News - August 7, 2020

“Quenching the world’s thirst” - an interview with Khaled Al Mezayen, CEO of Inovaya

Written by Tristan Lebleu 5 min read

Khaled Al Mezayen is the co-founder of Inovaya, the company behind unYo, a solution to improve access to safe water in rural and isolated areas. Labelled by the Solar Impulse Foundation, unYo is gaining major attention as it is an plug-and-play, modular and efficient solution. We asked Khaled some questions about his project to tackle one of the greatest challenges of our time.

What is Inovaya?

Inovaya, whose name refers both to innovation and to Aya, the Sumerian goddess of water, is a company whose mission is to improve access to drinking water for communities around the world and to better preserve this resource. We have developed modular water treatment units for small communities ranging from 500 to 20,000 inhabitants. We focus primarily on rural areas, remote and hard-to-reach areas and conflict zones.

How did this project come about?

Inovaya is a bit of a coincidence. My co-founders and I were not at all predestined to work in this field: I trained as a pharmacist, Guillaume was in corporate finance, and Justine had studied international and business law. We met in Romania, where we were working at the time, and we were soon confronted with one of the major problems of this country: despite being part of the European Union, 90% of the rural population still does not have access to drinking water. This is a situation that shocked us deeply and gave us the desire to act.

Moreover, I am Syrian, and following a humanitarian mission in Syria, I realized that the main concern of people in conflict zones is finally basic but essential: access to drinking water. These observations have only strengthened my desire to put my skills to good use for this cause. At that time, I happened to be working on a food supplement project for animals, which we were growing in greenhouses, and in which we had created a water filtration system to recycle the water. We developed that technology and made it into a stand-alone module that we donated to an NGO. It was a huge success. So we decided to pivot our activity and focus on the issue of access to water. That's how Inovaya was born in 2018.

Why is it such an important issue today?

More than 2 billion people don't have access to water and 3 billion people don't have access to toilets. This is a humanitarian tragedy. Water is an essential element for life, of course, but it is also an important factor for development. Every 15 seconds, a child dies because it does not have access to clean drinking water. This is a figure that particularly affects me, as a young father. I think that any impact we can have in this area is a great victory.

What is your solution?

To address this issue, we invented the unYo. It's a system that connects to a fresh water source, filters it and makes it safe to drink. 

By combining different filters, which can clean any source of fresh water up to 10 nanometers, the system blocks 99.999999% of viruses, 99.999999% of bacteria, pesticide residues as well as suspended particles and turbidity, without demineralising the water. Our technology requires no consumables and no maintenance for more than 10 years.

The unYo has other advantages: it is quickly ready for use in emergency situations, and it is modular. The system can be adapted according to the type of pollution encountered, by adding different filters. This system can therefore make any fresh surface water potable, regardless of the specific problems of the place where it is used, simply by modifying a small part of the machine.

Who is this solution for?

Our main customers are NGOs and international solidarity organisations who buy the solution directly to benefit the local population. We also work with local authorities, town halls and departmental councils to improve access to water for their inhabitants. We currently have projects underway in the Paris region, in France, in Romania, in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in the Philippines.

What is the global impact of your solution?

Today we have installed our systems in about twenty communities around the world. This represents 80,000 people who have access to drinking water thanks to our unYo solution. 

Another important aspect to note is that the use of unYo considerably reduces plastic pollution. Today, many organisations are using plastic bottles to transport drinking water, especially in conflict zones. One airline recently boasted that it had chartered two cargo planes filled with water bottles. In addition to being an aberration in terms of plastic pollution, this is an economic aberration! So the reduction of plastic is indeed an important issue.

More about Inovaya on:

Written by Tristan Lebleu on August 7, 2020

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