“We want to help people solve
crucial sanitation problems.”
The INNOQUA project was established two and a half years ago – what were the main reasons for establishing the project, at that time?
Well, at that moment we felt that we could make a positive contribution to addressing the problems of water scarcity and sanitation in Europe and beyond. The scope of the Horizon 2020 Water Programme was a good fit, and we were lucky enough to be funded to deliver a project that will demonstrate exciting new sustainable technologies. We are about to launch the second phase of the project, which is the very important demonstration campaign for the INNOQUA technologies – taking place at sites across the world.
You mentioned that the project has passed the halfway point – what has been achieved so far and what are the next steps?
Basically, we have improved and integrated the different modular technologies. These are based on natural processes that have been further developed, simulated and tested to define the final design of the INNOQUA solution. The different technologies have been tested in controlled environments at operational scale at the University of Girona in Spain and the National University of Ireland in Galway. After this initial rigorous testing we have started the first step in industrial scale-up: the production of the commercial prototype models that will be deployed at the demonstration sites. Testing in uncontrolled environments is a major step in product development and it means that the INNOQUA solution will be installed and used at real sites with real people using the system. Data from the demonstration sites will provide crucial feedback on how the technology performs and how acceptable it is at householder or community level. We also expect this phase of the project to provide information about future market uptake of the technology.
What are the main challenges ahead?
As already mentioned, we have tested the system at operational scale under controlled conditions, but the challenges now are working with real people with real needs, at real sites in different parts of the world. These sites include locations in India, Tanzania, Latin America, Turkey and parts of Europe. The main technical challenge is to show that the system performs well and meets our expectations around technical performance. The second challenge is to prepare for industrial scale-up of the system, as we really want to maximise our opportunities for reaching the market. Market uptake is our ambition and the best way to ensure a project like this one has the right impact. However, it is not enough that the system performs well at a technical level. If we cannot make the system affordable or competitive with existing systems, we will not achieve real market uptake. Our ambition now remains the same as at the start of the project – to deliver new solutions that help people to solve crucial sanitation problems.
NOBATEK/INEF4, your research institute, has the lead in the INNOQUA project as well as in other EU projects. What is your view of the level of cooperation within the INNOQUA consortium?
The consortium is quite complex, with 20 partners all bringing different skills and expertise to the project. NOBATEK/INEF4 has a lot of experience in these kinds of collaborative integration projects – bringing together different technologies and teams of people with different expertise. This approach is very similar to Open Innovation, which is our model for working with the construction industry. While it can be difficult to satisfy everyone or develop the different technologies at a similar pace, the project partners have clear common objectives, and we are all working hard to deliver these. Thanks to the support and funding of the European Commission, we are able to facilitate multi-partner innovation projects that deliver real impact.
Germain Adell is Deputy General Manager for International Strategy and Business Development at NOBATEK/INEF4, a French research institute, which has the lead in the INNOQUA project. Mr. Adell is also an architect with a focus on sustainable urban design.