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PhD's ground-breaking sanitation tech scoops Santander award

Tom Fudge 920x540
Tom runs WASE with with Llyr Williams and William Gambier, both of whom are Brunel Civil Engineering graduates.

A PhD researcher from Brunel University London has claimed the prestigious Santander University Entrepreneurship Award for his ground-breaking modular wastewater treatment system.

Brunel’s Tom Fudge fought off stiff competition to collect the £25,000 award on behalf of his company WASE, whose treatment cells could soon be producing thousands of litres of clean water a day for some of the world’s poorest communities.

“We couldn’t believe it when they called out our name,” said Tom, who graduated with a MSc in Sustainability, Entrepreneurship & Design at Brunel before moving on to his PhD.

“Every business pitching had such a great story as to why they started their business – it was inspiring to be a part of it. But winning the Santander Entrepreneurship Award is a fantastic achievement for the team as they have put in such hard work over the last six months to get us to this point. I can’t wait to see where we are in the next six months with the extra funding and traction that we have got from the last two weeks.”

Globally here are around the 2.3bn people with inadequate sanitation – a situation Tom says is losing the economy £169bn a year and causing untold suffering to millions.

WASE’s solution is a modular onsite treatment system which converts wastewater into clean water for irrigation use, recovers nutrients for fertilisers and generates biogas for cooking and electricity. Each cell can treat 1000 litres of wastewater a day and provides 1.7 times the energy and is ten times faster than technologies such as anaerobic digestion. 

The latest win comes hot on the heels of other award success for Tom, with Wase also collecting the £10,000 first prize at the NACUE’s Varsity Pitch Competition earlier in November, the Shell Smarter Future award in January 2018 and the UK Energy Innovation Award in 2017.

“I think two aspects that helped us win the Santander award and NACUE was our ability to tell the story of why our solution is needed to tackle the sanitation crisis,” said Tom.

“With our approach, we are trying to change sanitation from a model that is an economic drain, to one that creates opportunities through environmental impact locally and global, financial savings and revenue opportunities from biogas and fertiliser sales.

“We also had a real emphasis on social aspects, from community-led design and integration, to breaking down some of the barriers that poor sanitation builds – like access to education for girls who often drop out of school when they come onto their menstrual cycle.”

Buoyed by their success, Wase now plan to expand their research and development and will soon be installing a new pilot system in Italy. Further systems are then planned for Kenya and Benin, where fuel shortages currently require children to take firewood to school so they can get a cooked meal for lunch.

“Our system can replace this need for firewood with the biogas that we generate,” said Tom.

For further information on Wase, please visit wase-tech.com

For further information on MSc in Sustainability, Entrepreneurship & Design please visit the course page.

Reported by:

Tim Pilgrim, Media Relations
+44 (0)1895 268965
tim.pilgrim@brunel.ac.uk