More and more all the time. Classic examples are the Swiss Alpine Club huts: every hut is different; there is no standard system that can be used in every hut. Access to water and sewers is usually difficult or non-existent, which demands individual solutions different from those of our wastewater treatment plants system. This conventional system uses valuable drinking water, with which for example we flush toilets. At the other extreme is the situation in Paris, which is completely at maximum capacity with its wastewater treatment, so that it must find new and sustainable solutions.
You already have projects coming up in France and especially in Paris.
We see a really great potential in France. There are a lot of brownfield sites in Paris. Instead of simply selling these, the city government has started a competition in which one can submit bids with projects for creative and sustainable use of these buildings. The ideas it has received are extremely inspiring and future-oriented. There is, for example, an old water treatment plant in which drinking water was prepared in a huge basin from water from the Seine. This is no longer in use. In its place a housing development of modular wooden houses will be built and the basin used sustainably for fish farming and hothouses. We submitted our concept for wastewater treatment to this project. In addition, the city administration wants to test our concept for urine upgrading. In the wastewater treatment plant’s administration building, with 300 workspaces, no-mix toilets have already been installed.
What moved you to found a spin-off?
For me it has always been important that our research flows into practice. In the VUNA project we did very applicable research and developed a system that can be commercialised. In the past I occasionally consulted, but the creation of our own firm is for me personally a large field of new possibilities – and challenges!
What are your mid and long-term goals?
Our goal is clearly the further expansion of our team and our portfolio. Philippe Reymond, who is presently in Eawag’s Sandec department, will join our team in October. It is planned that he will work especially in the area of sanitation supply for developing country collaborations and humanitarian help. We want to install and operate our proven urine processing installations in as many localities as possible.
What are the greatest challenges within the spin-off?
To consolidate everything. At present the major tasks are acquisition and conceptualisation. We want to acquire and implement more projects as soon as possible. Our knowledge enables us to develop solutions that a normal engineering office would probably not consider.