WSP USA will sign agreements with four emerging technology firms to refine and scale their product offerings in climate, resilience and sustainability as part of the design and professional service firm's new startup incubator.
Selected from a pool of 39 applicants, the first four startups—BayoTech, Bundle, Disaster Tech and Sphera—are each preparing to sign a “strategic alliance agreement” with WSP for the technology commercialization effort, the New York City-based company said.
According to WSP, the group will integrate products and services for WSP's climate, resilience and sustainability business line over a three-month beta testing and due diligence period. If a technology is deemed a good fit for a WSP client need, the startup provider will be shepherded through a commercialization phase, says Pooja Jain, WSP vice president of strategic innovation for the business line.
“It's a pretty methodical approach,” says Jain. “We want to make sure the product is mature and ready to go to the markets that we operate in.” She adds that WSP subject-matter experts assist firms to refine offerings for specific needs.
WSP's first structured technology incubation program provides early and growth stage companies a platform to scale their offerings for commercialization. Companies selected for the program receive no funding from WSP, but benefit from its stewardship in target markets.
“The idea was to partner with companies that are early stage and are looking to grow in the markets that we operate in,” Jain says. “If we are really connected with these technology firms that are coming up with novel ideas, we can help our clients better reach their goals.”
Internally, WSP recently centralized its climate, sustainability and resilience divisions into one business line to streamline operations and focus research efforts in the growing market. The company was recently selected to oversee delivery of $4.3 billion in grant-funded climate mitigation projects across Texas.
Integrating Start-up Offerings With Client Needs
Jain says forming partnerships with emerging startups was a needed next step for the company to keep up with market demands for technology integration, and the technology incubation process organically ties the company's business lines together.
Streamlining building materials procurement into one platform, Bundle tracks sustainability metrics for materials, which WSP says could add another layer to track a project's carbon emissions.
BayoTech produces low-carbon, cost-effective hydrogen gas via installation of hydrogen hubs near service areas.
Disaster Tech's Decision Science Integrated Collaboration Environment platform helps disaster planning and response professionals make informed decisions based on situational understanding that would assist WSP emergency management teams
Sphera, the maker of carbon negative aggregates for use in lightweight concrete, could create a substantial net reduction in the carbon footprint of infrastructure and buildings.
"With the maturity of the cloud expansion and so much emphasis on big data, these start-ups are very nimble, and they are addressing these very niche markets," in construction sectors that Jain says are "ready for disruption right now."
She adds: "That disruption is coming from the start-up community, not necessarily from big companies like ourselves. Partnering, at least in my opinion, is a way of connecting with this community that really is going to make a difference big time in where our industry goes from a technology integration point of view."