AQUA-Hub − Fraunhofer IGB supports market development in India for water technologies "Made In Germany"

Fraunhofer IGB Press release / April 22, 2021

India's cities are growing rapidly and need an efficient infrastructure for supplying water and disposing of wastewater. Many German companies offer innovative solutions in this area, but often struggle to find access to the Indian market. Thanks to its extensive experience with projects in India, the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB can help to bridge the gap between demand and supply. To this end, the institute is now setting up the innovation network "AQUA-Hub" to mediate between German water technology suppliers and the Indian market.

Wastewater treatment plant in India
Wastewater treatment plant in India.
Concept of Water Lab
Concept of Water Lab.

In terms of population, India is the second largest country in the world after China. Continuous population growth and rapidly increasing urbanization pose major challenges across the country. One of these is the development of an effective and resilient infrastructure to supply the population with drinking water and to manage wastewater as sustainably as possible. Corresponding know-how is therefore in great demand. At the same time, German companies and research institutions have precisely this expertise and can offer innovative technologies and solutions. However, market development is often difficult because the local presence expected by business partners is a challenge for many companies, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Other challenges include a lack of contacts, a lack of knowledge about the market or insufficient knowledge about local culture, customs and conditions.

"This is where Fraunhofer IGB comes in. Thanks to our many years of experience with research projects in the field of water technologies and water management on the Indian subcontinent, we have the necessary knowledge and contacts to facilitate access to the Indian market for German players, or to make it possible in the first place." explains Dr.-Ing. Marius Mohr, head of the Innovation field Water Technologies and Resource Recovery at the research institute in Stuttgart. "Together with other Indian and German partners, we will make this expertise available in the future as part of the AQUA-Hub project, which is intended to establish an interface between demand in India and the appropriate solutions from Germany."

AQUA-Hub: Anchor center for demonstration projects and focal point for cooperation

Mohr and his team have implemented several projects in India in recent years. Under the direction of project manager Marc Beckett, the IGB's current activities in the Asian country will now be bundled under the AQUA-Hub umbrella. "We are currently implementing four projects in India," the trained environmental scientists tells us. "AQUA-Hub takes on the task of strengthening Indo-German exchange and cooperation in the water sector and promoting the mediation of business initiations, as well as the implementation of projects. As such, AQUA-Hub is the logical continuation of the results obtained during Smart Water Future India (SWF-India). "This cooperation platform connects local and German stakeholders and promotes the implementation of demonstration projects," Beckett added. "In AQUA-Hub, the piloting of monitoring technology serves as example and increases sensitization of the Indian market for technologies from Germany."

Smart City Coimbatore - Monitoring Systems and Software "Made in Germany" in use

The first AQUA Hub project is being carried out in Coimbatore in southern India together with the ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research in Frankfurt am Main. Both partners are thus building on the results and needs that were developed in the preceding Smart Water Future India project together with local stakeholders. In Coimbatore, city planners face the problem that local water bodies are heavily polluted by urban wastewater. However, the lakes in the urban area provide an important natural rainwater reservoir for the city and, as a local recreation area, also make an important contribution to the quality of life of the population.

In order to assess the extent of the problem, IGB and ISOE scientists, together with the technology partners, are using online measurement technology and water monitoring software to collect data on water quality. The IGB is responsible for selecting the parameters and sensor technology, providing technical advice on the design and, in cooperation with ISOE, evaluating the analyses and deriving recommendations for action. For their measurements, the IGB scientists use intelligent monitoring systems and software "Made in Germany". The physical and chemical data collected in this way will provide local stakeholders with a basis for recording the development of water quality and, building on this, taking strategic measures to improve water quality. In addition, the inflowing water volume will also be monitored. "The goal is to increase the quality of life for the city's residents, and to enhance the region around the water bodies," Beckett said. "In addition, the city administration expects to attract new investors to also provide an economic boost to the city."

Smart City Solapur - Sensor-based water monitoring at the local waterworks

The second "Smart City" is Solapur, located between Mumbai and Hyderabad. Here, the development of the AQUA-Hub is linked to the pilot project "Smart Water Quality Monitoring", which is coordinated by Umwelttechnik BW GmbH, the Baden-Württemberg state agency for environmental technology and resource efficiency. The project is funded by the Ministry of Economics, Labor and Housing of the State of Baden-Württemberg. For this, IGB scientist Beckett and his project partners are implementing sensor-based water monitoring at the Soregaon waterworks in Solapur. "The installed sensors measure pH, conductivity, turbidity and temperature, as well as the incoming water volume," Beckett explains. "Operators are required to record and report these. Currently, they are measured only once a day. With the sensors, this will be simplified and much more data can be generated to monitor raw water, treatment processes and outgoing drinking water, and identify actions to improve quality and processes. The project also includes the implementation of a photometer in the local laboratory. This will be used to measure other parameters that are currently recorded irregularly or not at all, such as nitrate." IGB's tasks within the project include the selection of parameters and coordination of the German and Indian partners in the implementation of the measurement technology and data infrastructure used.

The institute will continue to compile the collected sensor and laboratory data and derive concrete recommendations for action for the city administration. In addition, the project will serve as a reference for the measurement technology and its German providers. AQUA-Hub will be built around this reference and, in the long term, support to meet market demands for further solutions in the region.

AQUA-Hub: Consolidation of Indo-German cooperation

Within AQUA-Hub, IGB's tasks include not only coordinative activities but also networking and communication with other projects and initiatives, such as the ShowCaseIN project or the Morgenstadt Global Smart Cities project in the city of Kochi. In the ShowCaseIN project, the IGB collaborates with the consortium of aqua & waste International GmbH and Kuhn GmbH in conducting a feasibility study for a wastewater treatment plant in India that can be developed into a demonstration plant. The institute contributes its scientific expertise as well as its concrete experience and networks from previous projects on the Indian subcontinent to the study.

In AQUA-Hub, Water Innovation Hubs will be piloted in the two cities of Solapur and Coimbatore. The project activities are supported by hub managers in both cities. They form the link between local stakeholders and the project team.  

The project is now examining the potential that can be tapped from the concept and the possibilities for making it permanent. The focus will be on the possible transferability of the concept to other regions in India. The project is supported by the India office of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft based in Bangalore.