Wasser 3.0 © Wasser 3.0 gGmbH

Climate change and the consumption of natural resources are among today’s biggest challenges. The German Innovation Award 2021 rewards sustainable and benefit-oriented projects that combine marketability with potential for the future. In the first article of our three-part series, we introduce the Gold Award winners for the Green Future and Material Innovation categories.


Green Future: collaborating with nature

Environmental considerations are playing an increasingly important role in maintaining a healthy economy. As such, tomorrow’s successful businesses will be green and sustainable. In an age shaped by major challenges like climate change and digitisation, as well as by demands for ethical consumption, companies have a responsibility to conserve more resources and increase their sustainability. Many companies are already using scientific research to generate countless new and innovative solutions in search of the best response to today’s problems.

Due to the Earth’s ever-increasing population, vital resources like drinking water need to be treated for consumption and distributed intelligently. Sufficient supplies of water need to be provided in ways that avoid waste. One of the smart projects helping to resolve this problem is Wasser 3.0.

Wasser 3.0 gGmbH is a non-profit company that has set itself the goal of removing microplastics and micropollutants from bodies of water via easy-to-implement methods. Their research has led to a flexible, cost-effective technology that can be implemented globally and aims to make a measurable contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Wasser 3.0 technology removes microplastics and micropollutants from water. © Water 3.0.
The Subway 3.0 TwistFlush flushing technology can significantly reduce water consumption when flushing toilets. © Villeroy & Boch AG.

Alongside water treatment, sustainable water usage is an important consideration. Germany uses 125 litres of water per capita every day. A significant proportion of this results from bathroom uses, such as showering, taking baths and flushing the toilet. To reduce water waste in this context, the company Villeroy & Boch AG has developed the Subway 3.0 TwistFlush concept.

Their goal was to develop a powerful flushing technology that achieves optimal rinsing and hygiene while only using a small amount of water. To this end, they developed a water-vortex technology that reaches the entire inner surface of the toilet. A four-person family, for example, could save almost twenty thousand litres of water per year with the technology.

© Uma Schreibgeräte Ullmann GmbH

Using materials sustainably is another important component of fostering a “green future”. In the long term, only the clever reuse of materials can prevent products from ending up on a rubbish tip at the end of their usable life. The key phrase to look out for here is “Cradle to Cradle” – this indicates that no materials used can be wasted, only reused in new products. The Gold Award-winning recycled PET PEN writing instruments project demonstrates how this kind of closed-loop economy can work.

The UMA recycled PET PEN series is the only collection of writing instruments made from 100 per cent recycled PET plastic that is verifiably produced entirely in Europe. The series is produced through climate-neutral manufacturing and is certified in accordance with the Global Recycled Standard. Not only can users order and swap out refills for the ballpoint pens, an innovative ink feed system makes it possible to refill the liquid highlighter pens.


There are many projects among the winners of the German Innovation Award 2021 that have incorporated the trend towards a green future in their products. Take a look at a few examples:

Pulsify by Hansgrohe SE. Photo: © Hansgrohe SE.
Protectonnect by Protecto. Photo © Protecto.

Material Innovation: the foundation of a climate-neutral future

From the industry and mobility industries to the lifestyle and leisure sectors, there is a huge demand for innovative materials. Here, too, the topic of sustainability is always at the centre of attention. Particularly in the fashion sector, companies that are able to produce comfortable, resource-saving textiles and offer them at competitive prices will be successful in the future. The “Material Innovation” category represents innovative and sustainable materials solutions.

The AER55 Impulse Black Blue Low safety shoes by ISM Heinrich Krämer GmbH & Co. KG are one example of this. The springy double-foamed IMPULSE.FOAM midsole returns up to 55 per cent of the wearer’s energy to their stride. Colour-contrasting loops on the tongue and heel tab of the shoe, as well as the logo printed on the interior, provide additional design elements.

The safety shoe AER55 Impulse Black Blue Low returns 55 percent of its energy to the wearer. © ISM Heinrich Krämer
EcoTerra is a concrete block alternative that represents a crucial first step on the road to completely cement-free blocks.
© METTEN Stein+Design

EcoTerra is a material of the future with a revolutionary surface. During the production of the paving stones, alternative binding agents are used in the facing layer instead of cement. This reduces its carbon footprint by approximately 15 per cent per square metre. As well as conserving valuable raw materials, EcoTerra makes the fading colours and efflorescence that conventional concrete slabs suffer from a thing of the past.


The “Material Innovation” category, too, includes exciting projects that embrace the trend towards sustainability. We introduce a selection of the winners below:

Bemer Horse-Set by BEMER Int. AG © BEMER Int. AG
EcoTerra by METTEN Stein+Design GmbH & Co. KG © METTEN Stein+Design

“Insights into Innovation”, the online program of the German Innovation Awards, opens seven different subject areas into this year’s winning innovations: “Smart 5.0: Connectivity, Robotics & AI”, “Future of Mobility”, “Green Future”, “Future Living & Working”, “Material Innovation”, “Lighting” and “Medical & Health”.

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