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Insights and Stories

Catapulting Start-ups into New Markets

June 17, 2021

The demand for innovation in the water sector has increased due to rising cost of infrastructure, energy and chemicals, and the sustainability movement. Water asset operators are also struggling with legacy technologies that cannot keep pace with the increased rigours of wastewater treatment.

Turning water problems into opportunities, promising water start-ups are developing technologies that can address the pain points of water asset operators. They, however, face hurdles in scaling and commercialising their technologies to markets that need them the most. Cognisant of this, the Sembcorp Water Innovation Nanjing Programme (SWING), an innovation-to-market platform, was set up to source new-generation bespoke technologies and help water start-ups pilot their technologies for eventual commercialisation. By pairing the technologies where they are most needed and implementing them at industrial scale, we aim to create a lasting positive impact on our environment and future.

Leveraging Sembcorp’s strategic innovation-to-market platforms

In 2020, our SWING programme identified SENTRY, a water tech start-up based in Canada. SENTRY has developed its proprietary bioelectrode sensor technology which allows for robust reliable real-time toxicity monitoring to enable operators to take immediate remedial actions. Knowing that they have a winning technology for toxicity monitoring, SENTRY was searching for a reputable partner to deploy and protect their innovation in China and Southeast Asia. However, for a small start-up, these markets can be difficult to navigate due to complex rules and customs, and the need to work with translation and documentation in multiple languages.

Through SWING, we were able to help SENTRY overcome their challenges by:

1. Leveraging our network of laboratories and plants in Singapore and China to validate SENTRY’s technology in both theoretical and real working conditions
2. Providing technical expertise which allows SENTRY to better understand its technology and possible applications within our plants and beyond
3. Tapping on our wide industry contacts and sharing successful applications in our plants to market their product to other upstream users

With both parties collaborating closely using clear success criteria, our partnership has shown good progress and promising results. Since 2021, we have been testing SENTRY’s biosensors in our Singapore laboratories to understand their behaviour, versatility and possible applications in our plants. Progressing from Singapore, we have also deployed the biosensors in our plant at Nanjing, China, to test their feasibility in an actual operating plant environment.

Our engineer testing SENTRY’s biosensors in our lab in Nanjing

Subsequently, we will be looking into future commercialisation of this technology at our wastewater treatment plants in China and beyond. SENTRY’s biosensors have the potential to benefit markets where this technology is needed the most, and we want to enable this breakthrough.

Bridging the gap for a sustainable future

Our collaboration with SENTRY is a good example of our innovation-to-market programme SWING. As a bridge for emerging water tech companies, we provide them with a platform to accelerate the adoption of their promising water and wastewater technologies to where they are needed, ensuring a sustainable future for all.

For interested parties who want to find out more on the application process of our SWING accelerator programme, you may download the application form here.