Trial Reservoir: a sustainable source of resources for innovation in Brazil's water and sanitation sector

Víctor Arroyo, Director for Latin America at Isle Utilities

Trial Reservoir
Brazil's Trial Reservoir, Isle Utilities' new initiative that provides technology companies with a risk-free fund to adopt innovative technologies, was launched in 2022.

Isle Utilities is a global team of scientists, engineers, business and regulatory experts with a common drive to achieve positive social, economic and environmental impact through the advancement of innovative technologies and related practices.

Isle's mission is to be recognised as a leading catalyst in bringing together technology, end users and investors, fostering the adoption of emerging technologies and innovative practices that create value for our stakeholders and a positive impact on the world around us.

Following the success of Isle Utilities' Climate Change Trial Reservoir programme, the new Brazil-focused fund follows a similar process to make it easier for water technology innovators to access funding for pilot trials.

Political impetus for sanitation in Brazil

The social impacts of water supply and sewerage services on people's quality of life and the environment are increasingly on the political agenda in Brazil. In addition, the economic impact of the sector on the productive chain, with employment and income generation, is also recognised.

Despite its undeniable economic importance, Brazil has a deficit in these services. According to the National Sanitation Information System (SNIS), about 35 million Brazilians do not have access to water supply, and only 55% of the population has sewerage service.

Faced with this situation, the Brazilian State committed itself to universalising sanitation services, guaranteeing access to treated water to 99% of the population and 90% to sewerage services (collection and treatment of wastewater generated). A significant amount of investment was required to achieve these targets.

In this sense, the use of innovative technologies is identified as an opportunity to do things better, reducing investment costs and generating opportunities to improve the efficiency and quality of services.

What is Trial Reservoir?

The Trial Reservoir programme promoted by Isle Utilities is a funding mechanism that provides technology companies with a risk-free fund to test and adopt innovative technologies. The objective is to increase and accelerating the implementation of innovation with the aim of mitigating climate change. The model combines loan financing with technology acceleration and support for market penetration of innovations in the water and renewable energy sectors.

The Trial Reservoir programme combines loan financing with technology acceleration and market penetration support for innovations in the water and renewable energy sectors.

A total of nine pilot projects have been launched and five of these have been completed, of which four have been successfully concluded, meaning that the fund has facilitated the commercialisation of four technologies within the water industry. In addition, the potential of this unique initiative has been recognised, with the model winning the Innovation in Decarbonisation category of the WEX Global Awards 2022 in Valencia, Spain. The judges were looking for case studies that show significant energy potential, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make water infrastructure efficient and resilient.

Trial Reservoir

The recognition was a great thrill for Dr Jo Burgess, Trial Reservoir Manager at Isle Utilities, who said: "It is a great honour to win this award because it is a reflection of the hard work and dedication of everyone involved.

The water sector is a major contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions and more needs to be done to help the sector invest in and accelerate the adoption of technologies that contribute to achieving carbon neutrality, which is why the Trial Reservoir project has been so enthusiastically embraced by a sector hungry for change," explained Dr Jo Burgess.

The Trial Reservoir aims to boost the adoption and broaden the offer of novel technology-based solutions that can help water and sanitation service providers to achieve efficiency and reduce their emissions. The technologies implemented will have a significant impact on climate change adaptation, reducing water consumption and mitigating CO? emissions.

The use of innovative technologies is identified as an opportunity to do things better, reducing investment costs and generating opportunities to improve efficiency and quality of services.

The model proposed by Isle Utilities has become a proven success in the industry, with many ongoing tests and a promising future. Given the current context in Brazil, and the presence of Isle Utilities in this market, a strategic decision has been made to establish a fund with an exclusive focus on the country with the support of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and IDB Lab.

Brazil's Trial Reservoir not only presents a new breakthrough opportunity for innovation, but also a partnership to join forces in support of Brazil's water sector between Isle Utilities and the Inter-American Development Bank Group's innovation lab (IDB Lab), which co-funds Trial Reservoir in the country.

Why Brazil?

Derived from the context mentioned at the beginning of this article, it appears that the speed of adoption of innovation is not fast enough or at the scale needed to effectively address the problems of the water sector. Frequent extreme weather events add to uncertainty about the availability of water resources and water quality, impeding progress in filling gaps in service provision. These problems disproportionately affect less developed and vulnerable communities, which have little access to high quality services. Many of these problems can be addressed by incorporating new technologies; however, speed of adoption is often the biggest obstacle, and we hope this initiative can help overcome this.

In this context the Brazilian Trial Reservoir proposes a pool of funds for funding to be made available to commercial-stage technology companies, enabling them to carry out pilot projects for technology adoption in Brazilian water utilities. (in layout here there is a sentence break) If the trial is successful and the technology has secured commercial contracts with end-users, the loan with interest will be repaid to Isle Utilities. If the trial is unsuccessful, despite everyone's best efforts, the funding will not have to be repaid, providing a risk-free opportunity for technology companies wishing to participate in pilot trials.

This feature makes Trial Reservoir a unique mechanism to facilitate the market entry of innovative technologies in Brazil, at a special time when Isle Utilities is already working with important players in the sector and to which it intends to bring more value and support in their innovation and technology adoption processes.

Trial Reservoir Brazil is open to technology providers with interest and capacity to serve the Brazilian market. The only requirements are that the technology has an interest to actively participate in projects with the Brazilian water industry and that it is a technology ready to be implemented on a commercial scale with a water utility.

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