Student start-up wins €1.4m European funding boost


The CustoMem team

An Imperial student startup has received a €1.4m grant from the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme to bring its innovative water filtration system to market.

Irrigation of rice field using water pump
Ensuring access to clean, accessible water is one of the UN?s Sustainable Development Goals

CustoMem, founded in 2015 by Henrik Hagemann and Gabi Santosa while they were students at Imperial, have developed a new biomaterial which can capture and recycle hazardous micro pollutants found in industrial wastewater.

The award is funded through the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument, part of the European Innovation Council, which offers support for ground-breaking innovative ideas for products, services or processes with the potential to create entirely new markets or revolutionise existing ones.

Tackling global water stress

Current water treatment methods often leave behind contaminants such as pesticides, pharmaceuticals and high performance chemicals in industrial, agricultural or domestic wastewater. This then pollutes global freshwater supplies, contributing to water stress.

CustoMem Granular Media in a tube
CustoMem have developed a product, known as CustoMem Granular Media (CGM)

According to the UN, water scarcity affects more than 40 per cent of the global population and is projected to rise. Ensuring access to clean, accessible water is one of the UN?s Sustainable Development Goals.

CustoMem have developed a product, known as CustoMem Granular Media (CGM) which can selectively capture targeted micropollutants so that they can be safely removed and recycled or disposed of.

Their product is designed to be used within existing infrastructure, avoiding the need to install expensive additional treatment processes, providing significant cost savings compared with traditional absorbent materials such as activated carbon. 

CGM is also designed and manufactured through a sustainable biological production that does not rely on or produce hazardous chemicals.

Game changing

The team are already undertaking initial testing with a number of companies and organisations, including two commercial European airports.

CustoMem CEO Henrik Hagemann said: "This is a game-changing grant for us. Our products? superior performance and cost-effectiveness have been validated in our laboratory and initial trials with clients. This grant enables us to scale up to industrial pilot trials.

Gabriella Santosa, Co-Founder of CustoMem
Gabriella Santosa, Co-Founder of CustoMem

"Our success demonstrates confidence in our company, our product and the quality of CustoMem's team."

CustoMem are part of the Climate-KIC Accelerator at the Grantham Institute - Climate Change and the Environment, one of Imperial's Global Challenge Institutes, and are currently based in Imperial's I-HUB at the White City Campus.

Gabi Santosa, CSO and Co-founder of CustoMem, won the WEInnovate@Imperial programme (formerly known as the Althea-Imperial programme), Imperial's pioneering entrepreneurial programme for women, in 2016.

Image credit (Irrigation of rice field using water pump): CGIAR Consortium, Flickr


Deborah Evanson

Deborah Evanson
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