Marc Parent is a French inventor, entrepreneur and founder in 2008 of Eole Water S.A.S (EoleWater), a company that develops and commercializes his inventions.
Located in Sainte Tulle, in the Haute-Provence Mountains of the French Republic (France), EoleWater designs and produces wind turbine technologies that provide clean drinking water cultivated from the humidity in air.
The company's technologies are based on a strong research and development (R&D) team, sound financial backing, a high level of product performance and proof reliability. Because EoleWater is steadily expanding and incorporating new services, it also offers expertise on industry matters including wind turbine energy, thermodynamics, electronics and mechanics.
Since establishing the company, Mr. Parent has been steadfast in his main goal: to bring fresh water to the approximately 1.2 billion people around the world who live without access to clean drinking water, the 1.8 billion who fall prey to water borne diseases (in 2006) and the 2.6 billion who lack basic sanitary installation.
As of 2012, EoleWater was set to revolutionize the industry and potentially save the lives of countless people living under threat from thirst and water-borne disease. Mr. Parent, meanwhile, has made what experts consider to be one of the most far-reaching and pertinent inventions in decades.
Mr. Parent's industry leading invention is based on an idea that occurred to him in 1997 while living in Saint Barthelemy, an island in the Caribbean.
Desiring to have drinking water but having no access to water mains on the island, the inventor decided to make his own water by draining the condensation on the surface of an air conditioning (AC) system in his home.
Because of several power cuts on the island that occasionally rendered the AC unusable, it occurred to the inventor that a windmill would be an ideal alternative to a lack of electric power.
Combining the instance of water condescension on the surface of the AC with the notion of a windmill, the inventor made the nascent discovery at the heart of his invention: a windmill and AC combination device.
Although wind turbine technology and its applications have been known and utilized for many centuries, Mr. Parent's innovative step was to create a wind turbine that produces, rather than pumps, water.
“It’s a relatively simple technology that builds on principles of physics that have existed for thousands of years,” said Mr. Parent. “First we harness the energy of the wind to make electricity, which is used to motor a kind of air conditioning system in which the humidity of the air is condensed to produce water.”
The turbine, in other words, draws air into a cooling system made of several plates on which humidity from the air condenses and forms water. The water thereafter flows into a collecting tank and is treated by a five levels purification system from which water for drinking and other purposes can be produced.
Mr. Parent's timely and novel device is set to improve the lives of millions of people around the world who do not have access to clean water.
As the inventor said, “This invention will allow many people to have access to […] clean and healthy water every day, simply by using the energy of the wind.”
The inventor's initial R&D was made single-handedly from his garage on the Caribbean island. He spent his free time experimenting with several devices, refining his idea with each product.
While his earliest prototypes worked sufficiently well under the relatively constant atmospheric conditions of the Antilles, Mr. Parent noticed that follow up tests in France (where wind conditions were comparatively more variable) produced less consistent results.
To compensate for the relatively frequent diminution in wind power in countries such as France, the inventor made another innovative step: developing a more complex product that not only produces water but also generates its own power source (electricity) via a solar panel attachment.
Several prototypes later and with a viable invention at hand, Mr. Parent sought partners in order to carry out further R&D, raise funds and commercialize his idea.
Over 10 years after having his first idea for the invention, the inventor partnered with friends and established EoleWater – formerly known as Eole Tech (between 2004 and 2008). Two years later, in 2010, the inventor-turned-entrepreneur succeeded in finding a financial partner who provided further monetary support.
Despite the challenges, Mr. Parent's vision for the company remains unchanged: to bring fresh water to those in need. “Water is not a luxury reserved for the rich; water is the source of life,” the entrepreneur said.
In order to optimize the commercialization of the company's invention, EoleWater produces several quality products marketed towards clients and customers in water-poor regions of the world (especially areas with low levels of rainfall but high humidity and wind).
The company's Water Making System (WMS) device, for instance, is a machine that is capable of producing around 1,000 liters of water given a wind speed of 35 kilometers per hour (km/h) and average humidity levels. In 2013, the WMS1000 system will be the company's flagship device.
EoleWater's creation, moreover, has been commercialized as an ecologically friendly technology (because it uses wind and solar power alternatively), further attracting the increasing number of customers who place a high value on ecological considerations.
The WMS product, in addition, is promoted for the health benefits that it provides to users. Because the product is fitted with a filtering system that sifts out impurities that may exist in the water harvested from the air, buyers and users are assured of the product's quality and safety.
Indeed, the company's turbines produce water quality that is in accord with the standard set by the World Health Organization (WHO), a specialized United Nations (UN) agency that coordinates international standards on public health.
EoleWater technologies are also commercialized as an easy-to-use and highly portable solution. The company's products are not only self-powering; they are also relatively compact and easy to transport. This means they are ideal for quick installation in remote, water-poor regions of the world or areas without access to consistent electric or wind power.
EoleWater turbines are particularly relevant in areas of the world with poor fresh water resources. Access to clean drinking water has become a real challenge around the world, including places such as the Gulf region (the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the State of Qatar, for instance).
By 2050, it is estimated that three quarters of water resources in this area will have been depleted while household need for water will increase by 150%.
To meet these demands, the company focuses much of its advertising and commercialization resources on attracting clients and customers in the Gulf region and other locations with imminent water concerns.
In 2009, 2011 and 2012, EoleWater promoted its products at the Abu Dhabi World Future Energy Summit in the UAE, one the foremost meetings on renewable energy and environmental issues.
However, Mr. Parent's company has met unforeseen geopolitical challenges in its product commercialization process.
The company has sought to persuade both governments and international organizations to buy its products for citizens and users who may not be in a position to afford it; it has been a challenge to convince many of them.
“Water is complex; it is very political,” Mr. Parent said. “I thought that because the idea was good it was going to take off, but that is not the case because the end-user doesn’t have the means to buy the technology. It needs to be financed by governments and aid agencies.”
As of 2012, EoleWater products were marketed as solutions to fresh water shortage concerns for a variety of regions and purposes including arid and remote areas, disaster zones, and for use in agriculture, bottled drinking water, eco-hotels and hard-to-reach worker camps.
Early on in EoleWater's history, the inventor realized the value and potential of his ideas as a means of generating income, creating new technologies and entering commercialization agreements if the inventions were protected via the intellectual property (IP) system.
“Without patents there are no investors, no commercialization,” Mr. Parent said. “Without a patent it is not possible to make an innovative solution like this operational. Without a patent you can't attract investors, or clients to buy the right to manufacture this machine in different countries. They won't do it without the assurance, the certainty of having an exclusive right in the technology.”
Mr. Parent therefore relied on the IP system in order to protect his inventions and spur its commercialization.
To this end, the inventor filed his earliest patent applications in 2000 and 2005 with France's IP office at the Institut National de la Propriété Industrielle (INPI).
In 2006, moreover, he filed an international patent application for a Machine for Producing Water from Wind Energy through the international patent filing system established by the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) managed by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
With an IP protected invention, the company intends to market its products globally with confidence, gain new investors and customers and reach as many water-poor regions as possible around the world.
Even before seeking partners to develop and commercialize his invention, Mr. Parent sought expert advice from IP lawyers in France and carried out extensive patentability searches in the country's IP office database in order to establish whether or not his device was patentable.
“At first”, the inventor said, “I thought that [the water producing wind turbine device] must already exist somewhere so I began doing some research.”
Following his initial IP investigations, Mr. Parent sought further advice from a regional branch of INPI and made more patentability searches of the institute's database before concluding that there was no comparable invention already patented.
Only then did he continue with his patent application and begin the first sketches of his invention and thereby provided full disclosure of its novelty.
Because Mr. Parent had limited funds at the time, he drafted the company's first patent application alone, without the counsel of IP experts. “It wasn't easy, but it passed,” he said.
Subsequent patent applications, however, were made with the help of an IP lawyer, underlining the importance the entrepreneur placed in ensuring that his IP was comprehensively filed.
“[If] an idea is not well explained it can lose all its value [so you] need legal specialists, because a patent is halfway between technology and the law [; IP] is a mix of the two [; so] you can't improvise,” said the inventor.
Mr. Parent remains unequivocal about the importance of IP to his company. “Intellectual property is indispensable,” he said, “[IP] is the key to the vault.”
EoleWater has faced the challenge of scaling up production to industrial levels and increasing the water-producing capacity of its products. Doing so would make the product more economically profitable and attractive to consumers.
To increase production and product capacity, the company is seeking to enter manufacturing partnerships and agreements with client countries, organizations or other companies.
“We need partners who have the same spirit and ethics and where money is not the first priority. We all have to earn a living, but money isn’t everything,” Mr. Parent said. “This technology is something that needs to serve the public interest.”
To this end, the company has entered several partnerships with established companies including Spie Oil & Gas (Spie) – an international corporation specializing in energy services and technologies. Spie is in charge of maintaining and installing Eolewater’s WMS 1000 product and the partnership is effective in all 28 countries where Spie is operational.
The company's other partners include Aperam, a stainless steel and nickel alloy specialist; Brevini, a technological equipment maker for the energy industry; and Carel, a company that manufactures industrial humidification and ambient air control systems.
By partnering with internationally renowned companies with specialized knowhow, EoleWater has been able to raise its corporate profile and expand production and product capacity while ensuring the quality of its products and winning the trust of investors and customers.
EoleWater is keen to stress the ecological benefits and public health relevance of its products particularly because of the global challenge of diminishing clean water resources and accompanying concerns – famine, disease and population displacement.
Indeed, as of 2012 more than a third of people around the world (2 billion people) survive with less than 5 liters of water per day or less than 1,700 m3 per year, a situation called water stress by experts including the Food and Agricultural Association, a specialized UN agency with a mandate for preventing hunger.
Moreover, estimates are that the world population (approximately 6.6 million in 2011) is growing by 80 million each year, further adding to the stress on fresh water supplies. In addition, two million people, mainly children, die every year from diseases caused by consumption of unsafe water and lack of proper sanitation.
EoleWater's products are well placed to meet these global challenges. With regard to environmental impact, the company's turbines – which are self-generating sources of water – promise to replace a number of current, inefficient water resources such as boreholes, wells or desalination tanks (which remove salt from water).
EoleWater's products are also sturdy (designed to last for 25 years), produce zero emissions (being self-powering, relying on wind and solar power and produce no waste such as carbon dioxide) and are recyclable.
Because Earth's atmosphere is full of humidity, furthermore, the company's machines tap into a comparatively plentiful resource of ambient air, therefore alleviating the stress placed on traditional sources of water for human consumption – including lakes, rivers, streams and oceans.
The company's products, in addition, promote human wellness and development in many ways. Not only do they provide clean, filtrated water thus helping to reduce the incidents of water borne diseases; because indigenous workers install the machines, the turbines also create sustainable development and jobs for the designated population.
Indeed, EoleWater is committed to training local artisans and engineers in order to install and maintain its products.
Finally, given that many isolated populations have to travel several kilometers a day to find clean water, thus losing the opportunity to carry out other important activities (such as children's education and land cultivation), EoleWater's portable machines can ameliorate such opportunity costs by making clean water immediately available.
With a growing range of environmentally sound and user friendly products, the company aims to fulfill its commercial and ethical ambitions by providing clean water to water-stressed regions of the world while supporting human development and health and preserving the environment.
From a small garage on a Caribbean island, EoleWater has continued its steady rise in the environmental and sustainable energy industry, raising awareness of its ethical aims while commercializing its globally in-demand products.
According to the French Institute for the Environment, green energy related companies such as Eolewater can expect an annual growth of 6 %, and, in 2006, such businesses posted sales of 42 billion Euros (EUR) collectively.
As a result of the increasing brand recognition and prospects for EoleWater, in 2011 the company received EUR1.2 million in financing from Entrepreneur Venture – a venture capital company based in Paris, France. This important investment has been used to develop and market the company's WMS1000 Wind Turbine.
In 2011 and 2012, EoleWater was represented at the prestigious World Future Energy Summit, in Doha, UAE. At the event, the company unveiled its WMS 1000 Wind Turbine to an international audience.
Key investors at the summit, including the UAE eco town of Masdar, had shown interest in purchasing this product.
As of 2012, EoleWater's wind turbines retailed at between EUR9, 000 - EUR25, 000, depending on the model, and the company had a turnover of EUR600, 000.
Marc Parent plucked water from the air with a singular invention and established an industry-changing company in the process.
With IP protected assets, the inventor has been able to expand his products and services, enter new business partnerships and usher in a new dawn of healthy living for millions of people in water-starved regions of the world.
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Date of publication: September 24, 2012