Around the world, the delivery of reliable, sustainable water and wastewater services poses huge challenges. Tackling these challenges will create major opportunities for the water technology sector.
Ireland is rapidly becoming a hotbed of innovative water technologies, thanks partly to the dynamic research capabilities of its higher education system, supported by the work of semi-state bodies such as Enterprise Ireland.
This year Enterprise Ireland was the headline sponsor for the fourth World Water Tech Investment Summit that took place in London 9-11th of March. The World Water Tech Conference aimed to strengthen and develop close cooperation between R&D start-ups, technology integrators, strategic investors and end-users, including both utilities and the key industrial sectors: energy, mining and food and beverage.
There are some 60 Enterprise Ireland clients active in the Waste and Waste Water sector spanning High Potential Start Ups to large companies. Key export markets include the UK and France, while the sector employs over 3,200 people in Ireland and generates exports worth over €360 million.
Seven Enterprise Ireland client companies participated in the schedule of events organized by Enterprise Ireland in tandem with the 2015 World Water Tech Summit. They were: Oxymem, NVP Energy, O2 Environmental, Shay Murtagh, EPS, FLI Group, Carlow PreCast.
Ireland’s Minister of State for Development, Trade Promotion and North-South Co-operation, Seán Sherlock, TD, delivered the keynote address at the World Water Tech Investment Summit. He pinpointed that the global water sector and wastewater treatment industry is estimated at $400 billion, with an annual growth rate of 7 per cent and is facing significant challenges including increasing demand coupled with water scarcity, climate change, rising energy costs, increased regulation, and increased quality requirements and ageing infrastructure.
Enterprise Ireland research into this market indicates that in the six-year period to 2020, the opportunities in global market sectors are likely to amount to over $50 billion. Huge opportunities for the water technology innovation industry also exist in the fields of energy, food security, ecosystem services and resilience to hazards.
At present, Cleantech is among Ireland’s fastest growing sector. In 2010 Enterprise Ireland reported just fewer than 200 CleanTech companies, today that number has risen to 540 organisations. The Irish CleanTech sector has developed core competencies, particularly in the areas of energy production and distribution through its wide-scale involvement in renewable infrastructure development, construction and operation.
As part of the 2015 Action Plan for Jobs, the Irish Government has committed to various actions to increase Ireland’s commitment to the Cleantech Sector. These include the Strategy for Renewable Energy 2012-2020, the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan, National Waste Policy and the Green Public Procurement Action Plan among others. One such commitment is also to undertake dedicated Cleantech Trade Missions to highlight the products and services available from Irish companies in the sector and to develop export opportunities for them.
Irish companies in the water/wastewater sector have a long history of providing innovative and competitive solutions to customer’s technical challenges. Here are short profiles of some of the sector leaders:
Oxymem are a spinout company from UCD, specialising in an energy efficient wastewater treatment technology known as Membrane Aerated Biofilm Reactor (MABR). Conventional wastewater treatment technology is energy intensive as air must be forced into wastewater to maintain a population of micro-organisms necessary to break down the waste material in the effluent. The Oxymem technology involves a very efficient method of providing oxygen to the micro-organisms, thereby ensuring substantial savings to wastewater treatment plant operators. The company employs circa 25 people at its manufacturing plant in Athlone and has won numerous awards for the energy efficiency of its technology.
2. NVP Energy
NVP Energy is a spinout company from UCG and has a novel technology that involves the anaerobic digestion of low strength wastewater at ambient temperature. Conventional Anaerobic Digestion is mainly used to digest sludge, the residue remaining after wastewater has been treated. It involves the digestion of high strength sludge at elevated temperatures. This process is energy intensive in the initial stages and results in a residual liquor that is challenging to treat. The NVP technology provides a solution that is not energy intensive and is suitable for low strength effluents, rather than just sludges. The company has proven its technology in industrial applications and is now testing its technology in municipal wastewater applications. NVP Energy is based in Galway and is seen by EI as a High Potential Start Up (HPSU) company.
3. O2 Environmental
O2 Environmental provide market knowledge expertise to the water and wastewater industry. The consultancy company is based in Cork and its MD is Paul O’ Callaghan. The company assesses new technologies and businesses entering the global water and wastewater industry for a range of stakeholders, including venture capitalists, utility companies and other investors. The company operates a Technology Assessment Group (TAG) who advise clients regarding the emerging technologies and trends within the industry.
4. Shay Murtagh
Shay Murtagh are a precast concrete manufacturer based in Westmeath, employing circa 130 people in the manufacture, supply and installation of a wide range of concrete products to the building and civil engineering industry throughout Ireland and the UK. The company provides a range of products to the water/wastewater sector, including tanks, culverts and rainwater harvesting systems. The company recently won a contract to supply precast concrete products to the Crossrail project in the UK.
EPS are based in Mallow, Co. Cork and are the largest Irish company in the water/wastewater sector, employing circa 330 people. The company provides a full range of water/wastewater products and services to industrial, commercial and municipal clients. It operates a large number of plants in Ireland, Northern Ireland and the UK under DBO (Design Build and Operate) contracts. The company is currently assessing the market for its products and services in the Gulf States.
6. FLI Group
FLI Group are based in Waterford and have a number of divisions providing technology solutions in energy, water, site remediation, geotextiles and associated areas. On the water side the company has a range of customers in the industrial and utility sectors and has specific expertise in anaerobic digestion and associated energy recovery. The company also has a history of expertise in the use of geotextile membrane lining for containment ponds, particularly in the mining industry.
7. Carlow PreCast
Carlow Precast are based in Ballon, Co. Carlow and manufacture, supply and install a wide range of concrete products to the building and civil engineering industry throughout Ireland and the UK. In particular, it supplies precast concrete products for the Energy, Water and Wastewater sectors, including spillways, tanks and culverts. The company has won contracts with Yorkshire Water in the recent past.