UCL-supported entrepreneur launches innovative filter to deliver safe drinking water
30 January 2023
A UCL alumnus has launched his second startup, providing fresh, filtered drinking water sustainably and cheaply.
Water2 was set up by alumnus Charles Robinson (UCL Philosophy) in 2020 to address the issue of improving access to fresh drinking water for people all over the world.
Water2’s main product, the Pod, is an under-sink water filter that uses activated carbon and silver ionisation to filter tap water to up to 0.1 microns (where one micron is equal to a thousandth of a millimetre). Particles larger than this will not pass through into drinking water. The Pod therefore filters water over 1,000 times more finely than many typical household water jug cartridges.
As well as the filter itself, the company also sells water filtered through the Pod in recyclable aluminium cans.
Charles worked with innovation partners in Italy to develop the Pod, and with Dr Luiza Campos (UCL Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering) to test its efficiency at removing calcium carbonate, found in hard water, and microparticles such as microplastics. A following MSc project compared the Pod with another commercial household water filter.
Compared to commercial filter jugs that need a fresh cartridge every month or so, the Pod only requires one capsule a year. When compared to bottled water, one capsule can provide 5,000 litres of water, equivalent to 15,000 single use plastic bottles of water. It is also manufactured using solar energy and the activated carbon is extracted from coconut shells, making it a more environmentally sustainable option for consumers.
Charles said: “I started thinking about water filters in 2020 and realised something: it was a really blurred category. I could only name one brand, but how many water brands can you think of? At least ten. This seemed strange; fundamentally, they both deliver water to the consumer, so why can Evian, FIJI and Voss be world leading consumer brands with amazing storytelling and there be nothing like that in the filter industry?
“My initial conviction then is what remains our ethos today; to build a great brand in this space, you need to focus on the water. For us, that means selling the water; indeed, we’re the first company with a filter so good that we actually can and sell our water.”
Professor Campos said: “One of the great global challenges we face is ensuring every community has access to safe drinking water. UK tap water is of very high quality but even this has tiny particles that get through industrial filters and aren’t picked up by most household filters.
“We found in our testing that the Water2 Pod filter performs better than other filters on the market at, for example, removing microplastics. There is huge potential to expand its use around the world to provide safe drinking water for millions.”
Charles created his first company, Gelcard, as a student during the first lockdown in 2020 to help encourage good hand hygiene. He aimed to incentivise people to sanitise their hands by developing an easy-to-use snap technology packet that releases moisturising and scented hand gel.
Gelcard has sold millions of units to date, including to celebrities such as Bella Hadid and companies including Google, and the company is experiencing its fastest growth in Japan and the Middle East.
Professor Geraint Rees, UCL Vice-Provost (Research, Innovation & Global Engagement) said: “Firstly through Gelcard and now through Water2, Charles has addressed key global challenges and created innovative products to tackle them. The Water2 Pod has the potential to provide safe drinking water around the world and provide more sustainable alternatives to jug filters and bottled water.
“The entrepreneurs behind our startups address these challenges head on and the support they receive in our startup incubator, the UCL Hatchery, enables them to develop their ideas, grow their business and go on to solve global issues.”
Lord Michael Hastings, VP, UNICEF, said: “With Gelcard, Charles displayed remarkable clarity and speed to deliver a product that united so many people and protected so many more. I can only welcome what he does next; in Water2, he has identified a pressing and enormous issue – how we can drink better, more sustainably and provide fresh water all over the world – and he still retains the youthful enthusiasm, now paired with years of experience, to make an important difference. He is a role model of how to apply entrepreneurial energy to being effective and purposeful.”
Gelcard received support at BaseKX, UCL’s dedicated entrepreneurship hub – housing the Hatchery – in the Kings Cross knowledge quarter, run by UCL Innovation & Enterprise. There they received business advice, mentorship and the right environment to structure and grow the company further.
- Professor Luiza Campos’ academic profile
- UCL Innovation & Enterprise
- UCL Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering
- UCL Engineering
- iStock. Credit: BrianAJackson
Tel: +44 (0)20 3108 6995
Email: k.corry [at] ucl.ac.uk