TIE committee provides sounding board for area inventors, innovators

Water and energy are focus areas for evaluation

Persistent drought conditions in California are forcing growers and irrigation managers as well as food processors to consider water availability as a major factor in virtually every production decision they make. Even homeowners may well face reductions in the water resources they have always taken for granted.

While these conditions have pressed hard against agriculture, they have also spawned a new wave of innovation in water and irrigation technology – so much so that a group of industry leaders has developed and coined the term “BlueTechValley” to identify California’s Central Valley region as a World Water Hub for the development of advanced water and energy technologies that will serve the globe.

As part of the BlueTechValley initiative, a collaborative effort among several Fresno State and off-campus water entities is offering help to innovators through a program called Technology Innovation Evaluation (TIE).

Light bulb in brain

The program provides a vetting process that inventors and entrepreneurs may use to move their new water and/or energy-related technology from concept to commercialization, reported Ed Norum, an agricultural engineer for Fresno State’s Center for Irrigation Technology (CIT) and a member of the TIE committee.

“Creating and supporting innovation economics is the overall goal of the program,” Norum said. “Through early evaluation of new water and energy technology, the TIE committee provides advice and follow-up actions that can enhance the probability of technical and commercial success for the person developing a new product, service or idea.”

According to Dan Clawson, a CIT program specialist and chair of the TIE committee, the group provides very practical advice for people who have an idea or invention they want to develop.

“Between our committee members, we have 150 years of experience in water and irrigation technology, in both the private and public sector. We’ve pretty much seen it all,” Clawson said. That experience can be very helpful to someone who’s working on a new idea.

“During meetings, the person presents his or her idea. Through our feedback, we provide a glimpse of the potential opportunities and barriers that he or she would face in bringing it to market. Then we provide guidelines for where the best opportunity for success is.”

In the past year the committee has met with a dozen individuals and has heard a range of product presentations – some good, some not so good.

“If the baby is ugly, we tell them. We’re going to save somebody a lot of money by being honest with them,” Clawson quipped.

The service is confidential and provided at no charge. Inventors or businesses may contact the program and arrange to submit their idea or innovation for evaluation.

Besides Clawson and Norum, TIE committee members include co-chair Helle Petersen, director of the Water, Energy and Technology Center; Jeff Macon of Fresno State’s Lyles Center Technology Commercialization Program; Kurt Maloney of Ag H20 Consulting; and representatives of the International Center for Water Technology and the Claude Laval Water, Energy and Technology Center.

To arrange for an appointment with the committee, contact Clawson at dclawson@csufresno.edu or call 559-278-2066; or contact Petersen at helle@cvbi.org or by calling 559-278-4540.

For more information about the BlueTechValley initiative, visit www.bluetechvalley.org.