Publication date: 

Not only tourists are "baking" in the hot Dubai desert these days, but also big-money deals „are baked“. The Czechs want to succeed especially with the oasis maker - the S.A.W.E.R. systém which according to its creators is the only one in the world that can turn even dry air into water. "We have about ten potential investors from Australia, Dubai, Riyadh, Malaysia, India and NATO allies," says Jiří František Potužník, the general commissioner of the Czech exposition about the project which could fetch tens of millions of crowns for a single licence.

How big is business at the Expo that was postponed for a year?

It has two levels: the construction of infrastructure and the exhibition of exhibits to which the creation of business bonds is linked. Like previous organisers in Milan or Shanghai, Dubai was counting on investments in the tens of billions of dollars (equivalent to hundreds of billions of crowns) to ensure infrastructure and urban development in the long term.

This money has sparked a huge business for exhibition centre contractors and pavilion builders. Unfortunately, the less time is left until the Expo, the more the prices rise. If you delay highway construction, nothing happens, so to speak. If you miss the Expo by six months, you have thrown away a huge investment. That's the pressure we faced right up to the last minute. Contractors are benefiting from this advantageous position.

Then there are the exhibitors who are trying to impress.

There is particular interest in the S.A.W.E.R. system (short for Solar Air Water Earth Resource - ed.), which is the only one in the world that can produce water from dry air. It is the only one in the industry that works 100% independently. Normally, you need 66 percent or more humidity to get condensation out of the air, but the S.A.W.E.R. can do it with 15 percent humidity. It collects water by harnessing solar energy, the surface tension of the material, so it needs significantly less energy than the competition.

Attention is also drawn to Průša Research's 3D printers, Vlastimil Beránek's Czech glass and the fossil oaks in front of the pavilion - six thousand year old wood from which beautiful tables are made.

Did participation at the Expo help to start negotiations with potential buyers for S.A.W.E.R.?

We have about ten serious interested parties, potential investors from Australia, Dubai, Riyadh, Malaysia and NATO friendly countries. The Indians have already been here twice and are planning a ministerial visit. Some have already visited Prague.

The large version of the S.A.W.E.R. produces up to eight hundred litres of water a day but we also have medium and smaller versions. The smallest one can be carried by two men and is intended for humanitarian purposes. The S.A.W.E.R. is not a solution for places where there is already infrastructure or where you can desalinate the sea. There you can get drinking water significantly cheaper and faster. But it is a solution for places where there is no water.

SAWE. R. can be dropped from a helicopter and after a small installation you have water. You can build water points for people or camels in the desert. Existing oases are drying up. But you don't need 25,000 litres of water a day to save them. A thousand is enough to be self-sustaining. In the same way, S.A.W.E.R. can help restore water flows in the higher elevations of the Czech or Afghan mountains.

If negotiations with interested parties go well, how big contract would be created?

For example, if a bidder received a licence to manufacture or sell the S.A.W.E.R. system, it would depend on how large area it would cover. A licence to deal in SA. WER. only in the Gulf would certainly be cheaper than to deal in it for the whole of Asia. Nevertheless we can say that the licence might be in the order of tens of millions of crowns.

Will the production of water from dry air be expensive?

The technology is becoming more efficient and the ratio between the purchase price and the litre of water produced is shrinking. More water is produced for less money. But it's still quite expensive.

What does that mean?

Six million crowns for the current containerized large version. That's just the cost of the container, not the development. One produces electricity, the other water. A solar shield must be spread over both. One square metre of solar panels makes one to two litres of water a day, depending on the humidity.

With many Asian countries closed due to the pandemic, visitors from many major markets cannot make it to the Expo or they can make it only in very limited numbers. Aren't you worried that the organisers will lose heavily on a monstrous and extremely expensive event?

The pandemic problems of China and India are and will be very much in evidence. Attendance will be less than the 25 million projected. I think it will be under 20. It will also depend on how the world deals with the delta variant of covid. It will be a success for us if ten percent of all visitors come here. If we get ten million in total, a million will be great.

Are you counting visitors to the Czech pavilion?

Yes. We use the simplest method. We push buttons. One thing is the number of visitors, another is their satisfaction. If you build a big gate and give everyone a free beer, a lot of people come, but what do they find out about the Czech Republic?

What will happen to buildings worth hundreds of millions after the Expo? The site is vast, covering 4.4 square kilometres.

The Expo is not built on a green field, but on golden sand. It's meant to fill the space between Abu Dhabi and Dubai. We are about forty kilometres from the centre of Dubai and only eighty kilometres from Abu Dhabi. The largest buildings of the organisers and exhibitors will remain on the site, which is gated and where, among other things, the Dubai Metro runs. A social-cultural backdrop will be created around which other development projects, often apartments, will operate.

What is the value of the pavilions, often architectural gems using state-of-the-art innovations?

Ours cost less than a hundred million crowns, with the exposition costing another hundred. The rest is paid for by the exhibitors themselves. They had to produce the exhibits, transport them, have their own people at some of them and still pay rent. Public money is used to rent a building, an exhibition space. We leave it up to the private sector, their courage, their ideas and their investment power to decide what to present here. I am not in favour of the state having a major say in this. Business has to  say it for itself.

What will Škoda look like in 2030:

What will happen to the Czech pavilion after Expo?

We signed the contracts in 2017 with the understanding that after the Expo we would dismantle the pavilion, recycle as much as possible and return the sandy site to Dubai in its original state. Now we and a couple of other pavilions have been offered to let the pavilion stand for another five years without paying rent. They would let us keep the land for free and we could continue to operate.

So you're staying in the desert?

The foreign and industry ministries don't have a team in Dubai to run the pavilion. We're coming back home after the Expo. There's no reason to keep running the pavilion. It looks like we're going to dismantle it. I've spoken to the commissioners of some of the other pavilions. Some of them have already sold their pavilions in advance, most of them expecting to use them for six months to a year. Just postponing the event for a year has caused a number of problems: corrosion, material fatigue. A year's postponement made it more expensive for everyone.

The Czech Pavilion stands next to one of the three entrance gates to the site. This seems like a good strategic position.

We knew from the beginning that we wanted to present an oasis in the desert and we didn't want to drown it between two buildings. We are not in the middle of the row, the pavilion is visible from the side. We also wanted to be in the sustainability section, which we did. And we didn't want to be overshadowed by the big pavilion. For example the neighbours of the Spanish pavilion are practically invisible. We also hope that not only people will come to us after entering through the gate but that those leaving will also stop for a "one-stop".

You are adjacent to a very distinctive Singapore, with long queues in places for the pavilion full of greenery.

Both pavilions are definitely worth a visit. Our key focus is on sustainability, through construction, operation, lowest carbon footprint, energy efficiency and environmental impact. Unlike the Singapore Pavilion, ours has no deep foundations; our structure can be dismantled quickly and easily.
We produce energy with solar collectors, we produce water for watering with the S.A.W.E.R. system and we use the residual heat to heat water in the kitchen. We have toilets that flush 1.5 litres of water instead of the average five litres. This technology is presented here by Swiss Aqua Technologies, a subsidiary of Siko. They use the pressure in the risers, so they don't need any additional energy for vacuum.

How can companies and entrepreneurs benefit from a visit to the Expo?

It is a world exhibition aimed at the general public from the very beginning. The professional or industrial sector is a small part of it. Each pavilion has its own theme, not all of them are about industry, high-tech innovations and the like. Some focus on historical retrospectives, others present in the form of tourist invitations. We show the Czech Republic as a country of healing spas, care and beautiful cities. Most of the exhibition is high-tech. Companies can look for inspiration at the Expo. However, we live in the 21st century.

What do you mean by that?

The organisers are lucky to have at least a few world premiere exhibits at the Expo. For us, I will mention the new generation of 3D printers from Průša Research or the aforementioned innovative toilets from Swiss Aqua Technologies.

Historically, inventors have waited for Expo to introduce locomotives, telephones or even ketchup to the world. When you develop something today, you go to market immediately. I don't suppose there are a huge number of world premiere innovations or patents to be found here. But there are always new solutions. There are 190 exhibitors and 60 original pavilions - there is something for everyone, visitor and company alike.

Who are the exhibitors targeting?

Suppliers of art exhibits, such as wood or glass, target property developers, hotel chains or wealthy families. For example, some sculptures often end up on yachts, they can be stabilised. Established companies such as Lasvit, which is also participating and has decorated a number of local hotels in addition to the Dubai Opera House and part of the metro, are consolidating their position in the market with their participation. Then there are the big players like Pilsner Urquell who don't want to miss out. Smaller companies, on the other hand, are trying to penetrate more through the Expo. Manufacturers of printer cartridges, tiles and various lights are also taking part.

Take a look at the other interesting pavilions at the Expo:

Přijde-li do českého pavilonu milion lidí, bude to super, říká komisař ČR na Expu 2020 Potužník -, Jiří Liebreich