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GE puts spotlight on seawater desalination


Global innovation challenge hopes to change history

April 17, 2014 2:53 by

GE ecomagination and Saudi based Aramco Entrepreneurship are offering $200,000 for the most innovative ideas for the most efficient and sustainable desalination of seawater. The Global Innovation Challenge was officially launched in Dubai on Tuesday, April 15. Four winners will be chosen, each receiving $50,000 along with future investments and commercialisation of their idea.

According to Nabiel Al-Khowaiter, director of Saudi Aramco, the top theme in research at the moment is desalination. “It’s probably the most strategic and most critical issue facing not only the region but the whole world,” he says.

“We have to a find ways of desalinating seawater that reduces energy, improves the current process, or uses renewable energy. Ultimately, in the long term, we have to make this practically free and if we are able to do that, we will change history.”

Commenting on the global challenge, he says: “We made this an open innovation because we don’t have a monopoly on knowledge. Somebody out there has some ideas that can be very interesting. We want to find these technologies and utilise them and hopefully change the future.”

This is the sixth ecomagination challenge hosted by GE, with the aim of accelerating the development of renewable energy solutions specifically with regard to seawater desalination. According to GE, there are many potential ways of desalinating water, but they are too expensive. The region currently spends 50 cents to $1 per cubic metre for seawater desalination.

The challenge is open to anyone from schools and SME’s to researchers and graduates, and entries are being accepted from people in all countries. Evaluations will be done in three months by a group of technical experts and judges from around the world. According to Al-Khowaiter, the main benefit for the winner is not just the prize money, but also the potential for investment.

GE’s innovation officer, Rania Rostom, highlights one of the previous open challenges, which had positive and practical results. Entitled the 3D advanced manufacturing challenge, the task was for a component for one of GE’s jet engines to be designed that was 80 per cent lighter; more than 700 submissions were received. The winner was from Indonesia and the component is now being implemented on GE’s jet engines.

No budget has been set for the Global Innovation Challenge, but with GE and Aramco sharing the cost, the total invested in the project may amount to millions, according to the partners.


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