THE WATER HUB
Building a business case for the advancing water technology in South Africa through innovation in research, demonstration and training.
LEAD BOLD CHANGE
Advancing water technology requires support from ideation to the stage of readiness for commercialisation. With the focus on the Green Economy as a strategic lever for economic growth within the Western Cape, the Hub is strategically positioned to advance the introduction of technology into the southern African region. In this regard, the Hub aims to provide a platform to serve the interests of government, research, commercial and private sectors. I was appointed to create a business case for the Water Hub, below is the executive summary.
Create | Accelerate | Capacitate
The Water Hub is committed to ensuring that the business case for affordable healthy water builds a regenerative water economy: an economy that creates systemic wealth for ecosystems and people.
The Water Hub has three key objectives, each interconnected with one another to make systemic changes to the water sector in Africa.
- Create New Infrastructure Markets.
- Accelerate Businesses to Scale.
- Capacitate for Adoption.
New business looking to establish in Africa are likely to access the Water Hub via the second objective which focuses on accelerating both local and foreign products and services within the water, food and energy nexus. However, the three objectives work together to ensure their success. Without a market for their product or service, the scaling and adoption of their product or service will be slow and costly. Likewise if there are no skills and capacity available to fund, design and manage new products and services over the long term, businesses will stagnate or fail.
CREATE NEW INFRASTRUCTURE MARKETS
To achieve the first business objective, the Water Hub will facilitate the development of new ideas, establish forums to enable discussions, build an integrated decision making platform to test and develop new business case models to create new infrastructure markets that are able to scale and adopt new products and services. These new products and services will align with two overall goals: to create a regenerative water economy that provides affordable and accessible water.
The first step in achieving this, is to articulate the challenges facing the water, food and energy nexus from a systems perspective. If we don’t reexamine the way problems are formulated, we can never hope to find new solutions and stimulate new ideas. Every two years a conference will be held at the Franschhoek site to communicate new ideas that are emerging with the ability to radically transform systems. These will be in response to the challenges identified above. Big ideas for Big change. Based on the conference outcomes, we will develop strategic narratives about a possible future with the ability to create new markets.
Creating safe spaces where different stakeholders can engage is critical. This happens throughout all the business processes and activities. Maintaining a database of partners and a strong social media presence will support in building new partnerships and maintaining existing ones. Developing and profiling the Water Hub as a thought leader through key-notes delivered at conferences globally and high quality social media content will build global thought leadership.
A key part of the Water Hub is the development and use of a new GIS software solution that connects developers, innovators and technology providers with city stakeholder demand for collaborative, risk-informed investment and policy decision making; and to support infrastructure and technology design and procurement.
Fundamental to the revenue model of the Water Hub is the ability to attract funds to flow into the bankable projects and the business accelerator. The Water Hub will facilitate public-private partnerships for innovative solutions to financing the bankable project pipeline. An investment fund will be established to attract financing from impact investors, institutional investors and philanthropists, both locally and globally.
An expo centre will be developed and managed to create a space where the general public is exposed to new solutions and services. This is a key component of shifting mindsets by providing evidence for the efficiency or effectiveness of new products where people are able to test new products.
ACCELERATE BUSINESS TO SCALE
Accelerating the growth of a business is made possible through well thought-out strategy, a practical path of action, supported by good business systems and smart deal-making structures underpinned by a strong network of local support. Each business will participate in a multi-day facilitated thinking and relationship building process that will set their business on a course to success. For international businesses this process will seek to condense the many trips needed into one trip where they consolidate and clarify their thinking will appropriate local input and build both internal organisational relationships as well as external relationships that are necessary for their efficient setup.
The living labs will take two forms: one a number of physical demonstration sites and the second will focus on either virtual or physical presentations of products and services where a physical demonstration is not appropriate or desirable.
Customers always want to know if a technology or service will work for their local conditions. Providing a plug and play facility where products and services can be demonstrated and evidence gathered is critical to rapid business growth, and can be done in parallel to the planning and setup process.
The three components making up the Living Labs will be a demonstration area specific to each customers needs, a science lab and dedicated researchers.
The Water Hub will focus on providing evidence based information regarding products and services that go beyond the standard marketing data put forward by companies. The Water Hub will provide a stamp of accreditation to businesses that go through a process of demonstration and data collection to provide objective evidence and business cases for their products and services.
The final aspect of the accelerator will provide support in actualising the plan, removing obstacles and reducing risks as a business is built to scale growth.
CAPACITATE FOR ADOPTION
The ability for new products and services to be scaled and adopted relies on new skills, evidence and knowledge. This component of the Water Hub will provide capacity building to the full value chain needed for new products and service to be scaled and adopted.
One of the service offerings is a ‘hands on’ demonstration space where technology will be on display for trainers and students to test and interact with operational technology as part of the training process. Municipalities, engineers, tradesmen, operators and industry will be capacitated for adoption of new products and services through the training offering.
The Water Hub model itself will be replicable in other African cities, and will be developed into a training module to enable the success of other similar hubs.