Across the water sector, new partnerships are sparking innovation and helping to fast-track solutions to the world’s most urgent water challenges. At Xylem, our innovation ecosystem is at the heart of how we solve water; we are constantly exploring new ways to join the dots between stakeholders and forge creative alliances across the sector. Our new partnership with water consultancy Isle Utilities will tackle one of the major sticking points in our industry’s transformation: the pace of technology adoption. Here, Making Waves talks to Dr Piers Clark, Chairman of the Isle Group and Sivan Zamir, head of Xylem Innovation Labs, about the ‘Trial Reservoir,’ an innovative approach to funding and scaling breakthrough water technologies.
Making Waves: Tell us about the ‘Trial Reservoir’ and the problem it aims to solve.
Piers: With the launch of the Trial Reservoir, we’re aiming to get to the heart of a problem that impacts the whole of the water sector – the fact that adoption of technology is simply taking too long. Technology trials and pilots are usually a precursor to deployment but time and time again, we see trials that deliver on their objectives but fail to move to full-scale implementation, whether because of process complexity, cost or other factors. Even the most innovative utilities risk becoming caught in this cycle of trials without ever embedding the technologies in their day-to-day operations. The Trial Reservoir will change that. It brings together all the players needed to take new technologies to market – utilities, investors, start-ups, non-profits – helping to overcome the barrier of who pays for the trial and more clearly defining the path and processes to expedite adoption.
The Trial Reservoir works by giving water tech innovators access to capital for pilot projects and embedding best practices throughout the process. The model makes a pool of funding available to early-stage technology companies, giving them the capacity to undertake trial deployments with water utilities. The ‘reservoir’ of funding will be replenished from the proceeds of commercial contracts, when the trials move to full deployments. If trials do not move to commercialization, the cost is borne by the Trial Reservoir, thereby reducing the burden on the tech vendor.
By removing financial uncertainty and putting in place protocols to streamline the process, utilities and innovators can focus on the job at hand – solving a community’s water challenges and getting new water technologies proven in the marketplace.
Making Waves: Sivan, where does Xylem come in?
Sivan: Xylem is a founding sponsor of the initiative along with other leading water sector partners. This partnership marks another exciting move to strengthen our Company’s innovation ecosystem, and one that’s close to my heart. As a founding member of two water tech companies, I’ve experienced the challenges of bringing new technologies to market first-hand. In fact, that’s a big part of the reason I joined Xylem to lead Xylem Innovation Labs, which creates partnerships with startups and technology companies to equip water system operators around the world with cutting-edge technologies. As a global water technology leader, with a 16,000-strong team solving challenges across the water cycle, Xylem has a unique opportunity to bring stakeholders together to overcome barriers, like financing, that often serve as a bottleneck in streamlining the adoption of new technologies.
From droughts to flooding, we’re seeing examples of escalating water challenges driven by climate change every day, all underscoring the need to move faster in the race to solve water. The good news is that amazing innovation is happening across the sector to tackle challenges like water accessibility, affordability and resilience to climate impacts. There is also innovation happening in financing and business models, and here, Trial Reservoir is among those initiatives setting the industry up to bring these new technologies to the market more quickly and with greater certainty.
The fact is that bringing new technologies to market is not the responsibility or incumbent on any one party but is an ecosystem problem that can only be solved by bringing all players together. Trial Reservoir is an opportunity to do that. Here, Isle Utilities as the third-party consultant or broker, brings a level of objectivity to help broker the process which brings confidence to the municipalities and lowers the financial risk to tech companies.
Making Waves: And what type of innovations can we expect to see?
Piers: The Trial Reservoir is open to technology vendors around the world, actively supporting trials in high, medium and low-income countries. The only requirement is that the technology being tested must help reduce the carbon footprint of the water system, be that a municipal utility or an industrial or commercial water user.
We’ve hit the ground running since the Trial Reservoir launched and we already have over 45 tech companies from around the world – North America, Europe and Africa – working through the application process. We’re seeing a good spread of technologies, from leakage solutions to decentralized water treatment technologies.
Sivan: The Trial Reservoir is focused initially on technologies that support the decarbonization of water infrastructure. Innovation and new approaches to water management will be essential for cities and communities to solve their increasing water challenges and decrease their carbon footprint. We’re already seeing significant momentum in the water industry’s effort towards net-zero emissions but the reality is that to deliver on our net-zero commitments, we need to smooth the path for water operators. That means ensuring operators have ready access to the innovations – both existing and new – that can get them to net zero quickly and affordably.
Making Waves: What’s your message for technology companies considering whether Trial Reservoir is for them?
Piers: I see the Trial Reservoir as a win-win for technology vendors and utilities alike. It provides the tech companies with access to trial funding, it enables water utilities to adopt technology with minimal financial risk, and it ensures best practice is adopted during trial programs which benefits both parties. The potential ramp up in the pace of adoption is game-changing.
Sivan: There is incredible innovation happening in all corners of the water sector.
The Trial Reservoir is an opportunity to ensure that more entrepreneurs can get their technologies into the marketplace at lower risk, and that utilities can confidently embed these solutions to solve pressing water challenges and support their net-zero targets.
To get involved in the Trial Reservoir contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about Xylem Innovation Labs, click here.
Dr Piers Clark is the founder and chairman of Isle Utilities. Piers was previously the Managing Director for the private equity fund Global Water Development Partners (GWDP), a Blackstone portfolio company. From 2010-14 he was the Commercial Director at Thames Water, the largest of the UK water companies. Prior to joining Thames Water, Piers was Managing Director for Mouchel, leading a team of 3,000 staff providing engineering consultancy and operational maintenance services in the water, energy, environment and rail sectors.
Sivan Zamir, P.E. is Senior Director of Xylem Innovation Labs, Xylem’s global team that investigates and leverages new technologies that are at the cutting-edge of creating a water-secure world. Prior to joining Xylem, Sivan was a construction manager on large commercial construction projects across California and then spent a decade in Israel building early-stage water technology startup companies in the areas of industrial IoT/smart water networks and digital twin technology for desalination plants. Sivan holds a BSc and MSc in Civil Engineering from the University of California Berkeley and Stanford University, respectively.