GE and Aramco bid to improve desal efficiency

Companies launch $200K technology challenge.

A desalination plant.
A desalination plant.

GE ecomagination and Aramco Entrepreneurship havelaunched an open global technology challenge to accelerate the development of solutions focused on improving energy efficiency of seawater desalination.

Four winners will receive prizes of US $50,000 each, and further investments towards commercialisation of the best ideas amongst all submissions will be considered.

Current desalination techniques are typically very energy intensive: energy consumption can account for up to 70 per cent of the desalination costs. The global production of desalinated water uses approximately 75.2 terawatt-hours of electricity per year, enough to power nearly 7 million homes.

The goal of this challenge is to identify novel ways to lower these costs around the world, either through technology advances, process improvements, or both.

Nabil Al-Khowaiter, Aramco Entrepreneurship’s Director of Special Projects, said: “Finding a more efficient method of desalinating seawater will be a game-changer in our collective pursuit of a more sustainable energy future across the globe. Due to increased water scarcity, countries around the world are poised to rely more and more heavily on desalination as a means to provide fresh water.

With current techniques, this increased reliance could contribute dramatically to increased energy use. Aramco Entrepreneurship is partnering with GE not only to identify new solutions to lowering desalination costs, but also to invest in and attract new technologies and industries to Saudi Arabia.”

Deb Frodl, GE’s global executive director, ecomagination, said: “GE ecomagination is investing to speed up the development of more sustainable solutions for water desalination. Through this challenge, we hope to inspire scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and innovators around the world to bring their talents to this effort and help drive greater outcomes for customers.”

This technology challenge also has endorsement from the Saudi Arabian Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC), which owns and operates around 25 per cent of the entire world’s desalination capacity. The Governor of SWCC, Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Ibrahim, said that the theme of this international open innovation competition is consistent with SWCC’s strategic objective of constantly working to bring down the cost of desalinated water in the Kingdom.


Entries are being immediately accepted at The deadline to submit entries is July 16, 2014, and winners will be announced in November 2014.

The challenge is the fifth ecomagination open innovation challenge since ecomagination launched in 2005. The first two challenges focused on smart grid technology.


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