Refreshing water infrastructure relationships: Agbar meets Dutch company Cittamap

In 2021, we launched a series of online sessions held by major corporates as part of our investment readiness programme. Agbar, a multinational water technologies company participated, setting challenges for startups and SMEs. Carlos Montero, Chief Technology Officer at Agbar, told us how the sessions helped Agbar find Dutch infrastructure pioneer, Cittamap.

Agbar courses towards flexibility, velocity and connections

“Our strategy is to build a knowledge and innovation ecosystem.” – Montero

Agbar is a leading water technologies company, which supplies purified water to more than 37 million people across Spain and South America.

Its customers (municipalities, administrations and industrial clients) are increasingly exploring environmentally-conscious water solutions; Carlos Montero, Chief Technology Officer at Agbar explains that Agbar’s water technologies can be an “engine for transformation to more economical, social and sustainable models”.

To provide cutting-edge services, Agbar does not work alone. The company and its partners invest more than 40 million euro in R&D and innovation, connecting with universities, research centres (like its own public partnership foundation, Cetaqua) and local companies. Montero says, “We are always seeking the people or startups and SMEs who can provide new and valuable knowledge.” Agbar has a “technology watch system” that uses external companies, incubators, accelerators and its internal team to scout for new talent.

“Startups and SMEs give us flexibility, velocity and a quicker reach to market. At the same time, we are very well connected. We reach small and medium cities, so we can quickly spread the solutions of these startups or SMEs.” – Montero

Agbar often approaches startups and SMEs directly to discover more about their technologies, business models and willingness to engage in a partnership. The corporate looks for keen business minds, targeted solutions that answer current market demands, scalability, IPR strategy, a good balance within the team and (above all) passion.

Reversing the current: startups and SMEs approach Agbar

Our investment readiness programme was a new approach for Agbar: motivated and skilled startups and SMEs from 13 Eureka countries submitted their ideas and solutions, ultimately enriching the corporate’s innovation ecosystem. Montero explains the new companies “were coming from places that we could have only reached over a much longer period of time”.

From this pool of startups and SMEs, Agbar found Cittamap, a Dutch company founded in 2018 that provides satellite Earth observation data insights on a user-friendly dashboard, helping local governments and companies adapt to climate change and improve infrastructure resilience. Cittamap also champions using ecological natural infrastructure for climate disaster reduction.

“Using natural infrastructure for climate resilience is business resilience. It also reaps the benefit of strengthening climate and biodiversity action plans and aligns with growing customer demand.” – Reddy

Gagan Reddy, founder of Cittamap, saw a direct connection between his company’s solutions and Agbar’s real world problems. He explains, “There can often be a mismatch between a product or service and who is using it. We wanted to build our connection with Agbar in such a way that the corporate is getting what it needs.” Reddy and the team at Cittamap spoke to Agbar’s infrastructure engineers directly, who validated the tool’s effectiveness on a corporate scale.

Agbar and Cittamap have already begun work on a proof of concept together (that will result in two use cases), analysing water infrastructure outside Barcelona. Reddy is optimistic that the pilot will prove the concept’s scalability and the potential for implementing the SME’s solution with more of Agbar’s clients.

“Our aim is to bridge the pilot and convert it to company-wide adoption.” – Reddy

Agbar expanding Cittamap’s horizons

Cittamap’s first customer base was with local government in the Netherlands, providing information on urban buildings, but this was a challenging audience for a young startup. Now, Cittamap also markets its products and services for the private sector, and the company is identifying new ways to expand internationally, exploring connections in India and collaborations in Europe.

Agbar sees the market value and scalability of Cittamap’s solutions and has given the SME a boost in the private sector. Reddy explains that because of the partnership with Agbar, Cittamap now “has the energy and water sectors as a clear target”.

Motivation for startups, SMEs and Agbar connections

“Accessing the market and finding the right people is crucial, and opportunities like this can be a real game changer. Knowing large organisations who can implement our innovative solutions is an essential part of our journey.” – Reddy

Investment readiness programmes and business accelerators can fast-track startups and SMEs to reach the right people in a corporate. Reddy explains, “even if the corporate has 100,000 employees, you have to start with one. The challenge owners in that department need to buy into it and sign on”. Like Reddy, Montero highlights how matching a targeted solution to a specific real problem faced by Agbar’s business divisions is essential for good collaboration.

Agbar will continue to partner with more startups and SMEs excelling in the water sector, and Montero wants to see startups and SMEs whose eyes are shining and want to grow.

“Growing a startup is not something you can do part time or during your free time, as a hobby. Of course, it can be very fun, but you have to be passionate about it.” – Montero

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Posted 18 January 22