Ahead of the World Water-Tech Innovation Summit in London, we spoke to Yossi Yaacoby, Head of Staff at Mekorot, Israel’s National Water Company which supplies 70% of the water in Israel and one of the leading water production, supply and wastewater treatment companies in the world. We asked him about the latest key trends in the water industry, the importance of water hubs and adoption and acquisition opportunities for existing platforms.

What key trends have you seen emerge in the water industry over the last 12 months?

The key trends are:
1. From waste to source – Wastewater treatment plants are important sources for energy, bioplastics, fertilisers and nutrients.
2. From centralised to decentralised – More and more decentralised solutions are needed, mainly for rural regions.
3. Digital is here – Digital in the water sector is an emerging market. All the suppliers are trying to suggest solutions which deploy IOT, MA, AI that are based on metering, sensoring and advanced SCADA SYSYEMS.
4. Resilience – One of the most important issues for any Water Utility Manager. In a world where a disaster could happen any day all over the globe, water utilities must be continuously ready.
5. Emerging pollutants – There is a growing attention to micropollutants. Regulation started in Europe and it is going to be an issue all over.

To what extent do water hubs deliver what they say they will? How successful are they at commercialising and scaling up tech in real terms?

It is too early to predict or answer. Water hubs are relatively new initiatives. But, from my own experience, they are very important. They provide a demo testbed site, exposure, stamp of approval, dissemination of successful stories and mainly bridge the gap to the needed next rounds investments. Some of them are being implemented in the hosting utilities and this is a very important stage for a growing company.

What existing platforms could be adopted or acquired to form the bedrock of such an initiative?

There are several water hubs all over the world that have gained a real track record in their activities. I can speak on behalf of WaTech – Mekorot. WaTech® – Water Technologies Entrepreneurship Center, which was established in 2004 by Mekorot, Israel’s national water company, to provide a response to the world’s water supply challenges. WaTech® acts as a unique hub to incubate and accelerate early stage technologies that are being implemented in the local and global water market. We screened more than 1,300 initiatives and collaborated with more than 50 early stage companies whereby many of them have grown and have steady sales. From my point of view, a hub that provides a holistic approach which includes a deep understanding of the water market, innovative thinking, technological capabilities, ability to test, alfa, beta, and demo technologies mixed with BD capabilities, is the bedrock for success.

What will you be looking out for at the World Water-Tech Innovation Summit this February?

From my point of view there are two very important issues:
1. Strengthen the cooperation between the leading water hubs all over the world and connecting the dots between the hubs in all aspects.
2. Connecting the water hubs to utilities and more importantly to investors. It means that the important work of a Hub like WaTech, shall increase the confidence and appetite of utilities for the implementation of the tested (successful) technologies and the same for investors that nowadays are risk adverse.

Yossi will be speaking on the panel, Open Source Water Hubs: How Could We Share Technology & Data Around the World? at the World Water-Tech Innovation Summit, on February 27 at 13.15.

Find out more about Mekorot at mekorot.co.il and follow Yossi on Twitter @YYaacoby