By Hussain Al Mahmoudi, CEO of Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation (SRTI) Park
Environmental experts have been warning repeatedly that the world’s water crisis is a ticking time bomb that requires immediate action to avert disastrous impact to human lives and resources. The ever-increasing demand due to growing population and inefficient consumption of water have led to scarcity and declining quality of water for many years and studies have shown demand for water will increase by 55 per cent by 2050 from 2015 levels. These problems put massive pressure on natural resources, including food and energy, which also largely relies on water for production.
In the Middle East, water security has always been on top of the agenda by most countries, understanding that it is a precious commodity in a largely arid region. The developments in water technology have evolved over the decades, from hydroelectricity to desalination. The most extensive water desalination plant and the world’s largest is in Jebel Ali in UAE, producing 300 million cubic meters of water per year. However, converting saline water into fresh water is costly and has serious environmental impacts and water experts are looking at innovative technologies that promote water efficiency.
International organizations have emphasized the need for various stakeholders including the government, businesses and civil society to take a more proactive approach to address water problems. For instance, the United Nations-led Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has placed water and sanitation as among the top goals to be met by 2030 to focus on water harvesting, desalination, water efficiency, wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies. The UN suggests that strengthened cooperation and partnership among stakeholders are necessary to implement these goals.
The Sharjah RTI Park, an initiative of the American University of Sharjah Enterprises (AUSE), seeks to initiate engagement from the government, academe and private enterprises through a dedicated facility that focuses on research and innovation in water technology in support of the UN SDGs. It is building an innovation ecosystem that will pave the way for a sustainable management of research and innovation in this field, concentrating on purification and desalination, water recycling and waste water treatment, water monitoring and conservation, artificial rain making and aquaculture technologies, among others.
Market studies revealed that global water & wastewater treatment market will reach a market value of USD 674.72 billion by 2025. Advanced countries such as Singapore, United Kingdom, United States, and Greece invest heavily in water technologies, understanding that there will be greater demand in their areas in the future. Some of these investments produce the latest innovation such as solar-powered seawater desalination and new filtration systems using nanotechnology.
Sharjah RTI Park sees the compelling case for water technology to win the support of key stakeholders and increased awareness and continuous conversation among various sectors could help push for initiatives that address this very crucial aspect of sustainable development. The Park has been working with various entities to build the facility which will become one of the pillars for growth and development in the region and the world. It seeks to further promote an infrastructure facility that boosts technology solutions in line with the global development agenda while harnessing local capabilities and skills.
Water technology complements well with the Park’s other initiatives which include renewable energy, environmental technology, digitization, transport and logistics, and production, design and architecture. With water as a pressing global concern, the innovation hub is poised to bring significant contribution in developing and nurturing innovative ideas in an ideal ecosystem.
Sharjah RTI Park notes that while problems are interconnected, so are the solutions, further highlighting that its focus on an integrated approach to innovation will have a better chance at creating technologies that work for all.