Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology Awards Its Grand Prize to Petra Wadström

The Royal Institute of Technology, KTH, has chosen Petra Wadström, founder and inventor of Solvatten, as the recipient of this year’s grand prize. KTH grants this award to promote people who have made groundbreaking discoveries. KTH’s grand prize is awarded annually and includes previous laureates such as Johan Rockström, Stina Ehrensvärds, Max Tegmark, Hans Rosling, and Christer Fuglesang.  

KTH’s Motivation:  

Clean water is crucial for people’s health, opportunities and quality of life.  It is also critical for future generations who hope to live in a sustainable world. Petra Wadström is a unique problem solver with a large measure of stubbornness who, through her innovation Solvatten, has changed the lives of many people – particularly women – around the world. She has designed a solution that is as simple and durable as it is ingenious – where the water can be purified with the help of the sun. With this invention, more people get access to vitally clean water every day.  

“I am honored to receive such a special award and would like to thank KTH,” said Petra Wadström. “It means so much that KTH has recognized Solvatten and as such, can help us increase awareness of our mission. Since Solvatten’s inception, approximately 500,000 people around the world now use Solvatten on a daily basis. There are a large number of families and children who are now better off thanks to Solvatten and all the strong collaborations we have with partner organizations, companies and donors.” 

The idea of Solvatten was based on the principle that ultraviolet light destroys microorganisms. Wadström has applied that knowledge in practice, but the origins of Solvatten also come from Wadström’s drive and empathy towards women and children who live without clean water. It is a great burden for mainly women and children to get water and firewood for the household on a daily basis. It takes a lot of time and energy to boil water clean and heat water for things like cooking and hygiene. Using solar energy instead of burning wood for boiling water saves money, trees and forests which is good for both the environment and climate.   

Vision for the future

“My vision for the future is that warm and safe water from a clean, renewable energy source can be found in every home,” Wadström said.  “But it requires joint efforts to solve this great challenge and a new standard would be needed for that. We must also fight for the future and each other together. Sustainable solutions need to reach further and faster. Hundreds of thousands of people use Solvatten daily, which feels incredibly large, but we want to reach millions more families.  Everyone can help! The SDGs (UN’s Sustainable Development Goals) can be supported in big and small ways: from DNA and microlevel to climate and macrolevel – that is Solvatten in its entirety.  

Petra Wadström has won several prizes and awards including Aftonbladet’s Environmental Hero, the EU Prize for Women Inventors, the UNFCCC Momentum For Change, the Polhem Prize, WWF Climate Solver, and the Swedish Design Prize among others.

 Photo by Mikael Sjöberg, KTH.