Salinity Solutions
Tyseley Energy Park
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SQM’s corporate venture arm breaks into water

April 2024: This recent article from GWI highlights that SQM Lithium Ventures, the corporate venture capital arm of SQM, Chile’s top lithium producer, has made its first two investments in water after screening hundreds of applications. We are delighted to share that last month the company invested £1 million ($1.27 million) in Salinity Solutions. This deal comes with an option to acquire additional equity in the future. A quote from SQM Lithium Ventures states “We are aiming to invest up to a total of $2.34 million to include a pilot project in our operations in the Salar, in the Atacama”.

This is great news for Salinity Solutions, as this investment unlocks our next stage of growth.

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SQM’s corporate venture arm breaks into water
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Press Release 18th March 2024

Salinity Solutions, an engineering tech start-up based in Birmingham (UK) has secured a GBP £1 million initial investment from SQM Lithium Ventures to fund the next stage of its growth. SQM Lithium Ventures, in return, will take ownership of a minority stake in the company, with the option to acquire additional equity in the future.

SQM Lithium Ventures is the corporate venture capital arm of the lithium business of Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile (SQM), one of the world’s leading producers of battery-grade lithium chemicals. Salinity Solutions joins the SQM Lithium Ventures portfolio alongside industry-leading companies like Altilium Clean Technology and Electric Era.

Salinity Solutions developed HyBatchä, its ground-breaking batch reverse osmosis water treatment technology – the first in the world to be manufactured commercially – to dramatically reduce the environmental impact of water treatment. The technology uses less energy, purifies a higher amount of wastewater, generates less waste, and is more compact and portable than traditional reverse osmosis systems. The first of Salinity Solutions’ five registered patents has been approved in the European Union, China and the United States.

Since launching in 2021, Salinity Solutions has completed trials in multiple industries, including lithium mining, industrial and municipal wastewater, and food production. The company has built a strong sales pipeline across multiple sectors and geographies.

“SQM’s investment will help us accelerate Salinity’s growth and achieve our 2024 goals of increasing unit sales and securing our first licencing agreement. Their strategic interests in lithium and water, combined with their geographical reach from Chile to China, offer a perfect fit to support our ambitious growth plans,” said Salinity Solutions’ CEO, Richard Bruges.

The investment goes hand-in-hand with SQM’s ongoing drive to improve efficiency and reduce its environmental impact as part of its sustainability goals. These include reducing the use of groundwater by 40% by 2030, decreasing brine extraction in the Salar de Atacama by 20% in 2023 and 50% by 2030, and becoming carbon neutral in lithium production by 2030. As part of its collaboration with SQM, the Salinity Solutions team will run a pilot project in the Salar de Atacama, with its team members based in Antofagasta and other locations in the north of Chile.

Angeles Romo, Director of SQM Lithium Ventures, commented: “SQM Lithium Ventures is investing in Salinity Solutions in hopes that the company, through its revolutionary technology, will be capable of scaling and making an impact across different industries and geographies. This marks our first investment in water, one of our core focus areas for investment along with lithium and electromobility. At SQM Lithium Ventures, we are always seeking to fund projects in cleantech, specifically water, to accelerate start-ups like this one. In doing this, we seek not only to scale the business, but also make an impact on the quality of life of multiple communities.”

Salinity Solutions’ co-founder and CTO, Tim Naughton, commented: “We are delighted to have SQM as a partner as we commercialize our world-leading technology. Global water demand is set to double over the next five years. Water treatment consumes 4% of the world’s total electricity production and conventional reverse osmosis systems are energy intensive. Working with SQM, we can bring significant energy and water savings to the mining sector and many other industries, in Chile and around the world.”

Pablo Melipillan, SQM’s Lithium Process Director for China, who will join the board of Salinity Solutions, commented: “It is a great pleasure to join the water treatment business through this international partnership. With our experience in running innovation and scaling up and building cutting edge industrial projects, SQM can support Salinity to be successful in reaching its technical and commercial goals.”

Salinity Solutions was formed as a spin-off from the University of Birmingham in April 2021, following 10 years of research and development at Aston University and University of Birmingham under the supervision of Professor Philip Davies. Founder Tim Naughton secured an Innovate UK iCURE grant and seed investment from Clean Engineering, followed by two oversubscribed crowdfunding campaigns on Crowdcube. Existing investors, including the University of Birmingham, have added to this investment round over the last six months, investing over £960,000 alongside SQM, providing a total of £1.96M in new funding for the company.

About Salinity Solutions

Salinity Solutions addresses two of the biggest challenges in sustaining human life on earth – water and energy. The company has developed a game-changing batch reverse osmosis water purification technology, which uses half the energy of traditional reverse osmosis methods. Its patented, commercially viable solution has been described as the biggest step forward in water treatment in 50 years and has the potential to benefit every corner of the globe – from wastewater clean-up and high value mineral extraction to rural drinking water supply.

About SQM Lithium Ventures

SQM Lithium Ventures, launched in December 2022, seeks to invest in growing companies solving challenges related to lithium, water, and electromobility. The fund invests an average ticket of USD 3 million, plus follow-on investments, in companies across the globe, and also operates an acceleration program based in Antofagasta, Chile, for earlier-stage start-ups within the same three verticals. Parent company SQM is one of the world’s largest producers of lithium for use in electric vehicle batteries.

The fund has a global presence, with team members in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia. After evaluating more than 500 companies and completing four investment committees to date, the fund is advancing rapidly in conversations with several of the most innovative companies in its verticals.

The selection process consisted of several months of diligence and meetings with the Salinity Solutions team, culminating with an investment committee with participation of SQM’s CEO, largest shareholders, and key company leaders.


Water Magazine on Salinity’s investment from SQM Lithium Ventures

Read about how Salinity Solutions has secured a GBP £1 million initial investment from SQM Lithium Ventures to fund the next stage of our growth. SQM Lithium Ventures, in return, will take ownership of a minority stake in the company, with the option to acquire additional equity in the future.

Salinity Solutions secures £1 million investment from SQM Lithium Ventures – Water Magazine

Batch RO Patent Granted in US

We have just received confirmation that our first Batch RO patent has been granted in the US, joining the EU and China which were granted in December last year. Four further patent applications are going through the approval stages, adding further territories to the list.

Having patents granted in key territories, like the US, is an important milestone for Salinity to be able to enforce our rights of invention, as we look to license our technology around the globe.

Food sector’s water-purification technology trial

Trial aims to reuse wastewater at vertical farm

Great to see Salinity’s trial at GrowUp Farms has been picked up by The Engineer:

Salad grower trials new water-saving technology

We have teamed up with indoor salad producer GrowUp Farms at their vertical farm in Sandwich, Kent, for a 10-day trial to reduce wastewater. Wastewater from the growing process, as well as elsewhere on the site, was collected and re-circulated twice, using our unique batch reverse osmosis technology.

Read more about the trial in Kent at BBC online:

We’re on the BBC!

We’re on the BBC! Check out the Yvette Austin’s report of our field trial at GrowUp Farms for BBC South East: 

A big thanks to Te-Tech Process Solutions for their manufacturing support

Team Profile: Steve Wheelhouse

Please join us in welcoming Steve Wheelhouse as our new Head of Finance.

Steve has nearly 30 years of commercial and hands-on Finance leadership experience gained in the UK and internationally. In addition to key Finance roles at Ford and Lloyds Bank, Steve spent 24 years at IBM, working as CFO/FD in multiple business units completing international leadership assignments in France, Switzerland, and the UAE.

He led Finance for IBM’s hardware business in Northern Europe, was FD for IBM’s Global Technology Services business in the UK and Ireland, and headed up Finance across all of IBM’s business in the Middle East, Africa, Turkey, and Pakistan. He was also Head of Finance for Visa Inc. in the Middle East and Africa. Steve has worked extensively with business partners, developers, and FinTech companies and has shifted focus to providing FD support to SMEs.  

Steve has a track record of delivering significant improvements in profitability, driving business transformation, and building effective Finance organisations.

First Patent Granted

We’re very pleased to announce the granting of our first patent. After more than two years in the examination phase, our initial patent has been granted in China, France, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, and the UK without challenge. Four further patent applications are going through the approval stages, adding further territories to the list.

We anticipate the next approval in 2024. As we look to license our technology around the globe, having patents granted in key territories is an important milestone for Salinity to be able to enforce our rights of invention.