Leadership in water business requires open-minded innovation

Blog - Published 17.12.2018

Water drops.

Access to clean water in abundance is so self-evident for us Finns that we do not even think about water as a valuable natural resource in the same way as forests and minerals. Globally, however, access to water is far from self-evident. It has been estimated that by 2030 the world’s freshwater resources will only cover about 60% of the need. The need is the greatest in areas where most of the people live. The growing need for clean and usable water is one of the greatest threats to the future and wellbeing of humankind. At the same time this challenge also offers enormous opportunities for new innovations, creating companies and growth business that is in line with sustainable development.

The world market based on clean water is growing steadily by about 5% a year. In 2017 the value of the water-related market was estimated at almost EUR 600 billion. Growth business associated with water is not just transporting water from one place to another, even if the market for packaged water is enormous and keeps growing. Water-related business is also to an increasing extent service business based on information, producing solutions that make efficient use of water, and various kinds of means to utilise grey water for the needs of municipalities, agriculture and industrial processes. New information and technology companies based on water keep evolving at a steady pace. In Silicon Valley, where the value of water is well recognised, the capital investments in the sector already exceed the investments in more traditional IT companies.

Finland has every opportunity to be among the world leaders in water-related business

Water is a major asset for Finnish growth business and exports. We are well known for our clean water and strong technology and ICT competence. Closed, water saving and non-polluting water cycles are everyday routines for our forest and process industries. This is where we are true trailblazers. Based on the Finnish expertise, we could easily design applications relating to clean water and water efficiency, also to be launched as export articles. To serve as good examples we already have companies that produce sensors to be used in water purification, IoT based solution for leakage monitoring, as well as recirculation systems for fish farming. However, so far the Finnish water-related business is still quite modest relative to its potential. Growth of business requires innovation and open-minded entrepreneurship.

In future Finland could well be one of the great powers in water-related business. This is the time when there is great demand for Finnish success stories about water. Water can and will be truly profitable business – sustainably.


The author Anne-Christine Ritschkoff is Senior Advisor at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. Her main task is to promote innovation in the bioeconomy and circular economy sectors.

Email anne-christine.ritschkoff@vtt.fi, Twitter @AnneRitschkoff

Blue bioeconomy blog series in Bioeconomy.fi.

Published (in Finnish) November 11, 2018.

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