Small Businesses Keeping Our Water Clean and Protected
EPA’s Small Business Innovation Research Program supports innovative environmental technologies.
As the U.S. and global population continues to increase, the demand for clean water is growing dramatically. Innovation promises to protect our precious water resources while also stimulating job growth.
To drive innovation, EPA recently granted seven Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards focused on the development of new technologies to keep our water clean. These awards were given in collaboration with the Water Technology Innovation Cluster (WTIC) in Cincinnati (see sidebar) and focus on sustainable approaches to water quality and supply.
The federal SBIR program provides resources to small businesses to develop new innovative technologies – creating new jobs and positively impacting our economy. So far, about 30% of SBIR companies generate sales figures that exceed the initial SBIR investment five times over.
Of the seven companies receiving SBIR awards related to water, three will develop new technologies to treat and protect drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater. The other four companies will develop tools to monitor drinking water and wastewater for contaminants.
The companies and their award-winning projects include T3 Scientific and SolarBee, Inc.:
- T3 Scientific is creating a highly-efficient water purification system that will reduce energy use by over 90% as compared to conventional water purification processes--making the system operable using solar energy or waste heat produced by machines, electrical equipment, and industrial processes.
The technology will help keep drinking water safe when access to electricity is unavailable, such as in the aftermath of a big storm.
“The SBIR program fills an important void in the funding continuum to provide support for great innovations,” says Andy Tsai, director and chief technology officer at T3 Scientific.
- SolarBee, Inc. which developed a drinking water treatment technology for a group of chemicals called trihalomethanes (THM), a disinfection by-product regulated by EPA as part of its efforts to keep drinking water safe and clean.
To reduce levels of THM in drinking water, SolarBee is developing a water treatment prototype that combines traditional diffused aeration (DA) systems with SolarBee’s innovative solar power circulation (SPC) technology. SolarBee anticipates that their prototype will reduce THM levels by 50% and reduce power usage by 80%.
“The [SBIR] program enables EPA to help provide technological solutions for municipalities trying to comply with EPA regulations,” says Willard Tormaschy, vice president and operations manager at Solarbee, Inc.
Water Technology Innovation Cluster
The Water Technology Innovation Cluster (WTIC), initiated in the Dayton/Cincinnati/northern Kentucky/southeast Indiana region, was formed in January 2011 to develop and commercialize innovative water technologies that solve environmental challenges and spur sustainable economic development.
The WTIC builds on existing firms, intellectual capacity, and expertise in the region that can be used to advance economic development and technology innovation in a strategic and coordinated manner. This grassroots organization was developed by a coalition of private and public sector leaders from the region with assistance and inspiration from EPA and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
For more information, please visit: http://watercluster.org/wordpress/
SBIR and WTIC also encourage collaboration between universities and small business researchers. For example, another SBIR awardee, Faraday Technology, Inc., is working with the University of Pittsburgh to create a compact, affordable, and easy-to-use monitoring system for detecting contaminants in water. Faraday Technology plans to make the sensor more affordable and simple to use than current technologies. This will make the system more broadly available, allowing small communities with limited resources to efficiently monitor their drinking water.
T3 Scientific, Faraday, and Solarbee’s projects are just three examples of the innovative work that will result from the seven small businesses receiving SBIR awards. The awardees will develop a number of technologies to address our increasingly complex environmental challenges, while also helping to spark job and economic growth in their communities.