In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing water-tech companies in taking their solutions to market?
Converting the excitement about the water market – and the obvious global need for better treatment technologies – into actual projects and sales. We’re still at a stage where there’s more buzz than actual progress.
What is the single most important thing that a government can do to stimulate the adoption of advanced water technologies?
In Canada, the key challenge is money. Traditional funding is based on large-scale capital projects that inherently rule out the adoption of new technologies. Smaller, incremental approaches, such as decentralized sewage treatment, offer lower risk opportunities to incorporate progressive technologies. They also open the door to other sources of funding. Another factor is the actual cost of resources – which we undervalue here in Canada due to our perceived abundance of fresh water. As a result, we’re slow adopters of technologies that offer efficiency and resource conservation in spite their tremendous long term merit and global significance.
How can technology companies reduce the risk for utilities/industrial clients in taking on their solution?
Creative financing and operating models can help overcome the perceived risk of a non-traditional solution. However, like the old expression, “No one ever got fired for buying IBM,” there remains an undeniable bias towards traditional approaches versus more progressive solutions. Pilot projects and technology demonstrations help the cause, but we also need to establish partnerships with utilities/industry that allow the risk to be shared.
Are there any industries where you would like to see more innovation? In your opinion what’s ripe for disruption?
The traditional infrastructure approach to domestic (municipal type) water and wastewater has changed very little. Materials and construction techniques have improved, but the centralized mindset continues. That market is prime for a paradigm shift to more decentralized infrastructure – similar to what’s happening to the power grid with non-utility generators. Providing new capacity with smaller, modular installations that can be scaled up quickly to meet demand can change the economics of infrastructure development. This approach also facilitates water reuse, energy efficiency and other benefits that can’t be matched through traditional expansion.
Which types of water technologies are currently generating the most interest amongst the investment community?
Not being part of the investment community, I’m probably not the best person to offer insight into that. However, I do know that Newterra’s approach of providing modular, scalable solutions that focus on water reuse and conservation of our resources has received excellent reception from the investment community.
Is there a perfect set of circumstances that foster innovation – and if so where does that exist?
Innovation is born from a combination of skilled people, regional demand, support from government and industry – and public awareness of the need. That public awareness helps attract the best and brightest to the sector which, ultimately, causes regulators to enact supportive legislation.
In your view, which other countries/regions are poised to transform into hubs for water innovation? Where do you see the next wave of new technologies emerging?
If we manage it correctly, it could be Canada and Ontario, but we may be watching as Asia – particularly SEA, takes the lead. They have many of the required elements and, with more focus in this area, could continue to move into the forefront in the adoption of innovation and technology.
If you had to name a company as “one to watch” over the next 12 months, who would it be?
That would be a good question to ask investors who watch the water industry. I’d like to think it’s Newterra, based on their interest in us, but I’m obviously biased.
Bruce will be speaking at World Water-Tech North America in Toronto from November 12-14 2014. For the full agenda and to register, visit: