Water scarcity is one of the main challenges that the South of Europe faces, both today and in the long term. Entrepreneurship and innovation are key to face it – that’s why the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) launched the ‘Water Scarcity’ program last June. The objective: to support the development of innovative solutions to water scarcity and to put in contact their providers and the areas where needs have been detected.
The program was launched thanks to the collaboration between different Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) of EIT, where besides EIT Food also participate EIT Climate-KIC, EIT Digital and EIT Manufacturing, and other partners such as Athena Research and Bioazul. 20 companies were selected, which have been receiving training focused on the scaling and development of international business for the last three months, as well as personalized advice from a tutor. In addition, they have had the opportunity to establish contact and negotiate with companies with real needs related to water in entities of Spain, Italy and Greece, corresponding to three sectors: agriculture, infrastructure and water utilities.
Now, them all will have to defend that their solution is the one that best adapts to each of the sectorial challenges, in three events that will take place online on September 27 and 29 and October 4. In each one, the winner will get a prize of 12,000 euros in cash; the second classified, 10,000; and there will be a special prize endowed with 30,000 euros to develop the ‘demo’ of the solution in the companies with water-related needs of each sector. Last year, the Spanish ‘start-up’ Brioagro Technologies, a smart irrigation platform that avoids the risk of production losses while increasing farms’ yield and quality, won the prize.
In addition to the competition for the awards, each event has a complete program where the subject will be addressed by professionals and experts in the sector.
Competition in the water utilities sector
The first event will take place online on September 27, where the companies with solutions that respond to the needs and challenges of the water utilities sector will compete. Contestants will participate to implement their ‘demo’ in the Municipal Water Supply and Sewerage Company of Pylaia-Hortiati (DEYAPH) in Greece, that belongs to the public sector, where challenges as the standardization of digital tools, water quality and safety, traceability and elimination of pollutants and asset management where detected. There are six companies selected to compete to apply their respective solutions in Greece: Fibsen (Spain), Shayp (Belgium), Nanoplasmas (Greece), Enging (Portugal), Embio Diagnostics (Cyprus) and Droople (Switzerland).
The event where the prizes among the contestants will be given is organized by EIT Climate-KIC and Athena Research Centre, and will be inaugurated by Eva Enyedi, Project Manager of EIT Climate-KIC. Afterwards, an interview with Thomas Seitarids, from DEYAPH, will take place, and also two keynote presentations to approach the challenges of water scarcity in Europe and how innovation in water utilities sector can face them: the first one by Dr. Phoebe Koundouri, Professor and Director of ReSEES Research Laboratory Athens and EIT Climate-KIC HUB Greece, among other occupations – the second one by Dr. Chrysi Laspidou, Professor at the University of Thessaly and Vice-President of Research and Technology at Water Europe. Registrations are open at this link.
Competition in the infrastructure sector
On September 29 the second competition will take place. This time, companies that contribute their innovative solutions to face the challenges detected in the infrastructure sector will be awarded. The winner will install its ‘demo’ in the CIIP, company which manages the water and wastewater service of 59 municipalities in the South area of central Italy, from Adriatic coast to the Apennines, where some of the detected challenges are the distribution of water by uses, variable according to the season of the year, or the search for alternative water sources, as well as the conservation of the natural area. Six companies have participated in the search for solutions: Bluephage (Spain), Latitudo 40 (Italy), Clera.one (Germany), Alchemia-nova (Greece), Pharem Biotech (Sweden) and MobyGIS (Italy).
With the theme ‘Trends in the Water Industry’, the event will be opened by Jesús Contreras, manager of EIT Digital, the organizing entity. The case study will be presented by Claudio Carini Bernardo, Energy Manager of CIIP. Moreover, after the presentations of the six companies, while the jury deliberates, the Open Innovation Manager of Suez Spain, Ramón López Roldan, will give a keynote lecture about trends and how they are embodied in projects or technologies -digitalisation, circular economy, etc.- and, on the other hand, about instruments for implementing these technologies: open innovation, collaboration with start-ups, etc. Registrations are open here.
Competition in the agriculture sector
Finally, eight start-ups have explored how their solutions can mitigate water scarcity in the Spanish countryside. In this case, the collaborating company is SanLucar, an international company which produces and supplies fruits and vegetables. In this sector more specific challenges were detected, such as water availability, salt concentration or water efficiency in crops. To face them, these startups were selected: Secalflor (German and based in Spain) Agrow Analytics (Spain), visualNACert (Spain), Bunt Planet (Spain), Sinafis (France), Soonapse (Italy), WINGS (Greece) and Neuropublic (Greece).
The event that will distribute the prizes among them will take place on October 4. This time, the program will be inaugurated by Carmen Galindo, Project Manager of EIT Food, entity that organizates the event with Bioazul. Afterwards, the Production Director of SanLucar, Fernando Bañón, will present the case study through an interview. Then, Luciano Materos, from the Sustainable Agriculture Institute of the CSIC, will offer a keynote presentation about innovations in the agri-food sector to cope with water scarcity. In addition, a round table about the challenges and opportunities of investments in the water and agri-food sector will reunite several experts: Gaetane Suzenet (EU Water Tech Accelerator), María Echávarri (Director of Investments at Fondo Bolsa Social) and David Smith (Director of Water, Evirorment and Business Innovation at WE&B). Registrations are open here.