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Waste water clean-tech startup sets out on China venture

Streams of cold water falling into a pool on a sunny day

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Berkshire-based LAT Water has developed a novel low-energy technology for waste water treatment and desalination. Its first pilot project in China is under way, thanks to a £350,000 funding from Innovate UK, secured with the help of Enterprise Europe Network.


LAT Water had failed in an earlier bid for EU funding to support its ambitions in the Far East so when Innovate UK announced an open competition for collaborations with partners in the Shanghai region, the company was keen to get it right.


EEN, part of Innovate UK’s family of connecting services, had been working with LAT Water to improve its chances of securing financial backing from public and private investors.


By reviewing the company’s grant application at each stage of the process, EEN advisers helped to ensure that it met all the criteria for funding approval. It is a two-year project.


LAT Water has now been working since January with a private sector partner, Denovo (Shanghai), to set up an industrial research plant which will pilot the Newbury firm’s patented humidification-dehumidification technology.


Rising water consumption


It operates at low temperatures and at ambient air pressures to treat waste water from complex industrial processes. Left behind are a variety of salts which can be separated and re-used, including calcium chloride for treating Scandinavian roads in winter.


Rapid economic development and urbanisation in China have led to rising water consumption and pollution, prompting the Chinese government to incorporate environmental protection objectives in its 13th Five-Year Plan.


It introduces rigorous control of pollutant discharges and requires water to be recycled and reused in new and existing coal-fired power plants and in coal-to-chemical refining facilities.


This represents a major business opportunity for LAT Water (formerly SolaQuaGen). The project was the catalyst for other opportunities in China and the company is now bidding for eight further projects from a range of industries. It is also “pushing hard” in the UK, United States and European markets, seeking industrial and academic partners – and investors too.


In the UK, LAT Water, which employs three staff at its Newbury office, is in advanced talks, following planning and Environment Agency consents, with waste management company Viridor about a pilot plant on a landfill site at Uffculme, Somerset. Energy will be provided by naturally occurring methane.


Environmental costs

Discussions are also underway with other waste management groups to solve a growing international problem of dealing with the economic and environmental costs of waste disposal.


The LAT process achieves water recovery rates of up to 90%, far above competitors’ technology, significantly reducing transport and disposal costs and with no greenhouse gas emissions.


Nick Singh, Chief Technology Officer, said: “What we have is the ability to operate at below boiling point and at ambient pressures. It means the hardware can be simple and, unlike membrane technology, we don’t have issues with scaling or fouling. 


“Provided there is access to a source of energy, the costs of operation are quite low. We hope to begin a global roll-out in two to three years from now.”

We should be generating revenue from next year and be in profit by 2021.

Nick Singh, Chief Technology Officer, LAT Water.

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