Water is the blue gold and the public institutions support innovations in this sector.
WeCo was awarded by the European Commission with the Sceal of Excellence and by the French Government with a grant of more than 800 K€ for the Investment Project of the Future for Sustainable cities
Even if the climate debate is currently overshadowed by the corona epidemic, the meteorologists fear a third dry summer in a row for Central Europe this year. Citizens of the industrialized nations learn daily from the media what water wasted, water pollution and water shortages mean for agriculture and forestry and for biodiversity. The uneven distribution of water supplies is already leading to political crises and distribution struggles. And more than 2 Billion people worldwide have no access to safe drinking water.
It seems obvious that an alternative and intelligent use of the water resource is as important as the energy. Indeed, the market for innovative energy-saving devices or smart solutions for passive houses and for private energy consumption is booming. In contrast – except in the industrial sector – solutions for saving water or on-site treating water for public buildings, blocs of flats or private households are of less interest – among consumers and investors.
Anyone venturing into the business world as a start-up with new water-related technologies will find that this market is not easy to conquer. Large water companies have widely occupied the business – and their motivation for systemic change is often slowed down by functioning, but obsolete business models. Investors, too, are still primarily looking at the IT industry, where new ideas can be realized with comparatively little manpower and in a short time. Cleantech startups, on the other hand, take a lot of time, research – and above all capital to industrialize their solutions. It can take years to launch a technology and make it approved by the Government. It is therefore particularly important for start-ups in the water sector to show through reference projects that the market is keen to experiment and later benefit from their innovations. Funding that is the crux of the matter. As a founder, you therefore need a strong capacity to take risks, perseverance and support from public institutions.
The greentech company WeCo went on this rocky road. Since 2014 the company is working on reinventing toilets, sanitation and waste water reuse. From the beginning, the team wanted to develop a flush toilet which does not consume water, treat and reduce the waste and eventually can turn all the waste into a resource.
After the prototypes and first sales to cities like St Etienne wishing to become sustainable and implement innovations, WeCo became the laureate in the European innovation competition Horizon 2020 and of the Sustainable Cities Award from the French Government and Environment Agency (ADEME). These awards promote excellence-oriented and visionary innovations to reach the sustainable development goals of the UN.
They award new players addressing customer pains from an identified market with potential for development based on the Blue-Ocean Strategy imagined in the Professors Kim & Mauborgne Book as well as intensively researching SMEs developing deeptechs for a sustainable development.
This pioneering innovation could change the wastewater problem in Europe and worldwide: conventional flushing toilets on the one hand consume enormous amounts of drinking water and, on the other hand, pollute the environment through costly and energy-intensive water treatment, this at a time when politics and public opinion understood the importance of the ecological transition. Facing this obsolete situation, WeCo found the solution and demonstrated its applicability on the market.
This is why it was awarded by the European Commission with the Sceal of Excellence and by the French Government with the Investment Project of the Future for Sustainable cities.
These two major awards for WeCo underline the importance of decentralized water treatment innovative systems. At the same time, they emphasize that the water problem is becoming increasingly important in Europe. In the media, the topic is presented primarily in the context of disasters (drought, flood, salinization) that affect Europe less than Asian or African countries. However, many are not aware that basic water services in Europe could also be drastically affected in a few years due to climate change.
By awarding innovations of sustainable, innovative and CSR oriented companies like WeCo, the Horizon 2020 European jury invite private investors like impact funds to consider this blue gold mine as a great opportunity for a profitable but sustainable development.