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Water Quality Engineering and Resource Recovery from Residual Streams

Today, combating climate change is recognized as a global and urgent challenge. Water especially is becoming a limiting resource. New biotechnological solutions are needed to recover and manage water resources across the urban water cycle.

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Danmarks Tekniske Universitet


Today, combating climate change is recognized as a global and urgent challenge. To a large extent, success will depend on developing innovative and more sustainable solutions to deal with limiting resources and a degraded environment. Water especially is becoming a limiting resource. New biotechnological solutions are needed to recover and manage water resources across the urban water cycle.

Residual urban and agricultural waste streams can present a significant societal burden. Efficient recovery of resources from these streams using new biotechnologies is feasible and can significantly upgrade their value while reducing our fossil carbon dependency. Innovations in these areas can be harvested by the Danish Industry. It can enhance their competitive edge in an international market, while at the same reducing society’s environmental footprint.

Udfordring og muligheder

There is a global awareness that many of our resources, including water, energy, and various raw materials, are becoming increasingly limited or impaired.  Significant institutional and technological steps and changes are needed to cope with these limitations (e.g. safe, affordable water, non-fossil energy, and non-fossil chemical feed stocks) and reduce our consumptions.

An explicit reduction in our carbon footprint is called for. A suite of creative technological ideas and solutions to these challenges are possible and are being invented. The maturation of these ideas into marketable commercial solutions is hampered by a lack of support to complete the innovation cycle.  The urge for new solutions is urgent, presenting a world-wide market. This need is especially strong in growing economies, creating a unique export opportunity for countries with the right technological solutions.

A great opportunity exists for creative biotechnological solutions – using tailored microbial community catalysts - to manage, treat, and upgrade residual water and waste streams. These solutions have a large global export potential. These technological solutions can be created by the Danish industry, which has a historical strength in the water and environmental technology sector and the biotechnology sector. Creating these solutions can yield significant job growth in R&D, manufacturing, construction, and consulting engineering nationally and worldwide.


The goal is to develop, build, and validate new microbial biotechnological concepts, approaches, systems, and solutions, including industrial prototypes, to (1) treat and manage source and residual waters that minimize resource consumption and maximize resource recovery and valorization (2) recover energy and high-value products from urban and agricultural residual streams. In addition, supporting system control algorithms, high-throughput bioanalytical tools, and on-line monitoring devices and interpretation tool-boxes will be built, tested, optimized and valorized.


There is a need to support the next generation research in environmental biotechnological solutions to treat, upgrade, hygienically protect, and recover water from source waters of various qualities at low energy and carbon footprints. There is a need to develop and test new biotechnological concepts and processes to recover resources and high-value products from various residual waste streams. These research activities must take advantage from breakthrough discoveries and new scientific developments that are taking place in research institutes across Denmark.

There is a need to support the assimilation and translation of these research discoveries in the Danish industry. This assimilation will be contingent on funding across the innovation cycle from discovery to implementation. It will support and result in the development and testing of prototypes and the construction of test and demonstration facilities. New devices, new reactor equipment and system components, new monitoring and control systems, new microbial and enzymatic products and cultures, new bioinformatic tools, new process management tools will be generated all with great commercial value.

In addition, knowledge transfer to industry will generate the opportunity for industry-driven innovation, an upgrade of the technological know-how of the industrial workforce, and ensure global competitiveness and commercial success.
The proposed innovation initiative would receive generous support from various academic partners (DTU, KU, AAU), GTS institutes (Teknologisk Institute, DHI), the water and environmental technology, services and consulting sector (e.g. Kruger/Veolia, Grundfoss) the biotechnology sector (e.g. Novozymes), the equipment/products manufacturing sector (e.g. Grundfoss, Alfa-Laval), and likely the food and agricultural product sector.

De danske forudsætninger

Denmark is internationally well known in the water and environmental technology services sector and in the biotechnological products sector, where it has a healthy export market, and asolid industry base. However, an expanding global demand for services in this sector (especially for more climate-friendly, inexpensive, and greener solutions) is rapidly creating increased global competition. Remaining competitive will require the rapid development, testing and implementation of new technological ideas, rather than exporting business-as-usual solutions.

The Danish research sector is developing a new generation of biotechnological ideas – especially the use of microbial catalysts. Rapid closing of the innovation cycle will provide a needed boost to the existing Danish industrial partners, and stimulate new economic growth around SMEs in green environmental biotechnology. Lack of investment might weaken the competition over strong competitors like the Netherlands, Singapore, and the USA.

Effekter og potentialer

Research in new biotechnologies and solutions for water quality management and resource recovery will bring large Danish companies a stronger international competitiveness. In addition the transfer of knowledge to small and medium sized Danish companies will boost their innovation capacities and increase their opportunity to develop new products and solutions and services that can be exported.  The sector of water quality engineering and biological resource recovery is expected to grow dramatically worldwide – both in the advanced and developing economies –creating tremendous market opportunities, especially for those how can deliver innovative solutions.

This innovation effort will support the building of a more durable society with a lower carbon footprint. It will generate technologies that support a more ready and affordable access to a safe water supply and a reliable energy source, which can be implemented as green growth initiatives in both growing (e.g. BRIC countries) and established economies.

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Senest opdateret 12. marts 2013