with 🎙️ Steven De Laet, CEO & Founder of Inopsys
💧 Inopsys provides mobile & modular side stream on-site solutions for the chemical and pharmaceutical industry.
What we covered:
🔥 How many industrial wastewater streams still get incinerated nowadays (and how they sometimes make long routes before!)
💸 How the unsustainable solution isn’t even the cheapest one
🌱 How onsite treatment of industrial wastewater has welcome side-effects (and how CoVid helped to bring those in clear sight)
🧮 How Inopsys offers a one-to-one replacement to industrial wastewater incineration with its DBFOM approach
🍎 How everybody talks about entrepreneurship, sustainability, and circular economy but not everybody walks the talk
🍏 How in target industries, regulation is not the main driver anymore (and what it is instead)
🍎 How in further verticals, sustainability is still a competitive disadvantage
🍏 How Inopsys deals with inquiries and why they target the most challenging hazardous waste streams
🧮 How an agnostic approach to treatment technologies is the best way to treat the “industrial soup”
🟥 How focusing on the streams, anyone else desperately tries to avoid places you aside from the Water Industry’s red ocean
🏭 How Inopsys’ first reference went frontally against what they stated in their business plan!
🍏 Treatment modularity, operating in clusters, building trust to allow “someone in your kitchen,” finding early adopters… and much more!
🔥 … and of course, we concluded with the 𝙧𝙖𝙥𝙞𝙙 𝙛𝙞𝙧𝙚 𝙦𝙪𝙚𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨 🔥
Teaser: Industrial Wastewater Treatment
🔗 Have a look at Inopsys’s website
🔗 Come say hi to Steven on Linkedin
is on Linkedin ➡️
Infographic: Industrial Wastewater TreatmentSteven-De-Laet-InOpSys-Industrial-Wastewater-Treatment-
Quotes: Industrial Wastewater TreatmentQuotes-Steven-De-Laet-Inopsys-Industrial-Wastewater-Treatment
Table of contents
- What we covered:
- Teaser: Industrial Wastewater Treatment
- Infographic: Industrial Wastewater Treatment
- Quotes: Industrial Wastewater Treatment
- Full Transcript:
- Introducing: Steven De Laet – CEO of Inopsys
- Incineration is still the “natural” stream for industrial wastewater treatment
- How do you convince an Industrial player to change its Wastewater Management?
- Combining Technologies to treat industrial wastewater streams
- Business Model: What is Design, Build, Finance, Operate, Maintain (DBFOM)?
- Going for on-site industrial wastewater treatment is like accepting a cook in your own kitchen
- Next frontiers: Will we one day recover PFAS?
- Next Steps for Inopsys as a Company
- Zero, Minimum Liquid Discharge and Industrial Wastewater Treatment
- Outlook: where will Inopsys be in 10 Years?
- Rapid fire questions:
- Other Episodes:
These are computer-generated, so expect some typos 🙂
Antoine Walter: Hi, Steven, welcome to the show
Steven De Laet: and on time. Thank you for inviting me.
Antoine Walter: Well, we have a fascinating topic today. I have to say in about 70 episodes. I think we didn’t cover that one really in depth, we’ve been talking about zero liquid discharge. We’ve been discussing about trying to reuse a bit more discussing resource recovery, but scratching the surface in what I expect to do with you today is to go a bit more in depth, but that is for our Deep Dive.
A postcard from Mechelen
Right before let’s start with our good old traditions. And you’re sending a postcard today from Maryland. So what can you tell me about methadone, which I would ignore?
Steven De Laet: Making this a very beautiful city in Florida, in Belgium between Brussels and entropy. It’s an ancient city. Also meet a lot of middle age buildings, the people of burgundy lifter and so on.
So it’s a very nice city, very relocated within Belgium and also within the world. So we see Michelin as our headquarters location, and we hope to make macula even more famous by growing up.
Antoine Walter: So it is not only the place where you live, but it’s also the headquarter of in obsess. Yep. That’s true. Whole many people.
Are you in, in obsessed, working in Mechelen at this
Steven De Laet: moment, or a 17 part of the team is working in megillah and a small part of, and these also working in other facilities in anthrop in our R and D facility, laboratorium inviting.
Antoine Walter: Do you have a link with the famous university that cat?
Steven De Laet: Yes. Yes, we are on the official start of the live university.
We teamed up with professor Deville from the chemical department of and we found it together in 2015, Innopsis as a start-up of the K-12 university.
Antoine Walter: So I pronounce it pretty badly, but we’ve had several alumni from, I mean, it’s, it’s a water hotspot. So several of the alumni went in various water ventures and I had the pleasure to interview some of them.
Introducing: Steven De Laet – CEO of Inopsys
But right before diving into what Innopsis does, I was looking at your path. And, um, I could say that you have kind of the typical industrial path. It’s not like you’ve been going a bit into a utility word or doing some. Totally different or from what it sounds like you’re really a specialist of the industrial world.
So what brought you to that spot of the market?
Steven De Laet: Good question. To be honest, when I started my career, I never thought I would be active in, in water treatment or in, or in waste handling. So I started that a buyer as a process engineer with my chemical engineering backgrounds. Then I shifted to BSF another chemical, multinational, German.
Also again, process engineering and then production. And then at my age of 30, I thought, okay, is it, this
BASF would I really liked working in BASF, but I thought I have to make now this decision to do something else I’ve been working then in steel industry for our salon.
Paper and coating, uh, monthly then also in fast moving consumer goods. ABMF the brewery. And then at a certain moment, the circle was thrown. The gun was closed. And I entered again in the, in the road of the, of the chemical development and the chemical industry.
Antoine Walter: I would see red threats now that you explain all of that.
And the red thread sounds to me that all these industries have in common that they have. Challenging wastewater is, is it a coincidence that you ended up with Innopsis or is that red thread linked to.
Steven De Laet: I think yes. At a certain moment, I didn’t see perhaps the link, but yes, I’ve seen a lot of things in chemical industry.
Water was becoming more and more important, what the bench and other things and what the recuperation was already a hot topic in, in the beginnings of two thousands in a brewery, also a water consumption and pressurized air are the two major drivers in the production area to decrease the costs and to increase the sustainability.
But for me to really. Getting to understand that hazardous waste streams has a, this faced waters, even with three local sensations of toxic non-biodegradable persistent components were transported and incinerated. And this was something that I thought, okay, we’re living in 2010, 2012.
Steven De Laet’s Elevator Pitch to Inopsys
Antoine Walter: You mentioned decrease the cost and increase the sustainability. Is that your elevator pitch to, we know.
Steven De Laet: Yeah. At that moment, also 2010, 12 entrepreneurial things for very important.
So at that moment I thought, yeah, stop talking about it and do it yourself. So I. I was really convinced that circularity sustainability and entrepreneurship could be something that was very important and could also change and drive our economy and to prove this, I thought, yeah, let’s do it myself.
Let’s start a company. Let’s prove that you can do something with these topics and that you can make a difference.
How Inopsys helps to attain severl UN SDGs
Antoine Walter: Actually, you know, you’re touching on it right now. Sustainability and circular economy. Ambitious targets and probably really goals for, for an industry. But on the other end, they also are maybe sometimes buzzwords, you know, every single company nowadays is saying they are sustainable.
The full question is to which extent. Into that in the dip dive, but just right before, you know, usually when I’m preparing for this kind of interviews, I’m watching a bit of what’s Sweden on the website of the company. And most of the time it’s written, you know, we do these and that too, as did you six.
And I’m not underplaying that if you’re really having an impact and this digital six is already something enormous and you might be proud of it, but you are going the extra mile because you have six different sustainable development goals on your website, where you explain how you are supporting. And leading the charge there.
So how do you measure your impact on all of. Good
Steven De Laet: question. Yes. I think we, from the beginning, when we found that the company, it was our, or Amora goal to impact several of the sustainable development goals and not just pick one out, but two to create a company that would be active in the different fields.
How do you measure it? That’s a good question. I think we do a lot of things. For example, if you look at wastewater treatment, we go quite specific into eco toxicology. For example, if you talk about your two for every project, we do, we do a footprint CO2 footprint calculation. So we tried to benchmark with existing solution, which improvement we bring to the customer in CO2 footprint decrease.
And as a small company, it’s not so. To measure everything and to monitor everything, we don’t have big teams or a lot of money also to hire consultants to do this. So this is a still work in progress, but it’s a good question. And it’s definitely very important and we are focusing on that on how can we, how can we do the measurement?
How can we the calculation and how can we prove that we’re doing the right.
Incineration is still the “natural” stream for industrial wastewater treatment
Antoine Walter: Okay. I’ll take CO2 footprint and I take eco toxicology and I put them in the fridge. Cause I’m coming back to those questions when we would discuss one of your real project, because I like to have to follow up on both of those.
But before to get a bit of context, you mentioned that you were shocked to see that incineration is still the way to treat difficult streams in some particular industries, which streams do we send to incineration and which of them do intend to replace?
Steven De Laet: Shocked. Yes, but also disappointed. And how to say it, thinking on.
Why does nobody questioned this. We have been doing this since the years 80, and again, at that moment, it was the right approach. The alternative was discharging toxic streams. And what kind of streams are we talking here? I come to your, your question and the answer. Yeah, streams containing toxic organics, pesticides, herbicides in mind, these components, uh, streams containing heavy metals, uh, streams containing active pharmaceutical ingredients coming from cleaning in place in, in, in pharmaceutical production themes with the high Eric’s, uh, concentration and so on.
Another example is for bringing water waste streams from Ireland, via truck and boats to Antwerpen to get it incinerated.
And that in times where we say, okay, traffic jams, CO2 transportation, circular economy. See these kind of cases, and you don’t think this is not what you have to do. It’s all about creating the paradigm shift, questioning things. But of course,
Yes. These streams are hazardous. Yes. They contain toxic components. Yes. Transport to incineration is a solution, but yes, there are at this moment also technology. Solutions to compensate it and to provide an alternative. And this is what we want to do as a company show to those customers, to those governments that you can do something else, and it can be also economic, fairly feasible.
How to convince Industrial Players that others options exist to handle their wastewater?
Antoine Walter: But no, if I’m trying to be the devil’s advocate, if I’m an industrial player, nowadays, what I do is I take my stream, which is much better. As you said that in the eighties, I put it in a truck and it got incinerated. It calls will be sent to me. At the end of the day, I don’t really care because to me I’m paying for something and my problem is sorted.
So what is your best argument and best foot in the door to convince me as an industrial payer, that there’s a bit of.
Steven De Laet: To be honest and it’s a little bit provocative, but sometimes I start my presentation with nobody is paying for sustainability and then people look fairly shocked around the table. And then I see, but also look at your situation at home.
If you can have something that is cheaper, we will do. And we all talk about sustainability, but nobody also at home is implementing all sustainable solutions because they are quite expensive.
Most of the cases we start with the business case, what do I see with multinational companies, pharmaceutical and even chemical companies once we’re in. And we have proven that there is an alternative, the discussion about cost decrease facing. And they come back with other challenging streams or other problems, and the discussion is more okay.
Sustainability is a winning argument for industrial players
If it’s at the same price level as what we were now in transport transportation. Willing to consider your solution. What I saw the last five years is that
The shareholders, the market is the. This. So you see a lot of these KPIs popping up in insight management and even in operations management or objectives to do something.
Resource Recovery is a Business Opportunity
The paradigm shift is coming and now it is the time to implement these kinds of concepts. And what you see is that they’re becoming more and more interesting also from a financial point.
Antoine Walter: there’s a lot to unpack in what you just said. Let me just restart. From what you said at the beginning with this economy aspect of things you don’t want that microphone. I was discussing with Claudia Winkler and Alice Schmidt who wrote a book called, um, the sustainability puzzle.
And in their book, they explain how sustainability or sustainable development, which we know is this triple bottom. We know it as the triple bottom, but in most of the cases, it’s a Mickey mouse thinking you have the big head of the , which is the economic part. And then you have the years of the , which is the.
And the social aspect. So that means that even though our minds are moving and shifting, it’s still quite entrenched at the first argument has to be economical. My question there is, you mentioned the shift of paradigm is arriving and there are lots of external drivers, which push that, but can it happen?
What is the role of regulation on shifts in industrial wastewater treatment?
With the invisible hand of markets or does it need at some point regulations to come into.
Steven De Laet: The company is in chemical industry and pharmaceutical industry. I think that:
Most of them, the ones that I know that the big ones in Western Europe, they’re all compliant with environmental regulation.
But for example, if you talk about the topic of buy pharmaceuticals in environments still, if they are compliant, they know that even with the very well functioning restaurateur treatments, there are still emitting in the affluent very low concentrations of pharmacists. Compliant, according to law, but they know that Europe and law will focus on this and you’ll change.
And we’ll come up with lower discharge concentrations, be neck and lower predicted, no effect concentration. So these companies are aware and they say, okay, to comment in a few years. And the fact that we know that. Or are they causing this problem? We want to do something. So this is a shift that I see within these industries.
Then you, of course, if other industries, textile, uh, hospital-based waters and so on. Yeah. There is the biggest challenge. They’re a very, you know, very competitive environment.
So I understand that and their regulation will have to push. Because you have to create a level playing field for all competitors in that market, textile, hospitals, thank cleaning and so on. So you have different speeds and different focus points depending on the type of industry.
How do you convince an Industrial player to change its Wastewater Management?
Antoine Walter: So there’s this problem, which is solved in a certain way today, which might not be sustainable in the future.
And I’m seeing this industrial payer, and now you convince me that I have to do things differently. What is your offer to do things.
Steven De Laet: Most of the cases I ask the, the possible customer or an existing customer,
And they are quite reluctant to do this because I say I, but these are the difficult ones. And we looked already at these ones and even universities did some studies on it. Only approach the best solution is transport and incineration. And then I see challenges. And then at the end we get samples, waste water samples, and we start in our R and D department.
Then we do some screenings and some testing based upon no more than 10 years of experience out of university. And also, uh, during the time that we found in Innopsis and then in most of the cases to find the solution technical chemical wise, but also the business case seems to be quite interesting. Yeah, transport and incineration is an increasing costs.
We talk about 2, 3, 4 to 800 euros per ton, and that companies pay to get rid of their waste water or water solvent mixtures. And to end up in transport to incineration. It’s in the Rachael capacities full, no new incinerators are built. So, you know, the prices will go up and then also their regulation really are put on taxes on this to create more sustainability.
How much does it cost to handle industrial wastewater?
Antoine Walter: You mentioned tons because we’re talking of a waste, but if we translate that into cubic meters, because that’s the end of these it’s water. So just to underline what you just said, which is impressive, 200 to 800 Euro per cubic meter of wastewater to treat, which I guess gives you some room to find the treatment.
So you’re bringing the symbol to the lab and then you find a treatment train, but on the, which technologies are you drawing? Is it like you, you look at the full market and then you pick and choose, or do you have appropriate services?
Steven De Laet: We have our own solutions, but you’re also part of a system integrator.
If you, if you see what kind of streams we tackle, um, just polishing, it’s not enough just doing this infection. Uh, just doing some activated carbon at the end. It’s not enough. We really get streams as we call it a little bit of a soup. If it comes out of a pharmaceutical production,
Unfortunately there’s not one technology. Able to treat this. We always screen the markets. You know, that technology is available and every technology has its benefits, but also there’s advantage there.
Just take membranes and memories are a fantastic technology, but one of the disadvantages folding. So if you’re remembering starts folding, yeah. Then, then it stops and you don’t have a solution. So we, as a company, we believe in a combination of technologies, technologies that we develop. Or that we, that we take out of the markets and also technologies that are provided by by partners.
For example, we really focused on advanced oxidation technology, quite known technology within a water treatment, biological water, treatments, and policy, but to be implemented at streams where nobody really thought about implementing this due to the complexity. And we combine this advanced oxidation technology with other technologies.
So in most of our solutions, it’s a three or four technology train solution that we implement, so they can squat. Most of the cases, it’s also ethics explosion proof. And to, to the fact that we also use, for example, solvents or recreate an eight X environment, or we are put into the eight X environment of the customer.
So it’s dangerous, it’s complex. And in that sense, we stepped a little bit out of the red ocean of the traditional waste water treatment companies. The two very, very fantastic things, but sometimes say, Innopsis, you’re quite stupid and you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s, it’s quite difficult what you’re doing.
And then we say, no, this is what you like it.
Combining Technologies to treat industrial wastewater streams
Antoine Walter: I was going to say, you know, I’ve been in that position of going to industrial customers, which have to treat difficult wastewaters but it wasn’t working for, especially as company. And as soon as we ticked one of the box, you mentioned like it can be attics.
It can be. Uh, complex train, limited footprint, all of this, if it only one, it would be a no-go and we say, okay, someone is going to do that. So I can figure that that places you in a special position in that market.
Steven De Laet: Yeah. And there are sometimes a discussion. Is it brave and visionary or is it just stupid, to be honest, there’s a thin line between both of them.
And the question is on which side of the line are you, but
There are a lot of good colleagues in the market that can do a lot of what we call more standard things. The wastewater treatment plants reverse osmosis, all those things. There are very good players in the market and if we needed to team up with them, We really want to focus on being disruptive and bringing something in the market that this an alternative again, for the transport and incineration.
And there is not a lot of other possibilities or companies working on this, despite the bigger ones that have their focus on this business model. So we bring technology, but also a business model to give the customers the possibility to step away from the only alternative that there was transport and incineration for this hazardous waste.
Business Model: What is Design, Build, Finance, Operate, Maintain (DBFOM)?
Antoine Walter: Actually business model was going to be my smooth transition. Thanks for helping me because usually that’s the next box, which you tick, which would be very difficult for another player because you invented a term. I had to write it down because honestly, I couldn’t just remember it. So it’s DB, F O M.
So design build finance, operate and maintain. How do you come up with.
Steven De Laet: We didn’t really invent it, but I think we are the ones, there are not a lot of companies using this because most of them use some of the letters we really believe in, in the, in the full Monte SOE, we design in research and development.
The solution we build it. Ourselves, but for a lot of things, we team up with specialized companies and they were quite lucky. They were situated in Flanders next to the Harbor of Antwerp, one of the second biggest chemical clusters in the world. So all the expertize knowledge infrastructure is here.
Presence to help us to build this kind of unit. The financing part is perhaps the most challenging parts is a small startup company. So we be financed. So it’s, we call it customer. Doesn’t have to invest in the solution.
So in that sense, if you’re competitive with the existing model of transport simulation, there’s an OPEX, but we have to pre-finance the full installation.
And we’re talking here about an investment of 600,000 to three, four, 5 million sometimes for the project. Um, though. Fully remote controls.
Minimum engagement from the industrial customer
Antoine Walter: Let me just go back to the finance. Is there a minimum engagement as a customer? How long do they have to countries?
Steven De Laet: Yeah, the engagement that you ask is a minimum volume per year.
And because if you talk with, uh, with possible customers, they talk about big volumes of waste streams. And if you make your business model on this. Predictions or estimates and the entity is not the case. Then our return on investment is gone. So we, we agree with the customer, a minimum volume that should be delivered.
And if it’s not delivered, okay, fine, then it’s, it will be charged. And we also try to focus on a certain time period, but they were quite flexible. And, and this is part of our business model. We believe in the mobile units. Y, first of all, we are the owner. We remain the owner and at the end of the contract, we take it back and we’ll use it, but it also gives the customer the possibility to say, okay, I’m I’m in a pharmaceutical environment or the development of a pharmaceutical compounds takes 15 years with all the approvals.
But the lifetime in production is sometimes two, three years because combat competition is also developing for these diseases alternative medicines. So after three years, it can be that the medicine is not produced anymore. If you don’t have the wastewater three anymore, and that we don’t need the unit anymore.
Um, and for them it’s difficult to have done. And the return on investment on an environmental project for us, it’s more easy. We say, okay, we have a contract for three years, you can prologue, but after two years, if it stops, we take back the unit and we’ll use the full unit, or we use the modules within the unit for the new unit, for another customer.
And this sense we create via this business model, a very interesting concept for these companies. And we try to take away all the doubt, the risks to go for this more circular, sustainable.
Antoine Walter: So, yeah, actually, I got you off in the middle of your explanation, but you were explaining the various steps of your DBFOM business model.
So design is something you do in house build is something you do with partners. You have this financing part, which is CapEx free, and you explain how all of that works. And you were about to explain how you operate.
Steven De Laet: So we like to do the operation ourselves. Installations that you built are quite complex.
Most of the customers also preferred as we do that. And of course it’s costly to have people doing the operation. So we focus on the remote control units. And we also focus on having engineers taking care of multiple units in a certain area or cluster. So this is why we like certain clusters in the roads where you have multiple chemical and pharmaceutical companies nearby where we can.
One engineer taking care of multiple units, fire, remote control, but really taking care so that the customer doesn’t have to put operational people on to this project we unburden. So it’s a, it’s a full service that we give in this.
Guarantees from Inopsys’ side
Antoine Walter: Does that mean that you have an engagement of no downtime or this kind of stuff?
Steven De Laet: Yes. 24 7. You’re working for production sites in chemical and pharmaceutical area and yeah, they don’t like to, uh, shut down the parts of the production or the full unit. So we really have to focus on reliability and also on, on quality. And we have in the contract stipulated many clauses to be sure that this is also taking care of.
Antoine Walter: And you said that you’re doing a lot of remote monitoring, how much of your plant can be automated and run by themselves?
Steven De Laet: All of them polos on can run by themselves. On top of that are also working in risky and dangerous environments. So also there, the necessary safety automation, measurements, and redundancy has to be implemented to be sure that you can do
Antoine Walter: this.
So that was what the all, and what about the. Yeah.
Steven De Laet: Also that’s we do everything. So we do a predictive maintenance. We do, um, troubleshooting. So everything is in our hands. So the customer, I always say
So the operation, the maintenance, the supply of chemicals, if needed the recovery of raw materials and the handling and the shipping, everything is in our hands. If the customer allows us to be.
Going for on-site industrial wastewater treatment is like accepting a cook in your own kitchen
Antoine Walter: So that means that as a customer, it’s really a one-to-one replacement of my incineration streams. I just pay for something.
I have the same level of guarantees and it’s more sustainable. And as you explained, it’s also cheaper. Sounds like a win-win -win
Steven De Laet: yeah, but it’s,
So in transport and inspiration, you philanthropic and it’s, it’s brought to another location and you get rid of it here. You have to. Our people, our units on your site, you have some interactions, you have some risks also, and you have, yeah, you need to trust. So it’s, it’s mainly for people in, in production and supply chain, a little bit of a paradigm shift, but once they see from the engineering parts to the full implementation, and then when we’re there, what we do, you have the trust is there in there?
They say, okay, Your engineering standards and your safety standards are even higher than ours. Then you’ll get really the recognition. But in the beginning you need to build up the trust with the customer and the site to be able to do what we do.
Finding your early adopters
Antoine Walter: You mentioned that you’re a startup, so I guess that’s at the beginning, it must be quite hard to get this, this trust.
So how do you breach this first wall of reluctance by saying, you know, when it’s an, a truck we’re good.
Steven De Laet: Like most of the startups, I think you need some luck. And, and we were lucky by finding some brave people within JASA pharmaceutic, our first customer part of Johnson and Johnson, uh, where we had many discussions in the beginning on the treatment of certain sites, streams, and then at a certain moment, To the point that you want to sign a contract and that you start with the implementation of what was for us, our first unit ever in the markets.
And then you need some reef people within those multinational companies that say, just do it. We can discuss any, we have some doubts, but let’s just do it. And we will see what comes out. And then with this success, you can go, can go to other companies and say, look, we already did it there. The customer is quite happy.
You can talk with them. It’s going well. So you need to. Two three successes to build up your credibility within a certain company, but also within a market. So that took us four or five years, to be honest, to come to that point, nobody wants to be the first one. So you need to find the one that is brave enough to do the first step.
And again, we were very lucky to be the answer Farmaceutica that is a quite innovative company focusing on sustainability that said, okay, let’s go. Let’s do this.
Building Resource Recovery Routes
Antoine Walter: We’ve been discussing the treatment so far and how you replace one-to-one the existing, but there’s a second stream in what you’re doing. It’s this circular aspect.
So which kind of resource do you recover? And if you have to rank them, I know it’s quite difficult to do. Maybe it doesn’t make sense. You’ll tell me, but if you have to rank them, what is the, the order of priority of those restored?
Steven De Laet: There’ll be honest from me, water, but we’re not yet there. And then we made the business plan for an opposites.
In 2013, 14,
Antoine Walter: why didn’t you want to make metal recovery?
Steven De Laet: Because here we’re quite experienced in organic toxic organics. And because we really believed in technologies like advanced oxidation to do the treatment of these hazardous streams and to make them biodegradable and digestible.
And then you start discussing with companies and. Tackle those issues. And you look at these kind of sites streams, but then suddenly a certain stream pops up. And can you also take a look at this stream? It’s, it’s really an important stream for us. It’s a big volume. It cost us a lot of money. We should do something and then you’ll say, okay, or we can take a look at it and we found a solution for it.
And then the customer says, Hey, I want this. And at that moment it became a priority. So we implemented this solution. It has not been a parenting for five years for the successfully and therefore. The first focus was to take out the metal it’s in this case, it’s ink, it’s a heavy metal. And so you don’t want to discharge us.
I know why, because I tried it at home when I was a young boy. I had some, um, L gay in my, uh, in my aquarium and, uh, I want to get rid of them. And I read in a book that’s a little bit of zinc oxide could help. And I was quite impatient. So I thought I do a little bit more than okay. To work then despite the fishermen.
So I know it’s a toxic. So w we, we developed a solution to take the metal out and then the customer says, okay, that’s good. That’s good. You don’t have to go to transport to insulation, environmental water. Ah, but it would be also nice to recuperate the material, how, okay. So then we teamed up with, uh, with a company like Neustar and we said, Hey guys, um, we can provide you with zinc, zinc producer.
So it seems quite simple there everybody wants to do circular economy. Are you in? I have you’re in how much are you going to bring? I said too, around. And they’re done and they know a year. And then they said to me, do you know how much raw material we convert every year? Millions of tons. And you want us to take in a hundred ton a year?
I said, yes, please. And it was a difficult discussion, but also there again at a certain moment, some brief people there said, okay, we also want to focus on circularity. And if you don’t start small, we never see. So let’s do it. So we created the full solution where we take out the heavy metal. The voltage is now not toxic anymore and can be discharged or reuse.
So it’s out of transport and incineration and the Roma deal one on one, we even did the re-trigger station and we became part of a zinc producing consortium. Like you have to doing chemical industry is around material for another company. And this was for us and for the customer. Really the ticket to say, look, we can step away from a linear destruction process.
With the same stream into full circle process and even creating value, decrease of costs, invest tending and the recuperating around material like sink. And then after that we did palladium and of course, palladium is even more interesting because at a certain moment, it had to value higher than gold is 70, 80,000 euros a kilogram.
So even if you have PPMS of palladium in a, in a side stream, in a waste water, And you can take it out for 95%. You create a lot of value. And then it’s a no brainer decrease of waste handling costs and getting back and a substantial amount in kilograms and in euros of raw material that otherwise have as to come from Russia out of mining.
So these were the first examples that we implemented with success, customer sets and also new companies look at and say, okay, um, it seems to be.
Next frontiers: Will we one day recover PFAS?
Antoine Walter: I was discussing on that microphone with Henry Hagemann about his technology to remove PFAS. And he was saying that to him, the next frontier would be to recover a PFAS.
Is it something you’re looking at?
Steven De Laet: I’m glad that you mentioned PFS because here in Florida in Belgium have some issues with differs. I think a lot of countries have the issue, but in, in front of us, it’s really, um, a hot topic due to certain circumstances. And then some, some, uh, discharge problems we had.
We’re even looking with some of our customers to recuperate active pharmaceutical ingredients. Why? Because they have a value definitely in development of pharmaceuticals. The first grams and kilograms are very, very expensive. They get lost in different steps. Production of the, of the scaling up and in the cleaning in place.
Yes. You could also consider it recuperating PFS, but areas, to be honest, if you’re talking about beef, we’re talking about 6,000 different chemical structures. So what we see because we also focus very hard in our development on all kinds of micro pollutants. APIs is already developed there. We can do a lot.
So we do specific API removals. Mixtures of API removal. Then we start focusing on endocrine disrupting chemical compounds. And of course, a type of endocrine disrupting chemical compounds is the beef us. But there you have a mixture of more than 6,000. And what we see in groundwater and in industrial water is you get a mixture of multiple pieces compounds.
You have the long chain and the see four and longer organic compounds and you have the short chain. First challenge. I think for the coming 10 years is purifying soil, water, and industrial streams and taking out the pieces and avoiding it, that it gets into the environment and also into the human body.
I see. Quite foster, a purification that it could palliation of pharmaceutical sets, certain moments, but that you will see then again, the problem of acceptance approval and so on. And I think in the future, also the reputation and the use of certain beef compounds could be considered, but the first challenge will be taking them out because the existing technologies take out parts of the PFS, not the short chain and shift the problem.
So if you do ground remediation, ground cleaning, You clean the ground with water, but what do you do with the water now we use activated carbon. There’s also there. You, you don’t capture all the pieces that is in the water and the water is discharged into the surface water. And so real, a little bit shifting the problem from one side to the other.
It differs. And what you’re doing is focusing on. Permanent solution. Whereas take out all the pieces in the short term, you do destruction by incineration of a small amount and on the long-term you do recuperation or Institute destruction.
Next Steps for Inopsys as a Company
Antoine Walter: Is it part of your term of long-term planning to be expanding outside of the industrial world, or you find your sweet spot and that’s there and you will stay.
Steven De Laet: I think a lot of the things that we implement and a lot of the challenges we see with pharmaceuticals, toxic organics, heavy metals, and so on. You also see in municipal wastewater treatment, that was the reason why I was asking. Yeah. I think everybody knows that that’s a wastewater treatment is one of the best technologies you can, you can have, but that
All of a sudden, micropolitan said, you, you reach a maximum maturity bacterial based technology. You can boost it with some oxygen or ozone, but at the end, the affluent will never be clean, clean, clean. So I think what we do, I will say we were a little bit in the formula one we’re implementing high ends on a niche scale, certain technologies and solutions, but this can be used municipal.
And perhaps in the longer term at home in a kind of decentral at home wastewater treatment or a corporation instead of. I like the
Antoine Walter: analogy, actually, it makes, makes with a lot of sense. We mentioned the heavy metals, which you intended not to recover in, which ended up being the first one we’ve discussed PFAS.
And you said that you’re a specialty at the beginning, was this organics and taking out the organics out of the water, always that today. And what do you do about that? And my question in the question is that that might be an opportunity for an energy stream. Is it also something you look at.
Well, I’m thinking of, you know, if you’re going to food and beverage with, um, with highly sugar water, high strength, water, which are hard to treat, but on the other end, which are full of bod Cod, which you might be transforming at some point into biomass and bioenergy is it’s a part of the real resource recovery circuit, which you’re looking at, or is it maybe too easy for a specialized company?
Steven De Laet: not. Um, I think what we try to do is link to what you mentioned with the Cod. What we often see is that we get side streams or the waste water streams with a high, uh, Cod. The problem is not the Cod as such. The Cod can be treated and reduced in a biological waste water treatment plant. The problem is that the small amount of the low concentration of the toxic organics.
What are the non-biodegradable parts or the persistent ones that just go through like hormonal components. They don’t kill the bacteria, but they just go through the biological wastewater treatment plant. So what we try to do in our solutions is to decrease the concentration of the problem causing components, but not to decrease.
What you see with other technologies, for example, electronic sedation, you can do, you know, the curious, everything you decrease the total Cod, and hopefully you also decrease the concentration of the problem causing components. But from my point of view, you consume a lot of. To do something that you don’t have to do, because if the water is treated properly, the problem causing components are out in the Cod, still high, the municipal or the industrial waste water treatment that is most of the cases there can do his job and also needs this as a kind of feat.
Otherwise they have to add sugars or alcohols to keep the thing alive. So what we try to do is to be very selective in the removal and not. The total demineralization, because it consumes a lot of energy. And at the end you’re doing a kind of incineration, but then in the water, and this is what to try to,
Zero, Minimum Liquid Discharge and Industrial Wastewater Treatment
Antoine Walter: it’s a discussion where we had, so sometimes on that microphone between zero liquid discharge, minimum liquid discharge, and finding them the points were up to which it is, it makes sense to treat and upon which it makes sense to pass them to the next one and to the traditional plan.
So, yeah, that makes it.
Steven De Laet: That I think the opinion is depending on who you’re talking with or to some people have developed certain technology and I understand they want to sell it, but I think the proper approach is the combination of the technologies. So you can say, okay, my technology is better than biological respiratory.
But no, it’s it’s, it should be part of the train. So there is not one technology solving this and at the end you’re doing again, incineration or in an incinerator or underwater via electronic sedation or plasma, but then you’re destroying. So we believe in existing technologies and new things needed, but in the combination and bringing all those technologies together, like a relative Middleby say, or an , depending on the language, make them work together and use the benefits and the advantages of each technology and the train will solve.
So there’s not one technology solving the issue, unfortunately, and I don’t see it coming also, or it consumes a lot of energy or it needs a lot of CapEx. Yeah. And this is not.
Approaching the Industrial Market as a System Integrator
Antoine Walter: It’s the good old saying. If you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And then you’re trying to use your technology for everything.
The fact that you were on this system integrator level, it gives you the magnitude to play a bit around and to find the best team. So I guess that you’re agnostic for the extent, the last question for me in that deep dive about Innopsis, how global are you doing?
Steven De Laet: Uh, we’re not so global as we want it to be, but it’s part of the plan.
So we started in the main that looks with some implementations. We are now focusing more and more on Switzerland. For example, we open our office in Basel, uh, focusing on Ireland. Um, Yes, we are forming the farmer and the chemical companies in Britain and Western Europe. And it goes, uh, indeed from Ireland over the bin of looks to, uh, Germany, Switzerland, and then also the Nordics.
So this is the area we want to be active. Therefore also the participation of allocator in our shareholder structure last year is also a very important, first of all, They bring the access to the industrial gases that we need. For example, in advanced oxidation, they also bring us engineering expertize in the development of these solutions.
And of course they have already local teams in many countries, and this can help us to boost also our activities there by teaming up with them, with their existing people and officers in, in this.
Over the Fence & Industrial Water as a Service
Antoine Walter: They might bring some scars as well. When it started working in the water industry, I was working for a company which used to be hopefully owned by early.
And it can, was bringing this concept of industrial waste water treatment, somehow as a service, they were sending it over the fence. So they were bringing some equipment on site and they were selling the, the treatment material as a service. So they were not treating the water. But then, and when I started there, they had a legacy of those plants, but the other 50% of the shareholder was also Suez.
And that was competing philosophies inside the company. Like if you are really schizophrenia. So I have to say those splints. I ended up well, but probably if you’re into a fully similar business approach where you’re saying I’m doing DBS for M and a treatment as a service, then it makes much more sense because that’s sort of aligned with the business model of a gas provider.
Steven De Laet: sense. And we are the owner and we decide who we team up with. Yeah, they’re a supplier for us. So in that sense, we decided on the technology, the approach for every project. And of course, if we need an industrial gas, they are our preferred suppliers. So in that sense, they don’t influence a lot the decisions and they also don’t make things more complicated than it should be.
So in that sense, it’s a good, it’s a good manage. I would say,
Outlook: where will Inopsys be in 10 Years?
Antoine Walter: what is your outlook for in obsessed? You should look in my crystal ball and you’re looking at Innopsis in five years or in 10 years. What do you want to do?
Steven De Laet: Ah, good question. Um, we would like to be a very important partner for the top 20 pharma and chemical companies, at least in Western Europe, but also dairy.
We already see that companies that are quite happy with our service. They also want to. The mafia does in other areas of the world. So they, they also say about, we have the same kind of production unit in the states or in Asia. Can you also do it there? So, first of all, focus on Western Europe and the major chemical pharmaceutical producers, and then the north Americas and perhaps Asia, but Asia will be the, I assume the last region that we will take off.
So the first five years, Europe, and a little bit of, of the U S Canada, and that’s already something, if he could, uh, achieve.
Antoine Walter: You say very good partner. Do you have a metrics for that?
Steven De Laet: That was a good question. Um, fairly good question. I always believed in, in my career and problem is if you talk with all those people, they all say, yeah, but at the end it also takes some courage and trust to come to a win-win.
So I think a good partner is somebody that. Together with, to really wants to achieve a win-win from both sides. And sometimes as difficult to find,
Can the Carbon Agenda influence Industrial Wastewater management?
Antoine Walter: I said it was my last question. I lied. I have one more. What about the carbon agenda? Is it something which at some point. Is coming into your discussions, because if you were taking you as trims, putting it in a truck and sending it for incineration, it has an impact.
If you’re able to do everything on premise and having a circular loop and reusing and recovering resources, I would imagine that you are close to zero. You probably still have energy that you put in your plants, but which you might be compensating with. The resources that you’re recovering is it’s part of what you do.
Steven De Laet: In Germany, they would say yang. Now, I would say yes, why it was not the first point we focused on five, six years ago. Again, we focused on having an economical reality. That was more interesting than the competition, but at the end. And that’s why we want to focus now more and more on the calculation for every project to CO2 footprint calculation.
It perhaps will be the most important KPI, the cost reduction or the eco toxicology perhaps is important. But I think a lot of companies are now struggling with how can we decrease 50% of our CO2 footprint? And of course they, they, they focus on their own production, their own supply chain, but that in a certain moment, they, they need their suppliers or they need partners to help them.
So I think the. The careers that we can create with every other projects could be perhaps the most important KPI to decide on and think this will evolve quite quickly. The coming two, three years.
Antoine Walter: Well, it sounds like a prediction I would like to see coming true. So I think that makes perfect conclusion for this deep dive.
Thanks a lot, Stephen. It was a really, really, really interesting as an understatement. I propose it to switch to the rapid fire questions.
Rapid fire questions:
Antoine Walter: So in this last section, um, raising your short questions, which you can answer with short answers and you’ll see that I’m the one site tracking. So my first question is what is the most exciting project you’ve been working on and why?
Steven De Laet: One of the last projects we did was the removal of more than 23 different API active pharmaceutical ingredients out of a formulation sites.
Coming from one of the major formulations sites in Europe. Uh, so this was really a very challenging and interesting project. We ordered it streams it’s one or two APIs, but here you have to do 23 all in their maximum concentration and all should be lower than the predicted no effect concentration. So we’re talking about DPB MPPT or in the region.
Uh, so this is really challenging project and the project where we were very proud that we were able to do.
Antoine Walter: Can you name one thing that you’ve learned? The hard way
Steven De Laet: that as a startup, I think more in Europe than in the state. And especially as a startup in sustainability, that every round you do, you ask not enough money.
You always think with one or 2 million, I will survive. And then when the round is finalized and the money is on the, on the bank accounts, you, you understand and think shit. I had to ask for it because everything goes slower and more difficult than for example, in the it or in the application world. Now next time we go for a capital round.
I think we will try to raise more.
Antoine Walter: Which round will it be?
Steven De Laet: We already did three. So I think we will do a final round and then perhaps an IPO. So there’s one round again, over around 10 million, I think coming up to grow within Europe and then the next step could be.
Antoine Walter: Is there something you are doing today in your job that you will not be doing in 10 years.
And usually when I’m talking with started funders to do the transition with what we discussed just before they say fundraising,
Steven De Laet: yeah. Fundraising is time consuming, but there’s a certain, I liked it. Um, I think I’m too operational at this moment, still too operational. And I should be focusing more on the strategy, but I think this is a challenge for every founder.
You’re doing everything yourself in the beginning. Then you have to delegate more and more, but at a certain moment, you really have to start working more on a strategic level. But as a challenge,
Antoine Walter: what is the trends to watch out for in.
Steven De Laet: Good question. Um, I think the access and availability of safe water is a very important trends.
We have been talking about this already several years, but I think it will be fairly challenging. And I think we will be surprised in certain regions how important it will be.
Antoine Walter: If you were a word political leader, what would be your first action to influence the fate of the words? What a challenge. I
Steven De Laet: think the focus should be that everybody worldwide can have access to safe and, and clean water.
And in Western Europe for us, it’s, it’s normal. But I think there are a lot of regions, but it’s not, and this should be a basic human, right? The access to safe and clean water and drinking water, but also water too, to grow vegetables. And so-and-so, it’s one of the raw materials that you have the most there’s still, people don’t have access to it.
Antoine Walter: You mentioned when we were discussing a bit before the recording that, you know, Jacob Beauceron, who wasn’t on that microphone some weeks ago. And he was explaining how Flenders has a portion of it, which is more water scars than some parts of the siren desert. So yeah. In Europe, where we have water everywhere, and this access to water is going to be a challenge.
Then I’m a bit hitting an open door, but last question, would you have someone to recommend me to invite on that same micro.
Steven De Laet: Yeah, our sustainability rates, um, Stefan Milliman, before plastics, he won a quite important environmental price. So they make bio-based plastics. And the first application is started to, towards the trimming, a wire you need for your glass, you have a device, two, three meters, the sides of your, your, uh, grass, every time, kind of plastic trimming Wyatt.
And he thought this is stupid because you, you. Pieces of it every time you use it and you have to then pull it into make. So, and now I think he developed biodegradable fishing nets to avoid that, um, turtles and other fish gets get stuck in it and, and die. And he won a few weeks ago. A very important environmental price was the form in the month from before plastics would be something.
If you say, it’s, doesn’t have to be water-related, but more sustainable is a very interesting guy to have a chat with that.
Antoine Walter: Well, thanks for the suggestion through close that if people want to follow up with you, where shall I redirect them?
Steven De Laet: Does it websites, innopsis.edu or on our LinkedIn pages? Also a lot of information to find, and if they want, they can try to contact me.
And I would be very happy to have a discussion with them
Antoine Walter: as usually all the links are in the description. Okay. Stephen. It’s been a pleasure and yeah, I’d be happy to, to follow up with your path to see if you became this very good partner. And if you have a metric for that in five or 10 years. Thanks.
Steven De Laet: Thank you Antoine. It was a pleasure to be here and thank you for your very interesting questions.