Periodic Reporting for period 1 - BIWAS (Biological Water Alarm System (BiWAS) for protection of urban drinking water infrastructure against CBRN threats)
Reporting period: 2015-02-01 to 2015-07-31
A worldwide societal problem to be addressed is: How to rapidly and reliably identify potential threats to urban populations through the water-related critical infrastructures over longer periods, thus to reduce vulnerability to intentional/accidental contamination events? Therefore, to conquer this challenge, the main objective of the innovation project is to develop a cost-effective early warning biological water alarm system (BiWAS) for continuous monitoring with a broad spectrum of toxicants and pathogens in drinking water.
The overall objective for the feasibility study is the practical and economic viability of the BiWAS with the purpose of establishing a solid high-potential innovation project. The specific objectives of the feasibility study include: (a) Assess the risks related to the indispensable steps on the road from concept to commercialization and identify possible bottlenecks and issues that could reduce the possibility of success. (b) Involvement of users. Establishing contact with potential end users (e.g. public water suppliers and distributors) at an early stage will be very effective so that the feedbacks on the technological development can ensure that the final product satisfies the demands of the users. (c) Partner search and (d) market studies for the development of the innovation strategy and business strategy. (e) Conduct small-scale demonstration of innovative technology. (f) Regarding Intellectual Property (IP) management, and patent application.
The project consisted of Market study, User involvement, Partner Search, IPR, Risk Assessment, and Prototype demonstration which was used in the feasibility study, refinement of the business plan, and to solve the objectives.
The main purpose of the market study was to gather information about the target markets and competition in these markets, as well as the existing products in the market with functionality and price range.
The market study provided valuable insight in market segmentation, and how the development must be adjusted accordingly. The market study also showed how Sensovann AS can reach competititveness in the product development by the possibility of offering a product with significantly enhanced capabilities compared to the competition, as well as a relatively low price which can be achieved through low production cost resulting from the use of mass-producible microfabrication techniques and miniaturization.
The user-involvement work consisted of finding relevant potential users. In this context relevance was a factor decided by the following points:
1. Users that can provide feedback in this SME phase 1, and more importantly provide feedback in the further development stages, in a (potential) phase 2 and the commercialization stage.
2. Users with available and relevant applications of water, e.g. public water suppliers, bottled water producers, food producers (utilizing water in the production), potentially also users distributing water to a relatively large number of people, such as hospitals, and hotels.
The user-involvement work was conducted by attending several organized gatherings, such as the International Conferences devoted to water research and sensing. The networks and contacts from the contributors in the project were also exploited, which has resulted in high interest from several national and international water related companies of various industries that provided feedback, or are eager to contribute more actively at a later stage.
The partner search was in several instances overlapping with the user involvement (such as finding late-stage involvement users), and occurred in the same arenas as the mentioned International Conferences. In addition to finding possible partners for future projects in national and international funding programs, the work with partner search turned out to give possibilities for several previously unknown opportunities, such as moving the development to a more component-based and modular approach, which could allow for tight collaborations with partners to achieve shortcuts to commercialization by utilizing the developed infrastructure of partners and contributing added functionality to enhance existing products. This approach turned out to not be the most optimal long term plan, because of the reduced market accessibility and potentially high future development costs, but it was the inspiration of a major shift in the development towards a product with a much wider customer range.
A patent investigation was performed. The results of the patent search strengthened the remarkable differences of the BiWAS technology comparing to the counterparts.
The SME Phase 1 project has motivated Sensovann to identify internal or external risks that can hinder competitive advantages. To this end, it was followed the Facilitated Risk Analysis Process (FRAP) method for the risk analysis. The method has helped Sensovann to proceed with a process of determining whether particular uncertain circumstances has potential threats to the business activities related to the BiWAS product. Further, the identified risks motivated the preparation of measures to protect the company from the threats. First of all, it was conducted the Pre-FRAP meeting, where the process for prioritizing the threats was discussed, and the FRAP team established. A representative from Sensovann AS has served as the FRAP Facilitator, with the ability to listen, lead, reflect, summarize, confront, support, center, crisis intervention and solve problems. The FRAP session was conducted and the result of the FRAP was a comprehensive document that identifies threats, prioritize those threats, and identifies controls that will help mitigate those threats. The FRAP-based risk assessment has provided Sensovann with a cost-effective action plan that meets the business needs to protect the enterprise resources while conducting business.
The functional prototype of the BiWAS was completed within the project. The prototype consists of several modules, in which the control module and microfluidic chip module are highlighted. The autonomous control module, ensures that the prototype can work automatically, detect and identify variations in water quality. The structures of the unique bio-microfluidic chips were further improved to lower the cost and realize enhanced functionality in one chip, and unique Organic Photodetectors/Organic LEDs (OPD/OLEDs) sensors have been integrated into the module. A series of water toxicity tests were carried out with the functional prototype, and the feasibility study results showed that two types of the living cells can successfully distinguish polluted water from safe water. Remarkably, the system was also able to determine the concentrations of key toxicants in water samples.
Business plan refinement:
A set of internal business plan documents was produced as outcome from the various tasks conducted in this project. The refinement of the business plan was based on these internal documents, and a new refined strategy was set from the current stage in time to commercialization with development, up-scaling, and mass-production.
Following our motivation philosophy “We check your water, you drink your water!”, the ambition of Sensovann AS is to install hundred thousands or even millions of monitoring units in more than 100 000 water supply zones in Europe and all over the world. The unique architecture of the BiWAS device incorporating unique bio-opto-microfluidics technology make this dream come possible. From now on, and following the European Citizens' Initiative Right2Water, we hope to say: “Yes, we can contribute to full protection of public health against intentional and unintentional water safety threats”. Moreover, as reported on October 28th 2015 (http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-5940_en.htm) the EU Commissioner Vella said: ""High-quality, safe drinking water is essential for well-being and public health, so we need to ensure high standards across the Union.” The BiWAS of Sensovann AS will emerge in the market helping the population and authorities to: “reduce unnecessary analyses and concentrate on controls that really matter” (as finally stated by Commissioner Vella.
The BiWAS will be ready for use by everyone who wants to test their consuming water, from public water supply companies, food manufacturers to single households. And the unique flexibility of the BiWAS device will allow us to offer solutions to what the customers really want to test. Better health, better reduction of water treatment costs, and better trusts on the water supplied can be expected from the use the BiWAS.