10 october 2016

The Challenging Market of Pharmaceutical Wastewater

Shaun Summers is the Pharmaceutical Market & Key Account Manager at Veolia Water Technologies.

Over the last few months I’ve been managing a project to review the market and our offer for pharmaceutical wastewater treatment. It is a market where we have had quite a lot of success over the years but it is not an easy market for suppliers nor indeed for clients… and here is why:

Wastewaters differ greatly between projects

This means that it is time consuming and hence costly for suppliers to respond to one-off calls for tender. The characteristics of wastewaters may be so specific that lab tests and pilot plants are required in order to minimize risk and optimize the solution. Furthermore the combination of variability and complexity do not fit well with standardized solutions, which are regularly deployed in other markets to control costs and risks. Having said that, standardized solutions can be delivered for clients that take a global approach to projects – firstly through audits then grouping similar sites together as a single bid.

Projects are relatively small for the risks/costs involved

Wastewater projects range is value from 1 – 10M€ depending on the size, scope and type of project; with the majority of projects being around the 2-3M€ range. However, the cost of bidding and the risks are comparable to major design/build projects but with a much lower return – this discourages suppliers from bidding and thus limits the choice for clients.

There are many projects by region but few by country

We estimate that there are 20-30 projects a year in Europe for example. But at a country level that translates to 2-3 per year. As such, country level suppliers mostly avoid this market and those that do respond pose a risk for clients due to their lack of experience. Regional or global suppliers are better positioned to centralize expertise and respond through their local entities – reducing risks and costs for all concerned.

Industry knowledge is the key to success

Knowledge of wastewater treatment alone is not sufficient to meet clients’ requirements in this market. It is also essential to understand a client’s products, production techniques, and the legislative trends that may impact their industry. As such, suppliers who dip in and out of the market are of less interest to clients than those that have daily exposure to the market. The latter often translates into global partnerships and co-development initiatives.
The conclusion of our market review was that we have the technologies, we understand the market - as we are exposed to it on a daily basis through our compendial water and services businesses - and we are in a good position to reduce risk and optimize cost for clients through regional/global initiatives.

If you have any thoughts or comments on the pharmaceutical wastewater market please feel free to contribute. 

Visit our "Pharmaceutical & Cosmetics Wastewaters" website to have more information.