The Toilet Accelerator & The BioCycle Story

The Toilet Board Coalition sat down with the Cohort and Mentors of the 2017 Toilet Accelerator to find out a bit more about what they felt were the most valuable learnings in their journey together over the last twelve months and what they’re excited about for the future of the sanitation sector.

Marc Lewis, Programme Manager of The BioCycle and 2017 Toilet Accelerator Cohort

TBC: Hi Marc, could you please tell our readers a little bit about yourself and your role in the 2017 Toilet Accelerator?

Marc: Hi, I’m Marc, I am the Programme Manager for The BioCycle. We were chosen in November 2016 to be a part of the 2017 Toilet Accelerator programme.

TBC: What are some of the new inspirations, insights or understandings that you’ve gained through your year working with the Toilet Board Coalition in the Toilet Accelerator?

Marc: My Toilet Accelerator experience has been one of great learning. I came into this as the second captain on a largely person less ship, a ship that was trailing its mothership, much grander and on a clearer course. I had to steer this ship, keeping it on a suitable coarse and keeping it from submerging or from being dragged too quickly through the water.

This foray into the world of big business has provided me insights into the resource requirements needed to get this mammoth task done. It became blatantly clear that I could not do it myself. It helped me to better make use of the resources at my disposal, leveraging partnerships, and taking opportunities when they presented themselves.

My mentor at Kimberly-Clark, Clay Bunyard, provided really useful guidance and introduced me to the relevant colleagues within his organisation, who could help me begin my marketing preparation work to take us from raw product development to product sales (our objective through the Toilet Accelerator programme). This journey allowed for a more pragmatic approach, taking me from idealistically thinking we could do it all, and soon, to a more realistic narrowing of focus and streamlining of resources which has been really useful!

TBC: What is your advice to the sanitation business sector or perhaps a call to action from the people around the sector?

Marc: The increase in volume of research and the rigor of the data coming from within sanitation’s product development stream continues to build on a body of evidence that shows the benefits to be achieved through repurposing our toilet resources. These being health, environmental, and financial. Having said that, there is still much to know, and the value of this R&D function cannot be overlooked, nor should it be left to another day. We need more focused R&D support from business right now, to get us to that next level, where toilet resources are respected and carefully disposed of, where rivers flow with only water, and where agriculture can benefit from this most nutrient rich resource.

As we have noted before, enabling entrepreneurs with the funds to prove that this can work. Proper cash to get the job done, and then we either put it to bed, or take it to the world. Continue to support our small businesses, and help us to that next level.

TBC: Can you give us a glimpse of your vision for the future?

Marc: Combinations of biological and mechanical technologies that permit the most efficient recovery and repurposing of nutrient resources. These should help to stimulate new sanitation paradigms where we find households valuing all forms of so-called waste, and either benefiting from them, financially, or else indirectly through reduction in costs for agricultural commodities including nutrient rich soils, and sustainably source fuel.

I see cleaner oceans, rivers, and landscapes and reduced global health concerns, through improved contaminant management through financially attractive treatment technologies.

TBC: Thanks Marc!

Research Technical Leader at Kimberly-Clark, 2017 Toilet Accelerator Mentor

TBC: Hi Clay, could you please tell our readers a little bit about yourself and your role in the 2017 Toilet Accelerator?

Clay: I am a Technical Leader in Corporate Research at Kimberly-Clark Corporation, and have about 15 years of experience developing new materials and technologies for consumer hygiene products. As a mentor, I consulted with The Biocycle around their R&D needs. A key part of that role involved connecting with them experts across the company (such as engineering and marketing).

TBC: What are some of the new inspirations, insights or understandings that you’ve gained through your year working with Marc from The Biocycle in the Toilet Accelerator?

Clay: The diversity of business models and approaches being explored by the Toilet Accelerator is exactly what is needed to identify sanitation solutions applicable across the globe. It was inspiring to see how the Toilet Accelerator cohort was able to make progress on such limited resources, using their ingenuity and grit to conquer the complex challenges that exist in this sector. It’s worth emphasising that these sanitation entrepreneurs are trying to bring about disruptive innovation which is much more challenging to tackle than the more incremental innovation that many large companies are going after. It’s even more apparent, that if we want the sanitation sector to scale quickly, we need to help these entrepreneurs disrupt the system. The TBC can play an important role in facilitating this, but we need a larger, broader network of stakeholders to step up and play a role to make it happen.

TBC: What is your advice to the sanitation business sector?

Clay: Because there is so much potential for innovation in the sanitation sector, it can be tempting to focus more on the big, longer-term opportunities. But, because of the uncertainty around the sector and the long-term, such a focus can become overwhelming and difficult to translate into shorter-term progress. Entrepreneurs should consider focusing on those opportunities that allow them to not only learn how to develop their capabilities and adapt their business models for short-term success but also learn and pivot towards the long-term opportunities, which will certainly change over time.

TBC: What is your vision for the future of the sector?

Clay: I see a future for the Circular Sanitation Economy where it is interconnected and integrated with the Circular Economy for solid waste management. Many of the countries that need innovation in sanitation also have significant growing challenges with municipal solid waste which is high in organic content. Creating systems, particularly in urban areas that leverage technologies and business models that are adaptable to both (particularly the biological and organic waste streams) should have a greater potential for accelerating change.

TBC: Thanks Clay!

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