Testing the waters: The innovative SMEs making waves for water security

Testing the waters: The innovative SMEs making waves for water security

22 Jun 2012

Ten small to medium sized companies in the UK are set to deliver innovative feasibility projects designed to help businesses safeguard our future water supply, both in this country and abroad.  

The total cost of the projects with business investment is just over £1 million with over £500,000 worth of funding from the Technology Strategy Board and up to a further £100,000 being put forward by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The Technology Strategy Board also announced £2.5 million of aligned funding for larger CR&D projects in February with results due to be announced in August. Both competitions have also been supported by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) who have contributed £1 million.

Feasibility projects aim to enable businesses to develop their early stage ideas for innovative new technologies in the expectation that they may go on to be larger projects and give birth to the new markets of the future.

Commenting on the initial grant funding awards, Iain Gray, Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board, said:

“In the UK we are surrounded by water so it’s easy to take the security of our supply for granted. It seems hard to envisage that we could, in the short space of 40 years, start running out of fresh water. It is also estimated that by 2050, the UK will have a shortage in water supply of up to 10,000 million litres a day[1].  Innovative new technologies and services are needed if we are going to find a solution to this key issue. “

With an estimated 1.6 billion people currently living in countries classified as ‘water stressed[2]’, it is clear that water scarcity is one of the most significant environmental challenges facing the world today. 

This competition run by the Technology Strategy Board aims to not only find the innovative solutions that we need to ensure our planet’s future water security, but turn this huge challenge into a market opportunity by funding companies that can find profitable new ways to use our current water sources more effectively.  All of the successful companies have been set the tough challenge of creating a new technology or process that will either save or recycle 1,000 million litres per day worth of water – equivalent to roughly the same volume of water it would take to fill 400 Olympic sized swimming pools.

One unique project being that will be sharing a slice of this funding is A Next Generation Water Saving System for the Leather Processing Industry. This project is being run by Xeros, who have been in the innovation limelight recently for their virtually waterless washing machine. Xeros will work with the leather industry, a huge billion pound trade that currently consumes a vast amount of fresh water, to create a novel way of cleaning leather that will both save water and protect the environment by reducing the polluting toxins in the industry’s waste water.

Another intriguing project that has been successful is being run by an SME called Aquamesh who will be using knowledge gained within the mining industry to create a low energy sensor network for farmers that will massively reduce the amount of water used in irrigation with huge cost savings and even a predicted yield increase of crops.

View the press release including notes to editors here

[1] From a report by the Environment Agency (2009) entitled ‘Water for People and the Environment; Water Resources Strategy for England and Wales’ http://publications.environment-agency.gov.uk/pdf/GEHO0309BPKY-E-E.pdf


Last updated on Friday 22 June 2012 at 11:28

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