Eco-innovation provides 3.5 million jobs across Europe, most of them in SMEs (small and medium sized businesses) which can apply for EU financing. This can help with the essential task of transforming an eco-innovative project into a real offer on the marketplace.
Bamboo as a water treatment system was a creative idea for treating polluted water which was dreamed up by a small French company specialising in ecological water treatment plants. Bamboo filters water without creating bad smells or mud. The problem was, it wasn’t adapted for industrial use – until Veronique Arfi, the company’s deputy CEO realised that there were European grants for eco-innovation.
Veronique Arfi explained: “We used this as an opportunity to gain access to the market, and to industrialise our process, and to get a shop window for future clients.”
With three other SMEs, Veronique submitted her idea for “Briter Water” to the EU’s Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP), which agreed to co-finance half of the 700,000 euros needed to set up a pilot bamboo project. This was installed on the site of a large company which was also very involved in the projet.
Romain Sadak, the Safety and Environmental Coordinator for Refresco France, said: “We put around 300,000 euros into the project, so that it wouldn’t only be a pilot project but a project which later on, could be a real industrial business, which is exactly what interests us.”
Since the launch in 2009, Veronique has set up to bamboo plantations on two industrial sites in France, and is now developing her business abroad.
Veronique Arfi said: “It’s this Briter Water shop window which allows us to look for international partners in our own time. And to say: “this is our know-how, this is our profession, this is what we can export today” when we are looking for partners for construction, and studies outside France.”
Her company is beginning to form subsidiaries in the form of joint ventures on the Island of Reunion and Maurice. Serious projects are also being studied in Israël.
She said: “For us the key to success in the first place was having sollid partnerships with other SMEs but also our industrial partnership. It was having EU financing that really allowed us to set our project up on an industrial scale. And of course, EU support, and the EU label gave us credibility and that means we can now move into the international market.”