ISCLEANAIR: A Pioneer in Air Pollution Abatement Technology

case-study| 1 February 2024

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Interview with Fabio Galatioto, Board Member, Chief Technology Officer and director of the UK branch

ISCLEANAIR (Is CLEAN AIR – Benefit Company S.r.l.) started operationally in 2017, building upon several years of research, development, and testing activities aimed at developing and improving its groundbreaking APA – Air Pollution Abatement technology and related solutions.

ISCLEANAIR’s mission is to purify the ambient air we all breathe and create healthier, safer, and energy-efficient living and working environments. To date, the company has 200+ installations, 60+ projects, wide IPRs, as well as prestigious certifications and recognitions worldwide. It has also been awarded funding at both EU level (Horizon 2020 SME Instruments Phase II and Phase I; EIT Manufacturing, PURE, and Clean Air Net projects, etc.) and national level (NEZAPOB – Nearly Zero Air Pollution Buildings project, etc.), alone or in partnership with industry leaders and research organisations. ISCLEANAIR is present in three sites in Italy (headquarters in Rome, super lab and productive module in Chieti, and industrial cooperation in Naples and Turin), in the United Kingdom with a local branch (ISCLEANAIR GLOBAL SOLUTIONS), and in Hong Kong with a local presence and business partners.

For more information on the company and its projects, visit the official website of ISCLEANAIR.

Introduction to air pollution abatement technology and solutions

APA – Air Pollution Abatement technology utilises simple water and mechanical processes to achieve an impressive 99% reduction in ambient air pollution, eliminating the need for filters.

It addresses the widest range of toxic pollutants and harmful substances, including ammonia, greenhouse gasses such as CO2, and nanoparticles several times smaller than viruses and bacteria, thus tackling several issues simultaneously. When coupled with existing HVAC systems in buildings, APA can enhance energy efficiency and cut energy costs by up to 25% while, consequently, reducing CO2 emissions.

APA technology and solutions are designed to ideally act distributed, mainly at the surface level, with a patented cluster configuration model allowing it to cover large areas, indoors and outdoors.

ISCLEANAIR’s portfolio is made of several unique APA solutions thought and developed for different scopes of application and characterised by their extreme scalability and modularity. These are multi-shape and multi-function solutions, which can adapt to the type of environment that needs to be addressed. ISCLEANAIR solutions can also be integrated with other technologies, improving the performance of both. Below are a few of these solutions.

APA Panel/Totem

APA Panel/ Totem is a solution specific for industrial applications, large indoor and outdoor areas, and smart city projects. It has achieved TRL 9 thanks to the PURE project co-financed by the EU, aimed at implementing APA to transform industrial areas into more sustainable environments while protecting the health of workers from prolonged exposure to high levels of air pollution. ISCLEANAIR provided five APA panels, assembled by COMAU in FAGOR’s industrial site in Spain. After two months of use, CEA conducted an evaluation analysis of the results achieved. The evaluation found a reduction of >50% particulate matter in painting operations, a reduction of >60% of VOCs in milling and painting operations, a reduction of more than 40% in painting operations, and a 64% abatement of formaldehyde and styrene.

PURE project – Air Purification Units for Manufacturing Environments
Co-financed by EIT Manufacturing
Duration: 1 January – 31 December 2021
Functional area: Innovation
Focus area: Low environmental footprint systems & circular economy for green manufacturing
Project consortium:
COMAU: Lead partner
ISCLEANAIR: Technology provider
CEA – Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives (France): Independent third party for monitoring
FAGOR Arrasate (Spain): End-user

APA Mini-panel and Flowerpot

APA Mini-panel and Flowerpot are smaller solutions for interior spaces such as schools, universities, museums, workplaces, and hospitals. The EU co-financed Clean Air Net project, aimed at improving, industrialising, and commercialising smaller APA technology devices, now in its final phases, was started to achieve TRL 9 from TRL 7 for these solutions, specifically by reducing the noise of interior design solutions, integrating a new method for decomposing contaminants in the water used and for detecting viruses, while improving performance and reducing water consumption. ISCLEANAIR leveraged the ability of APA technology to remove and break down nanoparticles, viruses, and microorganisms and developed an in-situ treatment and virus detection tool for water used in APA systems, tested in four different internal offices/spaces provided by consortium partners.

CleanAirNet project – Air Cleaner nature-based cluster solutions for indoor spaces
Co-financed by EIT Manufacturing
Duration: 1 January – 31 December 2023
Functional area: Innovation
Focus area: Smart technologies for cleaner indoor spaces
Project consortium:
– ISCLEANAIR: Lead partner and technology provider
Comesvil SpA: Technology provider
CEA – Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives (France): Independent third party for monitoring
– IPOOL Srl (Italy): End-user
CUBIT – Consortium Ubiquitous Technologies S.c.a.r.l. (Italy): Project tech provider and end-user

Other recent projects

Building on the achievements of the mentioned projects, other recent projects were carried out by IGS Limited, the UK branch. The Innovate UK – Fast Start Project – “Energy efficient building with filterless air pollution abatement solution”, focused on achieving “Net Zero Buildings” and reducing environmental impacts through improvement in energy and building management costs, enabling new approaches to energy efficiency by coupling APA with HVAC – Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning systems existing in buildings: the objective was to increase by at least 20% the energy efficiency of the HVAC systems, by removing in advance the airborne particles responsible for clogging HVAC filters which result in higher energy consumption and reduced performance overtime of HVACs, to enhance the existing HVAC systems to go beyond coarse particles removal and remove the widest range of pollutants from urban air, which is then introduced in buildings.

Again, a reduction of the overall costs by at least 30% for running HVAC systems in buildings, achieving a 100% sustainable solution, is made possible by re-using the water generated by condensation from HVACs into the APA system and powering APA with renewable energy, obtaining the highest level of re-use of natural resources. On the other hand, the “Filterless and water-based technology for ammonia reduction in agriculture” aims to demonstrate the ability of APA to remove ammonia (NH3) directly from the air in the farm environments, thus confirming the potential of innovative APA solutions beyond their current wide portfolio of applications.

Main considerations for establishing a local presence in Hong Kong and registering patents in mainland China

At the end of 2018, a Joint Venture was set up in Hong Kong, called ISCLEANAIR Asia. Why Hong Kong instead of other locations in the region? Simple, because the main JV partner is a senior engineer and global commercial advisor with over 25 years of experience in large companies, innovation projects and start-ups in the region, and he is based in Hong Kong. Also, Hong Kong may represent a good gateway to closely observe the commercial developments and access serviceable market in the region.

ISCLEANAIR’s patents in China

  • Patent – TECH 001, Network of complex systems for environmental remediation and method for controlling the network, International.
  • Patent – TECH 002, Method and system for mixing gas and liquid for gravitational, physical and chemical collection of compounds).
  • Patent – TECH 006, Method and system for fluid stream chemical compounds collection, deposition and separation.

We have a long-term vision to expand activities and cooperation for this region and the related areas of influence.

At the beginning of 2020, some plans were finalised for ISCLEANAIR’s Asian SPV to enter the Hong Kong Science & Technology Park, but these were halted by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, together with all the other plans to expand into mainland China. After the lifting of restrictions, business expansion plans were resumed consistently: a resource was hired on the ground through the 55° CORCE Fausto De Franceschi, a Master Program for the internationalisation of enterprises, an initiative promoted by ITA (Italian Trade Agency).

Following a series of initiatives and exploratory activities, we extended the sensitivity analysis and identified a series of potential projects and possible business partners, some of them very promising. Recently, ISCLEANAIR also took part in the China Hi-Tech Fair 2023 in Shenzhen, joining the EU SME Centre’s booth.

At the same time, we have several patents in mainland China. The reason for having patents in China is to closely protect the company’s core technology from IP infringement, especially unauthorised use and imitation risks which are very high, within the framework of business models and cooperation agreements.

Furthermore, it may also facilitate our efforts to access the market as owning patents often constitutes a precondition for partnerships to grow, especially when involving government actors, as it increases credibility. Furthermore, China is one of the most important global players, and leveraging the positioning obtained in the Chinese economy may be beneficial to other endeavours. Finally, the Chinese market has always been appealing to ISCLEANAIR: every year, the number of patents filed and granted in the country is extremely high, and this signals China’s innovation capabilities and trends.

Our current efforts focus on expanding our presence in the Chinese market. We are now closely examining the current scenarios of the market, particularly from the legislation and ecosystem perspective, and proposing to potential stakeholders our innovative APA solutions for application in the fields of smart cities, cleantech, healthcare, carbon capture, energy efficiency, HVAC, agriculture, and farming.

Needs, feasibility and main partners for APA technology and solutions in China

There are several reasons for us to introduce APA technology to the Chinese market. First, China is the second world’s economy and, as such, it has a high presence of companies with high production capacity that could potentially manufacture APA locally. Second, China is one of the main users and importers of equipment for filtering and purifying air: this offers a breeding ground for APA solutions deployment. Third, in the past few years, the Chinese government has enacted many policies and substantial funds to support and promote innovative and sustainable solutions, especially targeting the reduction of carbon emissions since the “war on pollution” that was initiated in 2014.

Furthermore, Italy and China enjoy solid diplomatic relationships which can be beneficial for promoting collaborations. Finally, the opportunity lies itself in the fact that air pollution in China remains one of the biggest environmental issues, with the average concentration of particulate matter many times higher than the WHO’s limit.

Our APA technology represents an effective solution to all these issues: we can abate up to 99% of the widest range of toxic pollutants, in many different environments and according to user needs, thus with a high degree of customisation.

While on paper the potential of APA technology in China is immense, in practice, to penetrate the market it is essential to build a strong network of contacts. Our market entry strategy is to begin with a pilot project to demonstrate the incontrovertible benefits provided by APA and to gain users’ trust, until a structured and mutually beneficial partnership is established for the long term, effectively transferring the technology to the partner.

Our main target group in China includes large corporates and industrial and commercial partners with a strong manufacturing capability and interest in technology transfer, operators of public spaces, buildings, and infrastructures of different kinds – both indoor and outdoor; public administration bodies, local governments, institutions and operators that can provide input for the implementation of APA technology in smart cities in the smart cities of the present and future.

ISCLEANAIR wants to serve any place of life and work, to provide them with healthier and safer spaces and with energy-efficient solutions.

Specific challenges encountered when accessing the Chinese market: competition, mild regulations and cultural factors

There are two main challenges. The first is the fierce competition that characterises the Chinese market, and more broadly the entire market for air purification, virus detection, and HVAC that are predominantly held by HEPA filters or other filter-based technologies. In general, the market is quite saturated with purification technologies which, however, have many limits, and certainly do not have the same competitive advantage that APA technology has. At the same time, lack of knowledge inescapably leads to skepticism of stakeholders that may not know about the innovation of APA technology, thus resulting in reluctance to risk without proven and visible results. This attitude can also be influenced by the culture and general tendency to difficulty build trust after a short time. This is why our main market entry strategy in China builds on pilot/demonstration projects to be scaled up upon successful completion.

The second challenge relates to the often standards and laws existing in China regulating emissions: the requirements appear to be overall still too mild, and relatively easy to circumvent.

ISCLEANAIR firmly believes that only through the implementation of stringent rules to protect people and the environment, thanks to clear legislation, ambient air cleaning technologies like APA can become the answer to the needs of large markets, on the other part of the industrial and building requests, as well as carbon credit markets.

In this way it becomes a ‘must’, with a clear change that happens with mindfulness, well recognized as a new social service instead of simply a product ‘nice’ to have. Therefore, a further push from Chinese institutions could create a better environment to thrive. In addition, it appears that there are challenges relating to reporting data on emissions, which often may not be entirely accurate, consequently resulting in forged compliance.

In addition to the above, cultural factors also represent a significant challenge in business negotiations, with trust and awareness.

ISCLEANAIR has recently hosted a Chinese delegation in its super lab and productive module in Chieti, close to Pescara, in the center of Italy. The Chinese visitors came with a long list of highly detailed questions, including the return of investments and operational requests, getting the right answers to all their needs.

Plans and outlook: increasing the weight of China in the business strategy

China, and the broader region of East Asia, will be an important market for ISCLEANAIR technology and solutions.

Through the JV in Hong Kong and some resources on the ground, the company in the past few years (with a stop for the pandemic crisis, and now in re-launching steps) made many exploration phases, market sounding and business proposals to local companies and entities. It has been actively cultivating dialogue with potential stakeholders and partners to extend the cooperation and create a local champion, with local shareholders, with the integration of the value chain both commercial and industrial.

ISCLEANAIR is now stepping up these efforts in this regard, guided by its mission to tackle CO2 emissions from factories and busy trafficked intersections.

ISCLEANAIR positions itself as a technology-driven company, with a clear position of technology supremacy and leadership coming from many patents owned, large know-how and experiences matured on the field, devoted to the serviceable markets.

Building from the success achieved and lessons learned in other markets, the company’s strategy for Chinese opportunities is built on the following steps:

  • Establish synergies and fair collaborations with local stakeholders;
  • Propose one or more pilot projects aimed at demonstrating the impact of APA technology even at the local level, to breach the initial entry barrier, thanks to the fact that it is already validated internationally and patented in China and the main industrial countries worldwide, and quickly replicable and applicable into various spaces and fields;
  • Joint creation of a JV / SPV as a local company with the capacity to scale up quickly in the territories of reference, building on IPRs transfer models to manufacture directly in China all the solutions to serve the large markets, at the local level, thus significantly reducing the risks, and costs for the roll-out, widely enhancing the confidence factors and opening to better dialogue and trust among partners.

ISCLEANAIR envisions that the weight of the Chinese serviceable markets will be significantly higher in the following years, with the comprehension of the value of protecting people’s health and the environment, because we have only “one Planet”.

Beijing, Chongqing, and the region of the Yangtze River Delta are currently the areas we believe to have the greatest potential at this stage, but the company is open to discussing with local partners from other regions as well. China’s air purification market is massive and there is space for ISCLEANAIR to introduce its APA technology and achieve social and business value.

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