A hundred or so excited students screamed as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau entered the room of the Science Teaching Complex at the University of Waterloo to deliver a funding announcement of $12 million towards the Southern Ontario Water Consortium.

“By investing in groups like the Southern Ontario Water Consortium we’re investing in our economy, we’re investing in our environment, we’ve investing in our communities but above all, we’re investing in our future,” Trudeau said.

The Southern Ontario Water Consortium (SOWC) connects companies with academic, government, and non-government partners and facilities to help them develop, advance, and validate new water technologies. Created in 2001, the SOWC is partnered with 10 post-secondary institutions and over 90 groups to advance research and development in the water sector.

“Supporting the development and adoption of new approaches will not only support growth in the technology sector, but will help us to meet pressing challenges in water management and energy reduction and climate change resilience,” said Brenda Lucas, ‎executive director of the Southern Ontario Water Consortium.

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Brenda Lucas, Southern Ontario Water Consortium

“Canadians want to live in an environment where the environment and a strong economy go hand in hand, and the Government of Canada firmly believes that we can make this happen through collaboration, through investment, and through innovation,” said the Honourable Navdeep Singh Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

Water Canada asked those in attendance their views on the SOWC, the $12 million announcement, and what it will mean for water innovation in Ontario, as well as nationally.

“It’s a great opportunity to advance science and innovation in one of the most important sectors in the economy; most important in terms of health and prosperity of the country. It’s going to create huge opportunity for the researchers, industry, and let’s not forget the students too—those 20 young, bright kids that were up there are going to have an opportunity to change the world” —Dr. Mark Servos, Canada Research Chair in Water Quality Protection at the University of Waterloo.

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Feridun Hamdullahpur, University of Waterloo

“This is a model partnership that will serve the needs of society, but will also bring about economic opportunities for our province and country.” —Dr. Feridun Hamdullahpur, president of the University of Waterloo.

“This is a really important announcement for industry collaboration. From MANTECH’s perspective, we are keen to be part of the SOWC and to collaborate with the University of Toronto to develop a new drinking water tool that’s going to be offering faster data between chemistry methods.” —Robert Menegotto, president and CEO at MANTECH Inc.

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Geoff Riggs, IBM; Dave Rudolph, University of Waterloo; George Sousa, Grand River Conservation Authority

“This kind of collaboration is a hard thing to achieve. Industry tends to help drive the innovation, because researchers are slow moving. So it’s folks like Geoff [Riggs] from IBM who are pushing us in the right direction, and people like George [Sousa, Grand River Conservation Authority] who keep our feet on the ground. And our president provided strong leadership from the top. Without that, we would not have a Water Institute.” —Dr. David Rudolph, professor of hydrology at the ‎University of Waterloo.

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The Honourable Navdeep Bains

“It’s a model that the world will probably take notice of. It’s analogous to a rich ecosystem in the natural world. It’s vital to have a large degree of diversity, and if you remove any one of its parts, the ecosystem doesn’t thrive. We need a rich array of perspectives, we need to embrace all the tools that are available.” —Geoff Riggs, business development manager at IBM.

“There are so many interesting and challenging problems to solve. Our organization has been around since the 1930s, so it’s invigorating to watch the innovation; working with these companies and researchers…It’s all about getting the right people focused on the problem.” —George Sousa, P.Eng, manager information systems and technology at the Grand River Conservation Authority.

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