The 5 students behind  AQShare, from left to right: Kavikrishnan Balakrishnan, Anton Werenberg, Martin Gylstorff, Ossi Kallunki, Tor Nørgaard

Grundfos secures rights to DTU student project

A group of students have come up with an idea for supplying villages in Africa with clean drinking water. Grundfos has secured the rights to the project and employed the students to complete it.

DTU holds the X-Tech Entrepreneurship course twice a year. It is a 13-week course for students, who are taught business understanding and presented with a number of innovation tools they can use to either start their own business or handle development projects in their future jobs.

Grundfos has sponsored one of the X-Tech Entrepreneurship focus areas out of a wish to put water on the agenda. Several companies have contributed relevant cases—not least Grundfos itself—aimed at ensuring clean drinking water for 300 million people by 2030, for example in Africa.

“Clean water is one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and a very significant global challenge that we chose to address. We started by narrowing our focus down to looking at the supply of drinking water in small urban communities in Kenya,” explains Kavikrishnan (Kavi) Balakrishnan, who has been studying at DTU since 2016.

Kavi Balakrishnan was part of a group of five students from different study programmes at DTU. The mix created a strong foundation of technical expertise in fields ranging from IT and software, electronics, and product design, which are all relevant to their idea, which they have called AQShare.

Idea incorporates existing water supply
“It was crucial for us to find a solution that could fit in with the existing drinking water supply. In this way, we can ensure the greatest possible incentive for Kenyans to use and subsequently maintain the solution,” says Kavi Balakrishnan.

A number of diseases, including typhoid, are still rife in Kenyan villages because of the lack of clean drinking water. Today, the water supply often consists of a local merchant with a donkey cart collecting water from a nearly lake or river. He then drives around selling canisters of water.

“Our idea is to add a mini-treatment plant to this setup. The plant will be sited on the outskirts of the village, and the merchant will then deliver the water to the plant, and be paid for it. Once the water has been cleaned, the villagers can then buy it at a slightly higher price,” says Kavi Balakrishnan.

Grundfos hires students
Grundfos has assisted the students throughout the process, providing input and helping to establish contact with experts, for example in Africa. After the end of the course, Grundfos acquired the rights to AQShare and has employed the whole group on student contracts. Not as traditional student assistants, but on terms which will allow the group to further develop and mature their idea together.

“AQShare has lots of exciting potential and fits well with Grundfos’ strategy of ensuring a better drinking water supply worldwide by the year 2030. We’re therefore interested in the further development of the project. Not least because the solution is flexible and does not require costly investments in pipes for the drinking water supply,” says Mathis Dahlqvist, Director of Innovation Lab 1, Grundfos.

The idea is for the students is to spend the next few months taking their idea to a stage where a prototype of the mini-treatment plant can be developed. The prototype will then be tested in Africa to assess its potential.

Inspiring collaboration
Grundfos is also contributing cases to the new X-Tech course which has just started at DTU, and Mathis Dahlqvist is already looking forward to getting more valuable input from DTU students.

DTU Environment is also very enthusiastic.
“It’s great that our research and knowledge in the field of water technology solutions can help address specific challenges out in the real world. Based on the students’ ability to look at things with fresh eyes, such processes can result in new and interesting thoughts and solutions,” says Claus Helix-Nielsen, Head of DTU Environment.