in direct revenue booked in the state. That’s mainly across the three sectors of life sciences, information technology, and clean energy. “We’d like water to be the fourth,” Goodtree says.

In the past year and a half, according to stats that Goodtree has compiled, 14 Israeli-founded companies in Massachusetts have … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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  • Phillip Wilder

    The water situation in Gaza needs attention more urgently…