WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE BUT LESS AND LESS TO DRINK…

The IB meets water event was KCP’s first experience of an IBioIC organized event, having recently joined as industrial members.

The IB meets water event was KCP’s first experience of an IBioIC organized event, having recently joined as industrial members.  This event covered the vast array of areas where we can manage our water resources in a more socially, environmentally and symbiotic way. From the DEEP project by Glenmorangie to the requests for innovation from GSK and their WWTW partners Anglian Water, the topic of the day was ‘IB Meets Water’ and the importance of innovation in protecting, harnessing and extracting value from all our water resources in all their forms, was evident.

This was looking at innovation in all forms; in product, in design, in process and in choice of collaborative partnerships.

Working across multiple sectors, I have noticed, there is a commonality of problems: how to embrace a circular economy approach; match making of innovative partners; understanding that there are a range of key drivers; the legacy of poor management etc., these stretch across the fields of Water to Leadership and are resulting in triple helix partnerships and innovative offerings to make transformational changes to the way we work, live and play!  It is key to remember that these sectors have different key drivers-the very real water shortage or movability of this resource; and engaging in a fair work programmes such as the deliverables of the Scottish Business Pledge. Different drivers but requiring the same transformational change to take us out of processes that don’t fit our societal or business needs anymore?

The real opportunities and challenges and the desires of the Scottish Government and SEPA were explained with regards to raising aspirations and standards but with offers of changes and innovation in their approach. “Governance is what we are good at?” said John Rathjen, head of the Scottish Government Water Industry Team.  The World Bank defines governance as: “the manner in which power is exercised in the management of a country's economic and social resources for development.”  Governance is important for knowledge transfer, export growth and if we address applications for rural and community gains we can then assist with others globally in how to move water, manage water, extract value from wastewater in a symbiotic way that benefits both the environment and the people in it.

This phrase however did not convey the level of excitement and inclusive conversations around the topics of sludge, digestate, waste water and grey water that were part of the event.  There was a more tangible feeling of excitement and I took this message into a primary school the following day and could tell them with all certainty that the jobs they will be doing are not here yet as the solutions are not here yet either!  The next decade is lining up to be an exciting time for everyone and particularly within the industrial biotechnology arena.

We are redefining what our ‘resources’ are, looking for symbiotic relationships. Once you identify what ‘the value’ is in your resource then you can identify a potential benefit by analyzing all the physical, chemical and biological uses. Our desire to live in a circular economy is palpable and the opportunities are very real. So, what are the challenges…?

Where are the people with the challenges?

Where are the organisations with transferable solutions?

How and who can facilitate the meeting of these?

Is it circular and sustainable but not necessarily low carbon?

What are the priorities?

Should there be any priorities?

Should we be addressing problems of larger organisations only and using SME’s to create innovative solutions?

Firstly, we have to locate the people, asses the place and ensure that the technology is robust in both scale and sustainability.  These factors need to then move quickly and not necessarily have any caps on them. Transformational change must be supported and encouraged by Scottish Government to enable research and development to take the lead and not political ideologies.

Many of the challenges is that we now know that one size won’t fit all so we need to think about collaboration, co-location, co-mingling and people and place! Do all the parameters create a circular economy mindset and solution?

The quadruple helix partnership was mentioned when discussing the NHS approach to identification and gathering of data. This is a vehicle to promote excellence and knowledge across four key sectors, business, government, academia and community. We are starting these journeys with clear holistic approaches and contributing to problem solving, in a circular manner. So, we are already innovating with regards to ‘process’ in the circular economy.  In the eyes of an engineer, we should always start at the problem and work backwards. We have to identify who has the problem and why it a problem and who else do they need to help resolve the problem. Where do you find these people and once you have found them what will the database of information look like and how and who would manage this?

At an MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) event in December organised by the Scottish Government around transformational change the underpinning message was that of leadership and engagement and also the benefits and need for helix partnerships.  In this different arena, connection of the dots to identify potential collaborators or good practices to embrace was also seen as a challenge.

The water event facilitated a free flow of open dialogue as did the MIT one in December, there was no beaurocracy, no immediate individual gain or opportunity- but that of a shared vision of what our world should and could look like. How we can create added value by networking and facilitating creativity and open discussions of challenges to find commonality of commercial problems? By facilitating discussions around these challenges today, in an open manner, it was clear that further relationships were being fostered that would direct key strategic direction towards a more resourceful management of the materials we desire.

Industrial Biotechnology is not new, for many years there has been a general consensus of some of the challenges we face.  What is different now is stronger leadership, more knowledge and an understanding that the triple and quadruple helix partnerships are pivotal to allowing these changes to happen. Organisations such as IBioIC who have a wealth of technical knowledge but also bring together industry and academia in an interesting mix of problem solving and real practical dilemmas that will need to be addressed.  As per the MIT event use of a common language is critical to identifying potential providers of solutions and greater understandings of what drives the solution.

There must be transformational change in the way in which we support and fund opportunities that will create new jobs, new industries and subsequently a focused approach to harness our natural resources and work with nature rather than in isolation.

The IB meets water event was KCP’s first foray into the expanding industrial biotechnology community in Scotland.  As a multi-disciplinary maintenance provider working across many sectors, I am particularly passionate about circularity and the adoption of circular economy principles and practice, and about sharing ideas and learning from others.  I am enthusiastic about imbedding the principles of the circular economy into Scotland’s education system and strongly advocate the benefits that circularity can bring for Scotland.