The Water Council is now accepting applications for its Pilot Program, which helps speed up the process for getting innovative water-related product ideas to market.

This is the third year in which the Milwaukee-based economic development group is taking applications from companies looking for support. The program specifically targets smaller businesses and startups, but larger ones can apply as well.

The program has gotten about $1.1 million in funding so far, including $400,000 from Wells Fargo to be used over the next four years. Companies under $5 million have to match 25 percent of the dollar amount granted by The Water Council, while companies above $5 million have to match dollar-for-dollar.

“When commercializing, it takes a long time,” said Elizabeth Thelen, director of entrepreneurship and talent at The Water Council. “And when you’re a startup vs. A.O. Smith, it’s hard… you have to have that perseverance, vision, dedication, resources — and that‘s where The Water Council comes in.”

As well as giving money in the form of grants, The Water Council assists chosen applicants with making connections in the industry, as well as helping them to set up the site or sites where the product will be tested.

“Besides money being a problem, sites are a huge problem when you’re trying to test products,” Thelen told “Particularly in the water industry.” Read the full story here.