EU funding and US EPA trial for small Irish company with big solution for global water quality

T.E. Laboratories (TelLab), an Irish SME, has won European grant funding in excess of €1.0 million to enable the rapid commercialisation of a disruptive, first-of-a-kind, water-quality sensor for real-time monitoring of problematic nutrient pollutants in lakes, rivers, estuaries and coastal zones.

This is the second major EU grant the project has received in past year (https://www.ecosensaquamonitrix.eu/). In addition, the device is being trialled by the US EPA as part of the agency’s US EPA’s Advanced Septic System Nitrogen Sensor Challenge. https://tellab.ie/aquamonitrix/

The Aquamonitrix™ environmental sensor was developed at TelLab’s inhouse R&D lab in County Carlow, Ireland. It represents a world-first in combining high accuracy and low cost for remote, near-continuous monitoring of multi-parameter nutrients in fresh, brackish and saltwater environments.

Aquamonitrix™ offers the first accurate and affordable means for regulators and emitters to remotely monitor water quality in real-time, providing an instantaneous alert to pollution breaches and enabling decision-makers to take immediate interventional action.

The Project Coordinator and CEO of TelLab, Mark Bowkett, commented: “The funding will allow recent outputs from in-company R&D activities to be exploited fully in global markets with the aim of achieving first-to-market advantage.”

Recruitment for the New Product Development team at the company has already commenced, and details of positions will be published as they become available at www.tellab.ie/careers.

The game-changing Aquamonitrix™ device responds to growing regulatory demands for higher frequency monitoring of nitrate/nitrite, phosphate and ammonia nutrients, emerging from wastewater treatment plants, industry, agriculture, fish farms and domestic septic tanks.

Such pollutants are increasingly being targeted by regulatory drivers in the US and Europe, as they feed microorganisms in water, accelerating their growth and potentially leading to toxic algae blooms; oxygen deprivation for competing aquatic species; and health risks for humans.

At present, continuous, real-time water-quality sensors are prohibitively expensive and highly inflexible. Therefore, the majority of monitoring is by ‘grab n’ lab’ methods, which involve physically filling sample bottles and returning them to the laboratory for testing. This means that results often only become available after several days. Moreover, they merely provide a snapshot of conditions at the moment when the sample was taken, potentially missing episodic pollution events.

TelLab secured the European funding through a Horizon 2020 measure known as the SME Instrument. This is designed to help small- and medium-sized companies to commercialise ground-breaking innovations, capable of disrupting or creating new markets worldwide.

With support from another EU grant, won last year through the LIFE programme, Aquamonitrix™ has been demonstrated in real-life environments in Finland, Ireland, Spain and New Zealand. It is also being trialled by the US EPA as part of the agency’s US EPA’s Advanced Septic System Nitrogen Sensor Challenge.

TelLab will use the commercialisation funding for final maturation and large-scale piloting of the prototype to ensure rapid market uptake.

Founded in 1991, the company has developed deep-domain analytical chemistry expertise through decades of experience in environmental, oil and microbial analysis and chemicals manufacture. The majority of its 50-strong workforce are chemists or engineers.

Enterprise Ireland, the Irish agency responsible for helping companies grow in world markets, has worked with TelLab along its R&D journey, most recently by providing support to help the company protect its intellectual property.

Sean Burke, Horizon2020 National Contact Point for SMEs in Enterprise Ireland, commented: “Enterprise Ireland is delighted to see the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument being used by TelLab to commercialise an innovative new product for international markets and to create high-quality jobs in a regional location.”

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