Surrey Aqua Technology Ltd

17thJun 2011

Surrey AquaTechnology Ltd (owned by AiM listed Modern Water plc) is a spin out company from the University of Surrey developing low energy processes for the desalination of seawater to produce drinking water.

Pilot Manipulated Osmosis Test RigDriven by the scarcity of fresh water, particularly in areas of water stress, the global desalination industry is predicted to grow from 64.3 million cubic meters per day in 2010, to 97.5 million cubic meters per day in 2015. This represents a 61 per cent increase in capacity over a five-year period, and a 140 per cent increase in capacity over a ten-year period. The main driver of the growth of the market for desalination is increased water scarcity around the world, a function of growing demand for water in situations where there is limited availability of natural renewable resources. Water scarcity is exacerbated by population growth in areas of limited natural resources such as the Gulf region, southern Spain and the south west of the United States.

Overall the global desalination market is currently estimated at approximately £125 billion.

Surrey's technology can be used in the construction of new plants and integrated into existing thermal desalination and reverse osmosis desalination plants, significantly reducing their carbon footprint, and reducing capital costs, power consumption and other operating costs.

World Map indicating water stressThe original breakthrough in the "manipulated osmosis" technique at the heart of the business was made by Professor Adel Sharif and Mr Abdul Al-Mayahi at the University of Surrey's Centre for Osmosis Research and Applications (CORA). Funding was received in 2007 from the prestigious Royal Society Brian Mercer Award to help bring the technology to market and the University of Surrey raised internal finance to build a pilot scale on site at its Guildford campus. The subsequent success of the performance of the pilot plant led to the formation of Surrey AquaTechnology Ltd and investment from University Venture Capital specialist company IPGroup. This was rapidly followed by recruitment of a highly experienced water industry management team who formed Modern Water, raising a further £30m to support commercialisation of the technology and expansion of activity in key overseas markets.

At the time of writing Modern Water has one large scale proving plant in operation, and is in the final stages of commissioning a second one, for trials at important overseas locations.

Surrey's manipulated osmosis technology has the potential to make a global impact in reducing the carbon footprint of desalination plants whilst also enabling greater access to fresh water supplies. The speed with which the technology has been brought to market is also impressive. Surrey AquaTechnology was formed on November 2006, and in the space of less than three years Modern Water has established an internationally qualified management team, raised £30m, and commenced commercial scale proving plant operation. It also represents an excellent case study of success within the UK system, with high quality research backed by the Royal Society Brian Mercer Award coupled with strong support by UK venture partners.