Water technopreneur awarded first Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize

Dr Andrew Benedek, a Canadian researcher and successful technopreneur, was announced the winner of the inaugural Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize in Singapore. The Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize is an international award recognizing an individual or organization for outstanding contributions in the world of water management. Such works have to solve the world's water problems through the application of innovative technologies or the implementation of policies and programs that benefit mankind...

• His membrane technology has allowed for clean water to be produced almost anywhere in the world

SINGAPORE, March 18, 2008 -- Dr Andrew Benedek, a Canadian researcher and successful technopreneur, was announced the winner of the inaugural Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize in Singapore today.

The Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize is an international award recognizing an individual or organization for outstanding contributions in the world of water management. Such works have to solve the world's water problems through the application of innovative technologies or the implementation of policies and programs that benefit mankind.

Named after Singapore's founding father, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, the award comes with a cash prize of SGD300,000 (USD 215,000). The award is sponsored by the Singapore Millennium Foundation, a philanthropic body supported by Temasek Holdings that has pledged S$1.5 million over five years to the award.

Dr Benedek pioneered the development of low-pressure membranes that enabled drinking water to be produced from even highly polluted water. Today, many developed and developing countries have benefited from Dr Benedek's groundbreaking water solution.

"Dr Andrew Benedek is held in high esteem by the global water industry community for his pioneering work in low-pressure membranes. For this outstanding contribution, he deserves to be the recipient of the inaugural Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize," said Professor Anthony Gordon Fane, UNESCO Centre for Membrane Science & Technology, University of New South Wales.

Dr Benedek's revolutionary water treatment stood out in a field of 39 international nominations. Low-pressure membranes use less energy, lower operating costs and greater ease of operation compared with conventional water purification technologies. The widespread adoption of low-pressure membranes has made the technology even more affordable. Utility providers in the United States, Europe, China, India, the Middle East, South America, Japan, Australia and Singapore have incorporated Dr Benedek's membranes into their water treatment processes. The technology was instrumental in Singapore's development of reclaimed water, branded NEWater.

In addition, low-pressure membranes are also used in the pre-treatment stage in seawater desalination. This makes the process more cost-effective and therefore more viable in many countries.

The affordability of low-pressure membranes is a boon to small towns and villages which are in dire need of clean potable water. Portable water treatment units can be assembled to treat water for small communities affordably.

According to the UN Population Fund, more than 3.3 billion people will live in an urban environment by 2008 and this is likely to rise to five billion in 2030. The urban population in Asia alone will double to 2.6 billion between 2000 and 2030. This trend will put great pressure on the need for drinking water and Dr Benedek's discovery is a big leap that will benefit many generations to come.

"Through Dr Benedek's significant R&D contribution and commercialisation efforts, a superior low-cost technology for water treatment is now available for large scale use," said Mr Tan Gee Paw, Chairman of the Nominating Committee of the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize.

Nominations for the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize award went through a rigorous selection process. The Nominating Committee, comprising chief executives of multi-national companies and water utilities, leading academics in water research, policy and management and government officers, evaluated the nominations based on criteria such as merits of the technology, policy or program, its scale of delivery, application and implementation and above all, the impact and benefits to humanity. It recommended the winner to the Water Prize Council, which is chaired by Dr Tony Tan, Chairman of the Singapore National Research Foundation for its endorsement.

The award is the highlight of the inaugural Singapore International Water Week which will be held at Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre from 23 to 27 June 2008. A gold medallion, an award certificate and the cash prize will be presented to Dr Benedek by Singapore's Minister Mentor, Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

Dr Benedek, who is now based in the United States, will deliver the inaugural Singapore Water Lecture on 24 Jun 2008.

The Singapore International Water Week is the global platform for water solutions. It will bring policymakers, industry leaders, experts and practitioners together to address challenges, showcase technologies, discover opportunities and celebrate achievements in the water world.

Comprising the Water Leaders Summit, Water Convention, Water Expo and Water Festival, it culminates in the presentation of the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize, a prestigious international award to recognise outstanding contributions in solving global water issues. The inaugural Singapore International Water Week will be held from 23 to 27 June 2008. The theme is Sustainable Water Solutions for Cities.

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