Innovate UK-funded chemtech company develops game-changing solution to tackle global water scarcity crisis

Chemical technology company Puraffinity, funded by Innovate UK, is tackling the global challenge of water scarcity with an innovation that eliminates cancer-causing ‘forever chemicals’ and reduces covid risk.

Chemical technology company Puraffinity, funded by Innovate UK, is tackling the global challenge of water scarcity with an innovation that eliminates cancer-causing ‘forever chemicals’ and reduces covid risk.

It has developed a smart material which removes hazardous pollutants from water in a range of settings including environmental remediation, point of use systems, industrial manufacturing facilities, and commercial airports and air bases.

These adsorbent granules target PFAS (Per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances), also known as ‘forever chemicals’, found in everyday products and responsible for contaminating the world’s food and drinking water supply.

Puraffinity’s design, test and synthesis of its game-changing solution has accelerated after working with the National Measurement Laboratory (NML), the UK’s designated institute for chemical and bio-measurement.

The project was supported by Analysis for Innovators (A4I), a grant funding programme which gives businesses access to cutting-edge R&D and expertise. A4I is run by Innovate UK, is the UK’s national innovation agency.

Puraffinity has since secured a £1.54m Innovate UK Continuity Loan to boost its UK manufacturing capability 20-fold to five tonnes per year.

Commenting on Puraffinity’s experience of the A4I programme, Henrik Hagemann, Chief Executive Officer, said: “Innovate UK’s A4I programme has transformed our business.

“Funded access to cutting-edge R&D and expertise has accelerated our capacity to use cutting-edge materials science and creative engineering to benefit human health and the environment.

“We’re thrilled about our growth prospects and the opportunity to develop into an emerging materials science leader with UK-based manufacturing.

“We’re also looking to continue working with the team at the National Measurement Laboratory who have become a part of the extended Puraffinity network.”

Launched in 2015 as a spin-out from Imperial College London, Hammersmith-based Puraffinity is delivering a sustainable solution to treating PFAS, a group of 4,700 manmade industrial chemicals linked to cancer and COVID-19 and widely regarded as the most severe global water quality challenge in modern times.

But the critical bottleneck for the business was gaining detailed insight and assurance on the product’s stability and safety. It also saw a growth opportunity to take a more data-driven approach to its development work where it had already carried out proof-of-concept work to embed data-driven analytics into its design, build, test and learn cycles.

After securing funding from A4I, Puraffinity partnered with the NML where it used critical equipment and deep sector expertise to speed up its development cycle and improved the data integrity of its quality assurance/quality control processes.

The methods developed significantly de-risked the product development process, reduced discovery-design-synthesis cycles, facilitated more precise production scale-up, mitigated batch variations and increased yields.

Puraffinity can now provide prospective clients assurance of the safety and the long-term stability of the products, a crucial element in commercialising public health innovations through water treatment.

Simon Yarwood, Knowledge Transfer Manager – Industrial Technologies, A4I at Innovate UK KTN, said: “The impact of man-made chemicals on the environment and human health is an increasing global concern.

“Puraffinity’s innovation designed to create sustainable solutions to remove these harmful chemicals from our water is worthy of the support from the A4I grant funding competition.

“The project has accelerated innovation, created new partnerships within the UK science industry, increased business growth and developed a much-needed solution to preserve our depleting water resources.”

A4I has been running since 2016 and brings together nine national centres of excellence in measurement, tackling challenges affecting existing processes, products or services.

Across nine rounds of funding, it has supported over 250 companies resulting in over £600M of benefit for those businesses, such as increased productivity and turnover, reduced waste, and the creation of new and upskilled jobs.

The programme’s aim is to help boost a company’s productivity or competitiveness by enabling the UK’s top scientists, using their other world-class facilities, to work with companies to address problems in innovative ways. Key to the success of A4I are the Brokerage Meetings that are arranged between the companies and experts from the A4I partners. These meetings allow the company to discuss their problem with experts who want to work with the company to address the problem.