Single Blog Title

This is a single blog caption

Drinking water made safer for the poor by start-up in Innovation District Copenhagen

4life SaWa

This morning, 200,000 Africans are beginning their day with a safe drink of water. They cleaned their water in a high-tech low-cost plastic container developed by the Danish impact start-up 4Life Solutions. As simple as this sounds, 4Life found vital help for their R&D efforts in Innovation District Copenhagen.

Alternatives to unsafe drinking water were not ideal

Vital to life, water can also cause severe diseases. For example, the drinking water for more than two billion humans worldwide is contaminated with various microorganisms. 4Life founder Alexander Løcke really wanted to do something about unsafe water, and the solutions he saw in Africa were not ideal.

People in low-income communities can boil their water, add chlorine, or, if they are lucky, get it from a communal tap. Boiling water over wood fires is expensive and causes a lot of pollution. Chlorinated water tastes horrible and is also too expensive for most, so that’s out too and water from taps tend to get re-contaminated on the way back to the household. I really wanted to develop a quick and cheap alternative”: Alexander Løcke, CTO and founder, 4LIFE.

Running sunshine through plastic

It turns out, that sunshine can reliably kill almost all germs in water if you keep it in a container. There was just one problem. To be cheap enough, the containers would have to be made of plastic, and all plastic containers are made to keep out the sun’s germ-killing ultraviolet rays. In 2017 Løcke founded 4Life, to get to work on formulating a new type of plastic.

We found tremendous help at University of Copenhagen. In testing the plastic for transparency and testing the microbiology of water treated in our containers. In fact, I found that university researchers were prepared to give me much more help, than what I dared to ask for”: Alexander Løcke, CTO and founder, 4Life.

220,000 litres per day shipped in a 40 foot container

Two years later, in early 2019, 4Life was ready to ship its first product to refugee camps around the world. Their SaWa bag purifies four litres at a time by placing it in the sun for four hours. It is good for 500 re-uses giving 2,000 litres of drinking water over time and folds up so flat that you can fit 55,000 bags in a 40-foot container.

By now our technology has been verified by the World Health Organisation, and UNICEF has added us to their product guides. We hope this will lead to many more NGO’s and charities sending our products to societies in need”: Alexander Løcke, CTO and founder, 4Life.

Company in growth still values access to low-cost labs

At the time of writing, in mid-2024, 4Life has 30 staff, distribution in three African countries and five microbiologists on staff. It still, however, values the low-cost easy-access lab CPH-Labs that is available to them through their office community, the Innovation District Copenhagen-partner Symbion.

The story of 4Life is a great example of the benefits of being located in an innovation ecosystem where there is easy access to partners, lab facilities, talent and much more”: Kristoffer Klebak, Head of secretariat, Innovation District Copenhagen.

Next product ready to launch

4Life recently added the six litre SaWa can to its product line. This durable container promises to cover the drinking water needs of three people for two entire years at a price that is much lower than wood-fires, chlorine and taps. While being 100% locally manufactured and fully recyclable.