Update: The Frontier has announced the conference previously scheduled for August 2019 will be postponed to April 1-3, 2020. The event will take place at the Lyric Theatre in Birmingham, Alabama. The decision to postpone the event was made in order to allow for a longer runway for the community, speakers, and sponsors in the Gulf region to participate.

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Over the past two years, The Frontier has grown significantly by bringing individuals together to learn, connect, and rethink innovation. In 2017, over 170 innovation leaders representing 115 organizations from  15 states and nine major industrial disciplines attended The Frontier. Then, in 2018, over 200 innovation leaders representing 130 organizations from 20 states and 5 countries and 17 major industrial disciplines attended. Join us for the next edition of The Frontier Conference 2020 as we engage an even wider spectrum of disciplines shaping the future of the industrial world.


The who, the what, and the why of this conference will continue to remain consistent. The biggest change for our 2019 conference is the where. This year, we are heading to Birmingham, Alabama.


WHO: As the founders of The Frontier, we have worked with top customers, investors, and entrepreneurs focused on industrial innovation. We are leading investors and business builders across the spectrum of companies focused on finding solutions for the industrials sectors of the last two decades. Based on our collective experience, we found there is no real place for the future leaders and innovators of the industrial world to congregate. We believe the network is one of the critical reasons why innovation has been stagnant in our industry. As a result, we founded The Frontier to be this gathering place for the future thinkers, entrepreneurs, and leaders of the industrial world.


WHAT:  The Frontier is the ONLY conference focusing on emerging technologies for all the key industrial sub-sectors. It is a two-day destination conference for up-and-coming leaders in the industrial world, including the world’s top innovators, thinkers, executives, visionaries, investors, and entrepreneurs, to cross-pollinate and rethink the future of industrials. The Industrials and Energy Sectors have experienced a tremendous change in the last decade— millennials taking over as the future leaders, software disruption, new obstacles related to safety, security, and the environment. Existing customers and exciting new disruptive startups are seeking ways to not only take advantage of these changes above but also to change how we view the future industrial world. We bring together leaders who are on the edge of the Industrial Internet, thus leveraging data and designing solutions, for example, robotics, AI, IoT, advanced materials, and other emerging technologies.


WHY: This conference is about the future leaders of the industrial world; up and coming executives from the top companies and top investors in the industrial sector will join us from near and far and the most disruptive entrepreneurs will be showing us what comes next. If you are one of these leaders who wants to engage with others like you, join us. If you want to see the latest innovations attacking your market, bring your team. If you are a young and ambitious entrepreneur and want to meet customers and investors, don’t miss out. And if you have an idea and want to make it a reality before you tell your company, now is the time.


BIRMINGHAM: Alabama is historically known as a leader in industrial spaces including aerospace, chemicals, and automotive. Even more, Alabama has invested in a state-level focus on advancement in technology, further positioning the state as a leader in the realm of industrial innovation. Moving The Frontier to Birmingham, Alabama for the 2019 conference was a perfect match with the state’s focus on advancing the industrials industry. Alabama is home to companies who have proven to be trailblazers in this space which have catapulted the state to third in auto exports and second in chemical exports, making billion-dollar impacts on the economy. The energy for innovation in the state makes for the perfect setting for The Frontier conference as thought leaders will spend three days exploring how culture and innovation is transforming every segment of the Industrials sectors.


Whether you’ve attended The Frontier in the past, or are interested in attending for the first time this year, please join our email list to ensure you’re notified when Registration opens.


Announcing 2018 Frontier Conference’s morning keynote speaker: Jens Festervoll.


Festervoll is a Senior Advisor in Corporate Innovation at Statoil, as well as Statoil’s Corporate Liaison for the Techstars Energy Accelerator hosted in their Oslo office.



  • DATE: Thursday, April 12, 2018
  • TIME: 8:15 AM
  • TOPIC: Cross-Industry Learning – A Driver for Innovation


Festervoll will be discussing:

  1. Innovation – hype or hope
  2. Digitization – opportunity or disruption
  3. Industrial interconnectedness accelerating, making innovation an imperative


See the agenda for the rest of the day here.



Festervoll has 17 years of experience in the energy sector as a consultant and professional across the energy value chain, primarily in oil and gas. He has worked as a Program Manager to set up Statoil’s recently established Digital Centre of Excellence. Prior to that, Festervoll was Vice President for Corporate Strategy in Statoil. In addition, he has held a number of positions from gas trading, business development and analysis in Norsk Hydro and Statoil. Festervoll has a keen interest in innovation, digitalization and change management; and holds a Masters in Economics from the University of Oslo and University of Essex. Festervoll sits on the Board of Subsea Valley Cluster, a Norwegian Centre of Expertise technology cluster delivering world leading engineering from subsea to space.




Techstars Energy is a global mentor-driven accelerator for innovators and entrepreneurs aspiring to shape  the future of energy.  The Accelerator is a partnership between Statoil, Techstars, KONGSBERG, and McKinsey & Company giving the participating start-ups access to a unique network to drive their business forward. Learn more about the partnership here.






Will Sarni is a leading innovator and investor in the global water industry. He has authored numerous books and articles and presented on the value of water, innovations in digital water technology, the circular economy and the energy-water-food nexus. He has been a water strategy advisor to private and public-sector enterprises and NGOs, working with multinational companies across a range of industry sectors in evaluating the technical viability and market potential of innovative water technologies, market entry strategies and M&A programs.

Hank Torbert, a founder of The Frontier Conference, interviews Sarni about the industry’s ongoing transformation.

Will, you have deep experience in the water industry. Can you tell me a little about you and your background?

I started my career as a hydrogeologist working on water supply and large contaminant hydrology (e.g., Superfund) projects throughout the US. Around 1999, I became aware of, and ultimately hooked, on sustainability and pivoted my environmental consulting firm to be a leading sustainability strategy firm. We focused on water, renewable energy, climate change and green building programs. Over the past 10 years I have focused exclusively on providing water strategy and technology innovation advisory services primarily to private sector companies.

In my opinion, the water industry is experiencing its own “industrial revolution.” Why is the industry so important now? Is the industry positioned to grow? Why is water referred to as the new “oil” globally?

I agree with your view of the water sector and trends. The water sector is undergoing a transformation as the reality of water scarcity and poor water quality impacts the private and public sectors. These private and public sector actors include water and wastewater utilities, companies, governments and civil society. As a result, there is a movement to develop innovative solutions in technology, financing, business models and partnerships. In particular, digital technology solutions are gaining interest and scale with utilities and industrial companies and also a move by the public sector to better understand water data to inform public policy.

With regards to water as the new oil – we can do without oil, but not water.

Who are the major players in the sector and what is the total market size?

Major players in the water sector include private and public utilities (e.g., American Water, Severn Trent, DC Water), solution providers (e.g., SUEZ, Veolia, Ecolab), technology providers (e.g., Xylem, Badger Meter), water technology accelerators (e.g., ImagineH2O, WaterStart), consulting and engineering firms (e.g., MWH/Stantec, Arup) and multinationals (The Coca Cola Company, Nestle SA).

The market size is difficult to estimate as it can include all of the stakeholder categories mentioned above. However, to give you a sense of one aspect of the market, the global water treatment market is estimated at $600bn – $800bn pa).

What are the key drivers transforming the water industry? And what are new technologies and innovations that we should be focused on?

The major drivers transforming the industry include: water scarcity, poor water quality, Sustainable Development Goals – SDG 6 (universal access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene), climate change impacts and costs to repair and replace aging water infrastructure. My view is that the major innovation trends are in digital solutions (e.g., remote sensing, IoT and AI), real time water quality monitoring, decentralized and distributed water treatment, alternative water supplies (e.g., Zero Mass Water), innovative business models (e.g., water as a service), innovative financing (e.g., green bonds and blended finance) and partnerships (e.g., water funds).

Are there recent occurrences that underscore why the industry and proliferation of new technologies are so important?

Flint, Michigan was an eye-opener in the U.S. and has catalyzed technology innovation in water quality monitoring and alternative sources of water. Other issues such as water scarcity (the “drought”) in California and the western U.S., overextraction of groundwater in the Central Valley of California and the Ogallala Aquifer, saltwater intrusion, urban stormwater management and the energy – water – food nexus stress (no water no food, etc.).

What are other industries whose growth is tied to the water management sector? For instance, energy.

We need water for agricultural production and for thermoelectric power generation. In the U.S. we use about 41 percent for thermoelectric power generation (non-consumptive use) and the same amount for agricultural production. We also need water for other industrial uses such as heavy manufacturing and semiconductor manufacturing. AS a client of mine says, no water – no beer.

Louisiana and other areas are well positioned to have robust water management eco-systems and be hotbeds for innovation in the sector. What can we do better to bring more companies here and expand our base in the water management sector?

I agree. We need to mobilize industry, academic institutions, public sector leaders, non-governmental organizations and the entrepreneurial community to build a water technology hub/accelerator. This would be similar to Water Start in Las Vegas, Current in Chicago along with ImagineH2O in San Francisco. These hubs/accelerators have a global reach.

What is your vision for the water industry?

Greater adoption of innovative technologies, financing, business models and partnerships. Also, changes in public policy (e.g., western water law, water trading) need to catch up to the realities of water scarcity – essentially the new normal. Finally, we need to do a much better job of bringing in outsiders into the sector to provide a fresh view of innovative solutions. Organizations such as ImagineH2O, 101010.net and prize competitions have proven successful in accelerating innovation by engaging entrepreneurs from outside the water sector.


View the interview here: https://neworleanscitybusiness.com/blog/2018/01/30/op-ed-the-frontier-series-tackling-water-woes/


  January 30, 2018