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Global water challenges: Innovative ecosystems as driver of international solutions

About the blog

Hein Molenkamp
Managing Director, Water Alliance, The Netherlands.

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  • Global water challenges: Innovative ecosystems as driver of international solutions

To say that the world we live in faces great challenges may be a cliché, but no less true. The rapidly growing shortage of safe and clean water alone requires innovative solutions in many areas. From sanitation to drinking water and from households to industry; the way we handle scarce water worldwide will have to change dramatically. Processes need to be more efficient and circular.

Fortunately, the world is teeming with innovative inventors who are often well into developing solutions. However, the road from idea to market is usually long and bumpy, which is why smart inventions tend to get stranded and are often delayed. Innovative ecosystems, such as WaterCampus Leeuwarden in the Netherlands, can provide the solution. They play a key part in helping to accelerate that journey from idea to market. Good for the world and for the international water sector.

WaterCampus Leeuwarden is a unique partnership of private and public organisations, companies and governments. At the heart of the WaterCampus are the three organisations Wetsus, the European knowledge center for sustainable water technology, the Centre of Expertise Watertechnology (CEW) and the Water Alliance. Wetsus provides scientific research. The CEW helps shorten time-to-market through applied research and product development. And the Water Alliance helps companies and organizations with business development, matchmaking, marketing and PR.

Innovation ecosystem

But there is more. At the Water Application Center, companies and researchers can scale up trials and use extensive lab facilities. The Centre for Innovative Craftsmanship Water (CIV Water) helps MBO students in the water sector learn the craft and at the Biobizz Hub newly developed water and biotechnology can be scaled up to practical market applicability.

If we are to overcome the challenges facing the world, the sharing of knowledge must take place much earlier and more frequently

Thus, an extraordinary innovation ecosystem has been developed that can initiate, stimulate and accelerate innovation in virtually all aspects of water technology. Pioneering innovative companies such as Hydraloop systems, DMT, Wafilin Systems, and Samotics found their way to international customers partly thanks to support from WaterCampus Leeuwarden.

International cooperation

A great deal of knowledge is already being shared in the water sector, but there is always room for improvement. If we are to overcome the challenges facing the world, the sharing of knowledge must take place much earlier and more frequently. Not only between companies, but also government and educational institutions will have to develop at more or less the same pace, and ideally in the same direction. At WaterCampus Leeuwarden, the past ten years have been devoted to creating an ecosystem in which all these facets are represented.

Cooperation should also not be slowed down by country borders. In a turbulent world, full of conflicting interests, it may sometimes seem difficult to face challenges collaboratively. The good news, however, is that infrastructure has already been put in place at the base. At Water Alliance, for example, we collaborate with clusters worldwide, some of which participate with us in the Global Water Tech Hub Alliance. This alliance connects five other powerful global water clusters to the WaterCampus. These are clusters from Israel, the US, Singapore, South Korea and China. Together they play a connecting role for the global sector. Large contracts are not concluded overnight, but we do know where to find each other and this helps companies to expand abroad.

Technological advances have brought much to humanity, but by no means have the consequences always been one hundred percent positive. In the challenges the world now faces, there is once again a leading role for this science. That being said, government, educational institutions and industry will need to join forces internationally to help that science, to bring promising innovations to market at an accelerated pace. We owe that to the generations that will come after us.

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