portrait
Tim Harper
CEO and Founder

You might have a wonderful patent that's worth billions but unless you can turn that into a product that meets the needs of customers, at an economic price point that they're happy with, then all you've got is an interesting bit of science.

G2O Water Technologies Ltd has exclusive worldwide rights to a graphene-based water treatment technology. G2O applies a graphene coating to membranes manufactured by third-parties which dramatically increases the performance of the membrane and also allows membranes to be applied in new applications and end-markets where fouling currently prevents their use.

Tim Harper, CEO of G2O Water Technologies shares how his company is trying to solve the global water crisis 


What does your role involve? 


 

"I'm the CEO and Founder, so my job is to identify the technology, check if it was or could be protected and then to build a company around it. We started about two years ago and founded the company just over a year ago.

"I’m a serial entrepreneur and I’ve been working in nanomaterials for quite a long time. I've been looking at water applications for a long time as well, but the problem is finding out whether the application actually works and if it is scalable and cost effective."

 


What challenges have you noticed or come up against in your industry? 


 

"It is really a question of being able to balance getting a product to market, whilst still developing technologies. One of the problems we always find with engineers and scientists is they always want to make something perfect. From a commercial perspective you must try to understand from your customers; what is good enough to address and focus on.

"The big challenge is moving from the innovation space to the applications. Our guys might come up with something, but the real question is what does it really mean for the end-user? An end-user always has two questions with a technology, how much is it going to cost me and how much is it going to save me?

"We've got two major partners, the first is the University of Leeds, where we do a lot of water testing in the public-health labs, so we can start to understand what the performance of our membrane actually means to people who will be using it in the water industry.

"The other is CPI, and what they're doing for us is ensuring the the technology is transferred. The big problem is that something might work in a university, but will it actually work in an industrial environment.

They take the academic work and transfer it to an industrial scale lab where we can understand whether we have a scalable, repeatable process.

"You might have a wonderful patent that's worth billions but unless you can turn that into a product that meets the needs of customers, at an economic price point that they're happy with, then all you've got is an interesting bit of science."

 


How does PatSnap fit into your work?


 

"Our business is based on licencing technology from a university. We want to understand what others have been doing in this space, in case there's other interesting things, and we want to see if there's any other IP that maybe someone hasn't mentioned to us that we think might be relevant. 

"It's also very good for understanding the competition, so from looking at PatSnap, we know that one of our patents has been granted in the US, whereas one of the competing academic institutions has had it refused three times.

"With one particular bit of IP we had a look, realized there was virtually nothing out there which meant that I could then go along to our IP attorneys, with that information, and tell them to draft a very broad patent; meaning we had a higher chance of getting a large number of broad claims granted.

"Rather than trying to formulate a query to send to a patent lawyers firm, and wait to get some results back, we can just have a very quick look and see what's going on. As we can do the searching ourselves, rather than having to get someone else, I would say PatSnap has probably saved us between £10,000- £20,000 a year.

"PatSnap brings it all together in one place, and that's why I was quite interested, because I was looking for a tool that would allow me to be in more control of what we were doing.

"And of course the fact that we link it to Japanese, Chinese and Korean databases also helps a lot as well. Our IP tends to be international, so understanding whats going in in China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan is quite useful for us."

 


Are there personal drivers behind what you’re doing? Why this is so important to you?


 

"My background is in nanotechnology, nanomaterials and water. I organized a conference in Amsterdam in 2004, called Nanowater. The idea was that although it seemed to be obvious, most of the stuff we were trying to take out of water was nanoscale, and we could probably find some nanotechnology based solutions for it. The problem was, a lot of them either weren't scalable, weren't cost effective or they immediately failed. So I've been really looking for a water technology for over a decade, I must have been through over 100 different technologies.

"Water is a major issue globally and I've always had the idea that somewhere, there must be a technology that can reduce the cost of water. By doing that we can reduce the cost for consumers which is critical given that huge numbers of people around the world die from preventable water borne diseases just because it's too expensive.

"So there’s really two main drivers. The first is passion for the technology, and the second is the application and the belief that the technology can find a solution to what is one of the world’s biggest problems. Success for G20 means having a really major impact on provision of clean water whether that's removing contaminants from industrial water or lowering the cost of drinking water."