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Water efficiency technologies research


Water Research Centre (WRc) was engaged to assist Scottish Enterprise (SE) identify the industry sectors that use Scottish water heavily and understand the challenges of adopting new innovative water/wastewater technologies. The specific objectives of the study were to: identify major water users within Scottish industry; further understand the impact of fresh water availability and waste water production on the future operation and growth of water users; assess water users’ appetite for new water and wastewater treatment technologies; capture trade bodies’ perspective on industrial water use, particularly for major water users; and highlight the challenges and risks associated with adopting new technology solutions by the end-users. It also provides a list of available national and international innovation funds which could be used as an example to develop a similar concept in Scotland to support both industrial water users and technology providers. This will promote innovation and adoption of water efficiency technologies within the industry.


The methodology consisted of a literature review and survey of medium and heavy water users.


The study found that there is some level of uncertainty in the reported abstraction data since water metering is not compulsory in Scotland. Capability and capacity of wastewater treatment systems and the need for more water efficient technologies were identified as the main barriers to the development of product capacity. Lack of access to fresh water and recycled water were of less concern. There was interest in new technology solutions among medium and heavy water users, particularly where local constraints exist either through expansion demands or environmental constraints. However, a number of barriers and risks were identified in adopting new technologies. These include: financial risks/return on investment; technology being fit for purpose; lack of proven examples; and safety considerations particularly in re-use applications for the food and beverage industry. WRc also highlighted the need for further understanding of the regulatory and operation/production risks. Financial gains through the adoption of new treatment technologies was identified as the key driver of change, followed by regulatory changes, corporate responsibility, customer/stakeholder perception, climate change and resource efficiency. The majority of participants (70%) had not received any support from public sector bodies for activities related to water or wastewater technology adoption. 79% of participants expressed interest in participating in SE work which might lead to field trials and evaluations of new water/wastewater treatment technologies. The study concluded that for successful collaboration between the technology provider and the industrial water user, the legal contract requirements need to be managed and considerations should be given to: expectations management; level of risk sharing; level of involvement and support by each party; level of collaboration; realistic liability set on technology provider; and IP protection.


In order to promote new technology adoption by heavy water users, it was recommended that SE should consider the following: organising funding arrangements, paid either in full by the Scottish Government or co-funded with the medium and heavy water users; adopting funding models such as BEIS Industrial Energy Efficiency Accelerator (IEEA) for any future support; introducing a structured assessment procedure to assess the innovative technology in terms of its Technology Readiness Level (TRL) and to ensure the technology has been tested and/or obtained an accreditation from a third party validating the performance of it against the claimed specifications; providing incentives to medium and heavy water users to adopt and trial new technologies; and awarding funding using a staged approach.

Author Water Research Centre Limited (WRc)
Published Year 2018
Report Type Research
  • Business infrastructure
    Supporting key sectors