Imagine H2O Names Winners of 2012 Water Innovation Prize

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Annual Competition Recognizes World’s Most Promising Water Startups

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Imagine H2O, a nonprofit organization that supports entrepreneurs to turn water challenges into business opportunities, today announced the winners of its third annual prize competition. Bilexys (Brisbane, Australia) won the Prize’s Pre-Revenue track while Nexus eWater (Canberra, Australia), and Tusaar, Inc. (Lafayette, Colorado) were named runners up. New Sky Energy (Boulder, Colorado) won the Prize’s Early Revenue track.

The winners were chosen from a competitive selection of finalists by Imagine H2O’s judging panel, a group of leading experts and investors in the water sector. Highlighting that business plan innovation is critical to the long-term success of water startups, the winners were selected based on their commercial viability and promise. This year’s prize attracted 50 startups led by serial entrepreneurs, experienced executives and campus engineering programs.

“This year’s Imagine H2O prize finalists represent an impressive and encouraging pool of interesting ideas from around the world. These early-stage companies view wastewater not as waste but as a resource to be economically mined for value such as upgraded water, energy, or products,” says Steven Kloos, Partner at True North Venture Partners and Imagine H2O judge. “Imagine H2O is an enabling innovation platform and I look forward to monitoring the progress of these companies.”

This year’s prize topic was wastewater, of which an estimated 90 percent goes untreated worldwide. Wastewater is typically defined as water that has been contaminated by human contact, whether residential sewage, agricultural runoff, or industrial pollutants. In order to re-use wastewater, multiple steps are required, including a variety of chemical and biological treatments and a significant amount of energy. The wastewater market is valued at $200 billion per year across the industrial, commercial and residential sectors worldwide. This year’s competition was geared to wastewater management, water reuse, treatment, resource recovery, and energy production.

“It’s exciting to see Imagine H2O’s ability to identify a global field of promising water startups,” explained John Taft, CEO, RBC Wealth Management U.S. “As Imagine H2O’s Founding Sponsor, we’re proud to be associated with this market-driven initiative and support entrepreneurs with innovative solutions to the global water challenge.”

About the Companies

Bilexys (Brisbane, Australia) is developing an alternative manufacturing platform for the production of chemicals and plastics. The Company’s process technologies involve bioelectrochemistry and the use of wastewater as the source of its raw materials. Traditionally, wastewater treatment has been viewed as an operating expense of an industrial complex. Bilexys approaches wastewater treatment as an opportunity to biologically convert the organics within wastewater into high-value chemical products (including sodium hydroxide and hydrogen peroxide). The chemicals produced by the Bilexys method reduce the need for our clients to purchase and bring in chemicals, providing significant environmental and economic benefit to its customers, with potential payback within two years. Bilexys, a spin off from the Advanced Water Management Centre at The University of Queensland, was formed and incubated by UniQuest - one of Australia’s leading technology commercialization companies. Bilexys has significant operational experience on industrial sites, culminating in the recent operation of a pilot plant at a pulp and paper company, producing food grade sodium hydroxide from their wastewater. Bilexys CEO, Eric Donsky, is a seasoned technology entrepreneur who is the former CEO of BioAmber and TearLab.

Tusaar, Inc. (Lafayette, Colorado) is commercializing a unique media based technology to remove contaminating heavy-metals from multi-chemical process and waste water. Using base technology licensed from the University of Colorado-Boulder, the team at Tusaar has developed a media that sequesters over 40 different metals from industrial waters and provides a solution to coal combustion fly ash pond management and related groundwater contamination, a serious problem for coal-fired power plants. Tusaar media also enables customers to separate toxic waste metals from other hazardous chemicals thereby simplifying disposal and management. Waste volume and related cost reduction of over 95% has been achieved at customer sites leading to payback in less than one year. The Tusaar team of five has over 75 years of relevant technology and industry experience. CEO & founder, Gautam Khanna, has business development experience at Dell, Whirlpool & Pentair, has served as CEO of Pentair Water India and been involved in the global water industry for over twelve years.

Nexus eWater (Canberra, Australia) harnesses the power of a home’s wastewater stream by converting gray water into near-potable water, while recycling the water’s energy for hot water heating. This decentralized solution allows homeowners to reduce water use and reduce their carbon footprint by internalizing water heating costs. The executive team includes the former CEO co-founder of ADS Water and the former VP of Perpetual Water.

New Sky Energy (Boulder, Colorado) employs a chemical process that combines CO2 and industrial wastewater to make usable CO2-negative solids. This process allows customers to profitably reduce CO2 emissions while manufacturing onsite the chemicals they use every day. New Sky’s CEO, Deane Little, is a PhD molecular biophysicist.

About Imagine H2O

Imagine H2O inspires and empowers people to solve water challenges and turn them into opportunities. We offer annual prize competitions for water innovation, including the 2009 Water Efficiency Prize, 2010 Water-Energy Nexus Prize and 2011 Wastewater Prize. In addition to cash prizes for the best ideas, Imagine H2O fosters an accelerator program to help competing entrepreneurs turn their plans into game-changing, real-world solutions. To learn more about Imagine H2O's global ecosystem for water innovation and connect with water innovators from around the world, please visit Also connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

  • Royal Bank of Canada and its subsidiaries operate under the master brand name RBC. RBC is one of North America’s leading diversified financial services companies and among the largest banks in the world, as measured by market capitalization. The company employs approximately 80,000 full- and part-time employees who serve more than 18 million personal, businesses, public sector and institutional clients through offices in Canada, the U.S. and 53 other countries. The RBC Blue Water Project is a 10-year, $50 million commitment to support organizations that are committed to stewarding the world’s water resources. For more information, please visit

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Scott Bryan
Imagine H2O
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Gil Jenkins
Ogilvy Public Relations
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