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Helioz: preventing waterborne disease in a sustainable way


In 2018, an estimated 660 million people still don’t have access to clean drinking water. Martin Wesian experienced this first-hand experience during a trip to Venezuela, where he caught cholera by drinking contaminated water. Upon recovering, he decided to tackle the problem head-on.

Martin focussed on “solar water disinfection”. This is a natural process, with no batteries, filters or chemicals, in which UV radiation from the sun eliminates harmful pathogens in the water. It can be achieved simply by filling PET plastic bottles with water and exposing them to sunlight for a certain period of time. However, this process is underutilized mainly because of the difficulty in predicting exactly how long it takes for the water to be disinfected.

Martin therefore spent his postgraduate studies developing a device to measure the process of solar WAter DIsinfection: the WADI. On the back of this invention, he founded Helioz, an Austrian social enterprise with an innovative solution to prevent waterborne diseases. “I realized there was an opportunity to make an impact on people’s lives”, Martin explained, “we are a social enterprise, and while revenue is important, it’s not the most important thing for us. We are pursuing a social and environmental cause.”

WADI can be placed alongside bottles filled with contaminated water as they are exposed to sunlight and a smiley face on the WADI indicates when the water is safe to drink. This process also saves up to three tons of CO2 emissions per year compared to boiling the water.

In order to scale up the business and boost hardware production to meet growing demand, Martin sought financial support from Erste Bank, in the form of a loan guaranteed by EIF under the EU’s Employment and Social Innovation programme. “Finding financing at that stage of the business is very difficult”, Martin says, “but it is especially difficult in the social enterprise sector – most banks don’t understand our business model. Without the loan, things would have been very difficult for us.” With this financial support, Helioz was able to increase its staff numbers and production volumes. Beyond making the WADI, the company also promotes sanitization and hygiene training all over the world, from South America to Kenya, Uganda, Bangladesh and beyond.

“Our challenge in the future is to make the WADI even cheaper so that we can reach out directly to those who need it most” Martin adds.

Company: Helioz (Austria)

Type of business: social enterprise

EIF financing: EaSI Guarantee Financial Instrument

Financial intermediary: Erste Bank

For further information about EIF intermediaries in Austria, please refer to: http://www.eif.org/what_we_do/where/at/index.htm


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