The current situation of water scarcity and consumption is worrying. The forecast of drought will affect the general public in the not too distant future. This project emerged from this and other — more technical and financial — reasons.
Javier Santos, manager and coordinator of LIFE MCUBO, answers some questions, offering insights into the importance of this initiative. Santos is a Professor of Business Organisation at the School of Engineers of the University of Navarra in San Sebastián. He holds a PhD in Industrial Engineering and is an expert in Lean Manufacturing, a subject he has taught for 20 years.
- Whose initiative is it? Why?
The truth is that it started rather long ago. And I would not risk saying who “laid the first stone” but I do remember that years ago the topic was discussed in networking meetings involving various partners. The idea came about in one of those conversations.
At TECNUN we decided to undertake the preparation of the project report, which is why act as coordinators. But it is the result of a team effort from the very beginning.
- What budget does the project work with? And what part of the funding comes from the EU?
The LIFE MCUBO has a total budget of approximately €900,000.
Of these funds, about 60% are contributed by the EU via its LIFE programme, which amounts to more than €500,000. And the partners contribute the remaining 40%.
- What are the specific or most relevant challenges which the project aims to solve?
Recently, and in anticipation of 2030, the EU published a report on water scarcity and drought. It concludes that water scarcity will affect 17% of the population by that year.
The project thus focuses on the consumption of water and energy associated with water in three agri-food subsectors which, according to all studies, are the largest consumers of water: meat, vegetable preserves and fruit processing. The challenge is to reduce water consumption, linking it to business productivity.
To do this, we will monitor the production process remotely, we will develop and optimise water process treatment models, and we will test improved solutions in pilot plants of one of our partners, proceeding to roll out those viable improvements to companies.The project contemplates evaluating social and environmental impact through indicators which we will define in the first stages of the project. Obviously, any improvement that leads to reducing water consumption will have a very positive impact on society. By adding our little grain of sand and working together, we aim to reverse the findings of that report.
- In what production field will the project be implemented?
The main difference with other initiatives is that the proposal can be measured and tested before it is implemented. Above all, we will focus on the factory transformation process. The idea is to generate a replicable model and best practices in other subsectors or even in other production sectors. To do this, we will develop best practice guides and will look for other sectors or companies where we can replicate the project.
- When is the project scheduled to be implemented? And how will it be implemented and launched to market?
LIFE MCUBO itself, it should be noted, does not involve a specific product. However, it is true that the combination of technologies and techniques we will develop will indeed be accessible for companies to implement. The measurement-taking device will be marketed by a spin-off that is being created at TECNUN, and one of the partners has shown interest in offering services related to project results.
- What type of investment will companies have to make in order to implement this project, its associated technologies and any required renovations?
Although the investment is not that high, there is no doubt that profitability is guaranteed. LIFE MCUBO offers a value proposition that combines the reduction of water consumption — and therefore cost savings — with enhanced productivity for companies. This will mean a return on investment surely much greater than the cost of implementing the solution.
- What forecast or implementation aspirations does LIFE MCUBO have? How many companies would you like to reach?
The ultimate objective of the project is to replicate it in companies as much as possible, due to the technical and economic advances it represents and for the resulting environmental impact.
LIFE MCUBO will focus on demonstrating the system in three pilot plants. During the course of the project we also plan to contact with at least two other subsectors and, once the project is completed and well-known, we expect that results can be replicated in 30 new companies.