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Presentation made at the 2014 State of the Coast, New Orleans Louisiana, a bi-annual conference staged by the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana.
A review of Louisiana's Water Innovation Cluster status and potential.
The rapid growth of Louisiana's coastal restoration science and technology assets is paralleled by the growth of business resources to fulfill myriad project needs. In the public sector, the responsibility and processes for implementing projects are clear, but in the private sector, roles are distributed, speculative and unclear. Many institutions and organizations in Louisiana seek to further develop the state's research, education, engineering and related restoration assets into a globally competitive set of industries with exportable expertise and products that help the state capitalize on its water challenges. Globally, similar efforts are identified (and often branded) as water clusters. This presentation explores the phenomenon of the development of water clusters by public-private partnerships and initiatives nationally and internationally in a comparative analysis of where Louisiana stands.
We posit that many opportunities exist for Louisiana to define powerful components of the water sector, and to develop a unique and influential water cluster that embraces many technologies not previously connected in any other state or country. But this undertaking requires leadership plus a statewide culture of innovation, and the responsibility for developing Louisiana's water cluster is in a nascent stage. In the short term, the cluster is growing in a de facto manner. Whether this will produce a truly globally competitive water cluster is a question that remains unanswered.
The development of a far-reaching, innovative, accessible and inclusive water cluster initiative has potential to strengthen coastal restoration efforts by: streamlining communications; expanding opportunities for innovation; building a strong network locally and nationally in support of projects and funding; reducing redundancy and improving efficiency; and by celebrating and branding Louisiana as a globally important water research and technology leader. It has potential to be a connecting resource across nearly unlimited sectors, with primary impacts in infrastructure, education, business and community development, industry, disaster management and resilience, health, the environment, culture, and tourism. If successfully implemented, Louisiana's water cluster could prove to be as unique and influential as its music, food and joie de vivre.