Innovative water engineer Jianping Wen says his time at UNSW helped develop his problem-solving skills after being awarded an honorary doctorate for his service to environmental engineering.
Mr Wen has been conferred with the degree of Doctor of Engineering honoris causa, having previously graduated with a Master of Engineering Science degree from UNSW in 2001. He then founded Beijing OriginWater, which has become China’s leading membrane technology company.
With Mr Wen as chairman, Beijing OriginWater is now a world leader in the manufacture and sales of technologies for water treatment, with a strong profile in development and use of submerged membrane bioreactors for municipal wastewater treatment.
Through strong leadership with an emphasis on development of new materials and products and an innovative approach to business development, Mr Wen has transformed the water industry in China and established a benchmark for use of advanced water treatment technology throughout the country.
Mr Wen obtained his postgraduate degree at UNSW under the supervision of Scientia Professor David Waite in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and was inspired by the Water Reclamation and Management Scheme implemented at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000.
“I think the education at UNSW really strengthened my problem-solving skills,” he said.
“I was very impressed with the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games water treatment system, which included rainwater management and wastewater recycling. This was used at all the venues used for the Games and ensured that not a single drop of water was wasted.
“It was a multi-dimensional solution to a big problem and it made me understand how to take a comprehensive view and find solutions to complex problems.
“In addition, during my study at UNSW I had the opportunity to have very frequent discussions with my peers and with Professor Waite and everyone was very helpful to improving my problem-solving skills.”
Water shortage solutions
Mr Wen is hopeful that the important water solutions he has been able to deliver across China can be replicated in many other developing countries.
“Our company is aiming to solve water problems, which is one of the biggest environmental problems in China. There is a problem with water pollution and also a problem in terms of shortage of water supply and thirdly a problem with providing safe drinking water to communities,” he said.
“We are thinking differently about these problems because we see the problems in China could be unique. So our approach has been to be innovative, and not just follow existing technologies.
“We have developed several membrane technologies which play a dominant role in tackling the three big problems. What we want to achieve is to turn wastewater back to its original state, and to be discharged again into the lakes and rivers. And we can safely do this now, which actually solve the water shortage problems in China.
“There is only so much water on the earth, but we keep growing our populations – and you can’t magically produce more water for all those people to use. But I have a very strong belief that if we can solve these complex problems in China, then the solutions we have found can be very useful in helping other developing countries that are suffering from water shortage.”
Beijing OriginWater has become one of UNSW’s most trusted and reliable engineering industry partners in both research and training. Beijing Originwater has contributed in an ongoing manner to UNSW’s research effort with support as an industrial partner to a number of Australian Research Council projects and has supported UNSW through contract research.
Beijing OriginWater has also established a UNSW Internship program with the company now a destination of choice for industrial training by UNSW undergraduate engineering students in their final year of study.
Professor Stephen Foster, the Dean of the UNSW Faculty of Engineering, said Mr Wen was one of UNSW’s most esteemed engineering graduates and had made a significant impact on the environmental engineering sector during his career.
“A well-respected environmental engineering industry leader, Jianping’s focus throughout his career has been on making a difference,” Professor Foster said.
“The University Council, noting his eminent service to environmental engineering, resolved that it would be fitting if the degree of Doctor of Engineering honoris causa, were to be conferred on Mr Jianping Wen.”