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SolarDew – Clean water solutions through solar energy

FEBRUARY 26, 2021

For most Western countries and its residents, clean drinking water is no more than an afterthought. If we are thirsty, we can get a glass of water whenever and wherever we want it, always being confident that it is of the highest quality. But rather than this being the norm, this is more often the exception.  For many people around the world clean drinking water is a scarce resource. They are forced to buy bottled water which is expensive and unsustainable. Or they are dependent on water supplied by trucks which is unreliable, both in terms of quality and punctuality. Often however, people, and especially women and children, are left to fetch water instead of working or attending school.

This is exactly the status quo which SolarDew, an impact startup holding office in impact hub Apollo 14 in The Hague, and Rhenen, in the Netherlands, is looking to change. SolarDew is focused on providing an affordable and reliable solution, that is easy to use, for families and communities that do not have access to clean drinking water. SolarDew has developed a product which, unlike most technologies, can remove viruses, bacteria, salts and heavy metals in a single step using only the sun’s thermal energy. It’s a simple and elegant process, whereby water is evaporated and passes through a membrane in order to condense as pure water on the other side. Instead of focusing on large scale solutions, SolarDew focusses on solutions at the point of use, in people’s homes and communities. With SolarDew’s technology people are able to produce their own drinking water even if their nearest water source is seawater or has high level of minerals, metals or salts.

So why is this relevant? Water scarcity currently affects 700 million people, but is set to affect over half the world’s population by 2030. The situation is becoming urgent for more and more people, especially those on low incomes, who are already struggling with drinking water. From people living in fishing communities along the coast to island communities or in arid regions. The quality of the water is already changing in many of these areas. People are already noticing that the water they are accustomed to drinking is becoming saltier, contains higher levels of arsenic or other minerals. This has detrimental effects on people’s health. A solution that is simple, reliable and affordable is highly wanted.

In the last year, SolarDew has developed partnerships with companies in Chile and Australia to bring their product to market. In 2021, SolarDew plans to launch two demonstration projects, one in the North of Chile. Here, water is currently being delivered by trucks to people in a small community in the Atacama desert. The second project is in one of the Aboriginal communities in the Cape York region of Northern Australia, where they have been struggling ever since available water sources have turned brackish. Closer to home, in Europe, SolarDew is in contact with communities on some of the smaller Greek islands for whom expanding their water distribution network is too expensive, leaving people in smaller communities reliant on the supply of (bottled) drinking water by truck or boat.

In preparation for these projects, SolarDew is currently demonstrating their innovative technology in 3 locations. In order to accelerate the process of bringing this innovation to the market, SolarDew has joined the EIT InnoEnergy accelerator program. It has also established partnerships, such as with ImpactCity. Both are great matches given SolarDew’s sustainability and impact driven approach.

Make impact! Get EU Funding

An important part of business for a startup like SolarDew is finding the necessary financial resources for the next phase. The support provided by ImpactCity’s “Make Impact! Get EU Funding” program provided an excellent opportunity. SolarDew was selected because of the innovativeness of their technology which includes:

A proprietary membrane which is significantly lower in cost than comparable membranes

The simplicity of directly integrating the solar and water purification aspects which result in a simple and robust product.

Advanced manufacturing processes from the packaging industry to ensure an affordable product.

As part of the Make Impact! Get EU Funding program, ImpactCity provided an experienced consultant to help SolarDew prepare an application for the EIC Accelerator Pilot, one of the most competitive financing instruments for innovations under the Horizon 2020 Program from the European Comission. As funding from the European Commission requires a tough reviewing process, specialized help is very valuable for a startup like SolarDew.  With dedication, hard work and support from the consultant and the team from Rijksdienst Voor Ondernemend Nederland (RVO), in November 2020, SolarDew managed to obtain the “Seal of Excellence” among 4223 applicants. This is a valuable recognition from the European Commission, especially in the current phase where SolarDew is seeking further investment ahead of the market introduction. Given this positive experience, SolarDew can recommend to all impact-driven entrepreneurs that have break-through innovations and existing traction to apply for this program.

“We made significant progress thanks to the program and we will extend cooperation with the consultant under the new Horizon Europe program.”, says Alexander van der Kleij, the CEO of SolarDew.  Although it is not always the easiest route to follow, he encourages entrepreneurs to take a pro-active approach and exploit various EU funding opportunities as a way to further develop their business and make meaningful partnership that will facilitate international expansion.

“Never give up” is the advice from Alexander and SolarDew’s team.  Besides the Seal of Excellence, their persistence has brought SolarDew grant support from INNOWWIDE, another financing program under the EU Financing Framework. Namely, they managed to receive grant for a demonstration project in Australia along with the development of business and internationalization strategy for the Australian Market.

All these steps and experience gained, also helped SolarDew compete in the Get in the Ring Netherlands – Impact Competition. Here they managed to grab one of the two tickets for Dutch impact startups for the European Impact Competition finals, which will take place during ImpactFest 2021.

These experiences have helped SolarDew get one step closer to their goal: to provide affordable and reliable drinking water solution for households and communities in the most critical regions across the planet, whether in Latin America, the Pacific or closer to home in Europe.  SolarDew believes the only way to create long term impact is by developing a sustainable business together with their local partners. “Water is essential to all life and to our economies. Having access to clean drinking water empowers people and brings them together. If we can eliminate the uncertainty, and reduce the economic and environmental cost as well as the cost to people’s health, the future will look a little bit brighter.”

More info

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More info about the MAKE IMPACT – Get EU funding competition, which will be opened again later this year, can be found here.