Each year since 2009, the Artemis Water Tech Top 50 Review has identified 50 companies that show the promise of water tech. Quite of few of them have already emerged from product launch to raise capital, close partnerships and install at their first customers. The Artemis Review looks at a worldwide pool companies that are selling their first products, with the eye of an early stage investor. We apply an evaluation process that has evolved since 2009 to identify the early signs of winning solutions in terms of their value when applied in the field as well as the team standing behind it.
This year, 800 companies from 20 countries applied for the Artemis Review, and 125 were selected for full examination.
Through this analysis, we get an early view of the tech companies that will emerge in the next few years. The Artemis Review has not missed any of the companies that have emerged in water tech. Several of the most promising companies have won major projects with influential municipal and industrial customers and have been generating results for months or even years. Over the next few months, we expect that the 2012 companies will be publicizing successes that will position them as the early leaders in water tech.
Here is a view of the market that is just emerging from under the radar.
What we are seeing
Let’s start with what we are not seeing. During the 2012 Artemis Top 50, we didn’t see membranes or nanotechnology, with the exception of one of the shining stars of water tech, NanoH2O. Innovation in these areas seems to require so much research and development that only the large corporations can support them.
Waste water mining: In this first wave of IP-intensive solutions from independent companies, start-ups offering resource recovery solutions take the forefront.
It’s becoming more expensive to dispose of the “garbage” of water treatment. Many places, like China or Switzerland, are down to a small amount of precious space to dispose of waste. Harvesting useful products from waste cuts the cost of disposal, generates valuable materials, and makes water treatment cheaper. The early leaders are extracting phosphorus, energy, lithium and hydrochloric acid (HCl). (See a future post for more detail.)
These technologies are valuable for a diverse group of industries. The Artemis Review shows the value of deep understanding of different industries. If the leading water executives on the Artemis jury look at one of these solutions in depth, they often identify situations where they can provide dramatic benefits.
Alternatives to filtering and chemicals
Today, filtering and chemical treatment are the dominant approaches to water treatment around the world. Rather than making small improvements to these processes, some of the most promising start-ups have developed approaches that replace or complement filtering and chemicals.
- New Sky Energy’s selective ion recovery system isolates and solidifies the salts in water treatment waste streams to harvest useful chemicals and simplify water treatment.
- Atlantis’ capacitive deionization removes salts and minerals by applying an electric field between two electrodes.
- Saltworks—concentrates the salts in waste water and uses their chemistry to drive an electrochemical device to treat the water
Saving energy is another sweet spot for innovation. Water treatment accounts for a large chunk of industrial operations. As saving energy has gained focus, big water users are looking to new, but proven approaches to change the picture.
Some sweet spots are
- Desalination: Desalitech– a continuous, closed-circuit desalination process that operates on the basis of relatively low average feed pressures
- Water treatment facilities: Derceto in optimizing the overall management of water treatment plants
As our centralized water system breaks down, making the system smarter with sensors and network management tools provides dramatic benefits:
- Takadu—predicting pipe break down to drive pipe and pump repair
- Hydropoint—water use management in the built environment
- Aquacue–wirelessly linked cloud-based information management of water throughout the delivery system
The Artemis Top 50 Review goes beyond looking at technologies to gauge the potential for the start-up companies behind them. The structure of each market segment is also critical for the success of a young water company.
The tech trends above reflect the future of the water business. Watch for these companies, and the rest on the 2012 Artemis Top 50, to emerge as the leaders in a new wave of tech success stories.