Greentown Labs Grows, Wants to Make Somerville a Global Cleantech Hub

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underwater drone research, offered free expertise to help Greentown design the safety protocols for the facility, thereby saving it money on hiring an outside consultant, Reichert said.

“The big corporations help us,” she said.

The newest example is Veolia. The multinational corporation doesn’t have a venture capital arm, but it’s getting more involved with startups, said Yann Moreau, Veolia’s North American director of research and innovation, who flew in from Chicago to attend the Greentown event.

Veolia’s leaders recognize that there are “new ways of thinking about older waste treatment” processes, Moreau said. The industry is looking at methods to be more sustainable, say, by producing bioplastics out of organic materials found in wastewater. A decade ago, “nobody was thinking about things like that,” he said. “Our company is in a transition phase.”

Veolia wants to tap into the ideas of startups. It’s doing that through initiatives like sponsoring Greentown, as well as starting a program with The Water Council and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. to provide cash prizes and office space for a year to companies with innovative ideas in water and clean energy.

Veolia sees these programs as opportunities to purchase the startups’ products or perhaps jointly distribute them, Moreau said. It will make its facilities available to Greentown startups for pilot testing, he added. “That also serves us so we can see if the products work.”

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