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Three innovative water solutions from SEI’s co

May 10, 2023May 10, 2023

The US announced a commitment of up to USD 49 billion in investments to support climate–resilient water and sanitation infrastructure and services. The Asian Development Bank committed to investing USD 11 billion dollars in the water sector in the Asia-Pacific region, while the African Union Commission aims to close Africa's water investment gap by mobilizing at least USD 30 billion per year by 2030 through various initiatives, including the International High-Level Panel on Water Investments for Africa.

These are just some of the commitments made in the Water Action Agenda. Read more about the collective global effort to address water challenges, spur bold action and deliver on commitments made to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The March 2023 edition of the SEB Green Bond report is dedicated to water, coinciding with the UN Water Conference held in New York. Christopher Flensborg, Head of Climate and Sustainable Finance at SEB, said in the report, "The Water Conference is the Paris Agreement on water and marks a moment for the world to embrace water concerns much faster and aggressively." Three water innovations from SEI's co-led sWASH&grow project are featured in the report.

Excerpt from the report, co-authored by SEI's Karina Barquet, Team Leader: Water, Coasts and Ocean

Meeting water needs by relying only on traditional grid-based systems is impossible. Getting solutions in place will require innovation from the private sector, in collaboration with public sector, development organizations, and academia.

According to the UN, 2 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water, and 3.5 billion lack access to safe sanitation.

Meeting these needs by relying only on traditional grid- based systems is impossible and costly. The increasing demand for humanitarian assistance and the impacts of climate change, globally – whether in Nyköping or in Nairobi – further underscore the growing need for fast solutions, off-grid. And in an era of ageing infrastructure, these solutions are likely to fill the demand for massive and rapid investments in the coming decade.

So far, the pace of change is too slow. While it is well– known that business models and product development processes are not sufficiently adapted to the contexts in which products are launched, our experiences suggest that the specific stages or characteristics that make a decentralized product or service successful in such contexts, are less well understood by organizations and private sector actors interested in operating in the humanitarian and development fields.

Through the sWASH&grow project funded by Vinnova (Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems) and co-funded by SEI's Initiative on Gridless Solutions, the project worked with seven promising solutions developing off-grid products. Learn more about three of them below.

"Ecobarge are modular, scalable, financed floating platforms integrating sustainable technologies to meet the needs of specific users. They are climate resilient, and can operate in harsh weather, such as typhoons. We focus on providing potable water, cooling of fish, renewable energy, and charging infrastructure, but in principle we can integrate any technology. Through the Build Own Operate Transfer model, local entrepreneurs are employed, educated, and become minority shareholders in the project companies owning and operating the assets. Once most investors exit, they can keep the means of production.

The main challenge is financing the local pre-feasibility studies to identify the needs of the end users and prove the business cases to investors on a project-by-project basis. Project financiers prefer to compete in projects that present them with finalized "bankable" business cases, rather than investing already at the pre-feasibility stage, even though by financing the pre-feasibility, they can receive a discount on the financing they later need to provide for being allowed to invest into the projects."

The Ecobarge concept. Graphic: Ecobarge

"Our innovation, a water purifier called "Millennium Desalination Device", uses well known technology combined in a new unique way. The physical principles which the machine is based on are heat, rotation, vaporization, and ionization. All these principles work together to make the water purification process more efficient and environmentally friendly than many other technologies in the market. For example, we use no membranes, filters, or chemicals, making the process 100% environmentally friendly.

The fact that we use titanium throughout our machine means that we have a sustainable concept that can withstand tough environments over a long period of time. Another important aspect is that all raw water is processed and purified, which means that we have minimal water loss where our competitors in most cases have a lot.

"We have a unique product that can make a big difference in many areas within the Agenda 2030, including poverty alleviation, increased health, democracy development, and increased gender equality."

— Rolf-Johan Ingeson, IngesonWater CEO

The most significant challenge is finding a sustainable financial situation that guarantees safe development, together with necessary organizational development. In Sweden, issues connected to water supply historically have not been prevalent. However, today water has become a central topic for many, even here in Sweden. Especially with the ongoing war in Ukraine where we understand that we need to be more prepared for possible crisis situations in the future. Internationally, the interest has been great all along and we have many requests from different countries, both in the context of crisis and disaster equipment, but also general development. "

"Our solution is a robust, high quality ozone generator. Ozone (O3) is one of the best and most effective "cleaning agents" known to science. It is created from the oxygen in the air by passing it through our high voltage (corona discharge) reactor and after the work is done it breaks down to oxygen (O2) again. It's a zero-sum game with oxygen atoms. The only thing that's added is electricity.

Our ozone generator is off grid adapted and, unlike conventional ozone generators, it can be fed with humid air (any humidity, even water). This means it can be run in harsh, humid, and complex environments, such as on the field in a tropical country, but also in demanding and special industrial applications. Our product is typically used for disinfection of materials and surfaces, as well as for cleaning and disinfection of air and water.

The (H) Unit. Graphic: Pure Bio Synergy

Now, we have interested customers in four completely different segments: cooling/storage rooms to reduce microbiological growth; Keg disinfection; Safe water in crises and catastrophe; and reducing microbiological growth in cooling towers. We can use our core product – the ozone generator (H)unit – in all these four areas. It only requires some adaptations with off-shelf components, tailored for the specific client and adaptation. We can create volume and cost advantages in our own product and use it in different markets.

One main challenge is, unsurprisingly, finances. We are planning to overcome that through going from a developing company to a commercialized business. We also sometimes need to "educate" our clients/the market a bit, so they understand that ozone can now work even where it perhaps has not worked before."

The Green Bond is SEB's research publication that includes the latest insight into the world of sustainable finance through various themes. Published five to six times a year, the report delves into various products and developments shaping the sustainable finance market.

The sWASH & grow project aimed to improve the conditions for innovators to meet relief organizations’ demands, to enable sustainable and circular innovations in the WASH sector to reach vulnerable populations in humanitarian crises and areas without access to critical utilities and services. The project ran from 2020 to 2022.

This Initiative looks at dimensions for the deployment of gridless technologies to accelerate progress towards climate and the SDGs. Providing access to basic services such as electricity, sanitation and freshwater is a key challenge in settings and societies that are geographically isolated, in conflict zones and in nations with fragile societal institutions. Finding approaches to develop and scale deployment of decentralized "gridless" technologies to fill this gap, is crucial to accelerate fulfilment of the Paris Agreement and the SDGs.

Excerpt from the report, co-authored by SEI's Karina Barquet, Team Leader: Water, Coasts and Ocean