Thursday 19 April 2018

US giant to invest in UCD spin-off's recycling brainchild

Professor Eoin Casey and Dr Eoin Syron, two of the founders of Irish university spin-off OxyMem. Photo: Nick Bradshaw
Professor Eoin Casey and Dr Eoin Syron, two of the founders of Irish university spin-off OxyMem. Photo: Nick Bradshaw
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

ONE of the biggest chemical companies in the world has invested in a small UCD spin-off which has developed a novel method of treating sewage at lower cost.

The Dow Chemical Company, based in Michigan and which has annual sales of nearly $49bn, will invest in Athlone-based Oxymem's wastewater treatment technology to help expand its operations.

Last year, Oxymem said it was hoping to raise €20m from investors. It has refused to reveal Dow's investment, but said it was not seeking any further funding and planned to recruit eight additional staff this year. It currently employs 20. "We've a pretty nice runway ahead of us and we're not looking for any more funding," managing director Wayne Byrne said.

"We've been working with Dow for the last 18 months. It was a pretty slow courtship, and we would have come to their attention through commercial and tech scouts.

"The market is really interested now. The technology shows a lot of promise, and in 2016, our principal focus is on scaling manufacturing."

Oxymem's technology works by replacing the existing practice of pumping bubbles of air into wastewater which helps bacteria break down the waste.

Instead, air is supplied directly to the micro-organisms using a series of membranes which sit in the tank containing them and the waste water.

The targeting of energy reduces costs by as much as 75pc, it claims.

The company is active in Japan, Spain, across Ireland and the UK and Sweden. It will also be shipping units to South and Central America in the coming months.

Mr Byrne said its link with Dow would give it "credibility in a risk-adverse market".

"If you told me a year ago we'd end up with one of the largest chemical companies in the world as a commercial investor I wouldn't have believed it myself," he added.

The company plans to contract its manufacturing, and focus on research and development at its Athlone plant.

The global business director for Dow Water and Process Solutions, Snehal Desai, said the MABR technology showed "excellent promise" and could help encourage more reuse of water.

OxyMem was co-founded by Professor Eoin Casey, Dr Eoin Syron and Wayne Byrne in 2013 as a spin-out from UCD's School of Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering.

Irish Independent

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