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The Big Picture San Diego Blog

MetroConnect Spotlight: Applied Membranes

August 19, 2015

This is part of an ongoing series on the recipients of the MetroConnect Prize, a grant awarded to 15 companies looking to expand into new foreign markets and made possible by JPMorgan Chase. Subscribe here to receive new posts every Wednesday on this topic.

“The future of water is going to be turbulent for all of us — not far away, but right where we live; not in some distant decade, but next month or next spring. A sense of water insecurity is coming to many places that have never had a water worry.” – Charles Fishman, “How California is Winning the Drought”, New York Times

Water. The world’s most precious resource. It is the fuel of manufacturing and the embodiment of craft beer. It is the heartbeat of international trade and the platform for mass entertainment.

Lately, this resource has been incredibly scarce across the globe, especially in California. However, the innovation coming out of government and business has begun to address this dire need; for instance, Israel overcame its lack of water by building desalination plants. Six years later, Israel is no longer “drying up”. In 2014, Saudi Arabia began construction on the world’s largest desalination plant. Not only is San Diego building the largest desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere in Carlsbad, it is also the world leader in the technology that is enabling these countries to build such important devices that bring potable sea water to the masses.

“San Diego County was the ‘birthplace’ of the commercialization of spiral wound reverse osmosis membrane technology,” said Dr. Gil Dhawan, founder and CEO at Applied Membranes. “Our company, started here and this area is a very desirable place to be – having local access to talented individuals and knowledgeable customers, we can design and manufacture the best available water treatment solutions.”

Reverse osmosis membranes separate the impurities in water to create filtered water, which people can drink or companies can use to manufacture craft beer.

Dr. Dhawan worked extensively with Dr. Sourirajan, the inventor of the first commercial reverse osmosis membranes. After working with one of the industry’s founding fathers, Dr. Dhawan started his own company. Headquartered in Vista, Applied Membranes is a manufacturer and distributor of water filtration systems and components that revolve around this technology.

With more than 175 employees in the region and more than 30 years of experience, Applied Membranes is one of the most global companies in San Diego. It currently does business in North Africa, Europe, the Middle East and many other regions around the world.

San Diego’s maritime industry is one of the largest in the U.S. The success of the industry’s small- and medium-sized companies is critical to the region’s future, and increasing their global reach is crucial to that success. Through the MetroConnect Prize, made possible by JPMorgan Chase, companies such as Applied Membranes received $10,000 grants to assist with their next step in going global.

“We are using the money for targeted travel to Japan and China to set up meetings with prospective customers/distributors and to attend trade shows,” said Dr. Dhawan. “We believe that both countries represent growth markets for our products.”


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