Joint Interview with Wim Van Vierssen & Ilari Aho – Water Europe Board Members for College D ‘Suppliers & SMEs’
You were recently elected as Water Europe board members of college D ‘Suppliers & SMEs’- Could you tell us what drives you personally to have this role at Water Europe? What do you want to achieve?
Wim: I have worked for many years of my career at universities and knowledge institutions. From that background, I was also a College B member of Water Europe for years. There I learned how much time and money it takes to get innovative research off the ground. I am now active as a consultant at a commercial engineering company that is a member of College D, the world of SMEs and technology suppliers. In the classical view, there is a large gap between an innovative idea and the market, the so-called Valley of Death. I would like to contribute to help bridge that gap.
Ilari: I am and have been for all my career passionate about innovation, sustainability and the role businesses play in improving our society. The water business is a fantastic mix of these, as we work with a resource that is essential to all human and natural life, and our businesses can make a big difference in safeguarding and preserving it. Water Europe is positioned in the centre of delivering a better world through business, policy and technology innovation, and having the possibility to serve on the WE board is an opportunity to personally contribute to this transition.
Representing the solutions providers at Water Europe, which ones do you consider the key challenges and the most burning needs of this college and how do you contribute to addressing these in the context of Water Europe?
Ilari: As with almost all business sectors, one of the most important challenges that solution providers face is increasing and speeding up early market adoption of innovative solutions. In sectors that are based on critical long service life assets, such as the water sector, this requires finding models for sharing the financial and technical risks associated with innovation, and collaborative and co-creative development models across the value chain. I believe that a broad cross-industry community such as the WE membership can overcome these challenges by creating new types of innovation partnerships, and I would aspire to contribute to this development.
Wim: The main challenge is that you have to do business yourself. Our members can do that like no other. Water Europe can, however, support its members in matters beyond their own strength. For example, when mapping out what the future needs of the water sector could be. Think of energy efficiency, water storage as an instrument against the effects of prolonged dry spells, sustainable desalination and advanced digital solutions. The adaptability of water infrastructure poses an additional challenge due to climate change. But innovations are difficult to predict. Not even by Water Europe. So, we are here to always give support to enthusiastic members who work in their own way every day.
Encouraging innovation in the water sector is vital. How important do you consider the role of SMEs in this regard and what are the existing opportunities for the uptake of their innovations to the next level both inside and outside of Europe?
Wim: I think SMEs are the missing link between academic research and the market. Innovative companies are by their nature very aware of what needs to be done to make their idea marketable. But even then, that is a complex matter. I personally believe in creating a much more innovative ecosystem by challenging our major European multi-national water companies to assist innovative SMEs to gain access to the European market and even beyond that. The path up for an SME is difficult and takes a lot of stamina and determination. Such partnerships could help. Water Europe may facilitate such partnerships among its members, but also beyond.
Ilari: A large part of technology innovation, indeed, has its origin in one way or another in SMEs. The SME challenge is related to their typically limited access to broader markets and limited resources for business development. Large, established corporations can in turn provide access to new markets for SME innovations, and extend their outreach to new customer groups. Facilitating and supporting this interaction and partnering between SMEs and large corporations could be a valuable leverage for European innovations.
Based on our vision, Water Europe aims to build a Water-Smart Society. From your point of view, which actions shall we put forward to make this happen and how could the solution providers contribute to that?
Ilari: I think the key again is in collaboration across the value chain. By bringing together solution providers, utilities, water users, the research community, and other partners, we will be able to much better identify and specify the problems that require smart solutions both in the short and long term. Solutions are after all only as valuable and important as the problems they address.
Wim: A water-smart society recognizes the role of water as a primary factor for prosperity and well-being. Such a society deals consciously and sparingly with water, but also ensures that water of the right quality is available at the right time for various purposes, such as drinking water, industrial water or water for nature. Given the dynamics associated with climate change, this is a complex care task. There are great opportunities for solution providers because of the enormous task. We are talking about a great diversity of solutions, products and services. Incidentally, I think that in such a world of water checks and balances digital services are becoming increasingly important.Read More
Why is water important for you? What drives you personally to this new role at the MEP Water Group?
By its very nature, water is in constant circulation. In all communities, we have a shared responsibility to manage our water resources effectively and to bear in mind the impacts that water use can have on other sectors. The lessons we are learning with this pandemic reinforce my conviction that water is at the heart of society. Water has endless possibilities that need to be unlocked. It’s all about how we both use and re-use the water that we have at our disposal, both as a resource and as a source of energy.
Firstly, we need to stop wasting the water we are using daily. 80% of wastewater flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused in today’s world. Only 2.4% of the treated urban wastewater effluents are reused annually in Europe. It is a huge untapped potential for our society, particularly for the regions that suffer most from water scarcity. The EU already has several solutions that simply need to be upscaled.
Secondly, it is important to include the diverse role of water in our energy supply. Water purification costs a lot of energy – but also has the means to create a lot of energy. Therefore, the focus on the energy efficiency of urban wastewater is also crucial.
We must share our knowledge, technologies and best practices in order to prevent such a massive waste of resources. What we need is a better infrastructure, accompanied by the most modern water purification technologies we have at our disposal. That is what drives me personally in fulfilling my new role at the MEP Water Group, especially coming from Denmark, where technology and knowledge have made Danish water utilities frontrunners when it comes to water loss. With a loss of only 7.8% compared to countries wasting up to 60%, it is among the best in the world when it comes to the use of wastewater.
The wastewater sector also has huge potential to help reduce CO2 emissions. In my home country, Denmark, several wastewater treatment plants, for example, the ‘Kalundborg Utility’ and – as cited in the World Energy Outlook 2016 – ‘Marselisborg Wastewater Treatment Plant’, are now operating in a climate-neutral manner. In fact, they are producing energy while also being highly efficient in traditional water treatment. For these very reasons, it is essential to have a critical review of the legal framework; starting with the current Urban Waste Water Directive which dates from 1991. By spreading that knowledge and technologies, we can set in motion more exports of Danish solutions and foster job creation. This will be a showcase of sustainable water technologies for both the EU and the rest of the world.
Could you tell us a few words about the MEP Water Group and the importance of its activities?
With climate change, water risk management is one of the greatest challenges humanity faces today. However, water remains somewhat invisible in politics. Only when we start looking at the support the water sector provides to all the other sectors of our society, we realise its quintessential position. With the launch of the Green Deal, the European Commission contributes to the efforts to tackle these challenges. This legislature is an opportunity to secure multiple purposes and users of water. What we deeply need is a “Water-Smart Society.”
Therefore, the MEP Water Group has to play a key role in contributing to the future of the EU water policy. We will do so by raising the importance of water for the European Union and beyond and making sure that water management is consistently considered in EU legislation. Furthermore, we need to ensure that Europe’s water resources are managed sustainably and equitably to the benefit of the European economy and society. Treated water needs to be safe and accessible for all. Therefore, MEP Water Group will also enhance the need to tackle pollution at source.
Furthermore, our Group will encourage technological and non-technological innovations and research to tackle water-related challenges by supporting entrepreneurs and fostering job creation in the green sector.
As the new chairwoman of the MEP Water Group, which are the dossiers that you will first focus on?
The green deal, focusing on CO2 emission and hence energy efficiency will be a red line for me as a chair and the MEP water group. Industry, housing and public infrastructure need to embrace this transition and the water sector itself.
The current global pandemic demonstrated to me and to us all the necessity to go from curative solutions to risk management and preventive measures. Scarcity of water can be the next type of crisis and the COVID19 stresses the importance to make effective smart water management. It is my hope that the EU’s green recovery package (NextGenerationEU) will, among other things, set in motion a modernization and expansion of the water infrastructure wherever needed. Moreover, we can share the best solutions with the rest of the world.
In the coming months, the EU will focus on several topics in water management: The Industrial emission directive, the Urban Wastewater treatment directive and the zero-pollution strategy are among them.
Households, industry sectors and the water sector should be addressed in this approach, therefore we shall apply new innovative methods designed to unleash new ideas rather than classic limiting regulation. New initiatives will require financing. As such, a sound cost recovery principle throughout the European water sector is a good example. However, the Just Transition Fund, the green taxonomy, NextGenerationEU fund, as well as the Horizon Europe programme, can all contribute to developing good and integrated water solutions to support the European water industry and all EU citizens.
I feel honoured to fill this new role and am looking forward to the challenge. It’s time we adapt our water management to the challenges we face – that includes tapping the potential in water.Read More
Dear Water Europe family,
Overcoming the COVID-19 challenges, we continue to work hard, adapting daily our operations and membership services to the new emerging normal. September has been a very busy month and a ‘hot autumn’ is certainly underway with all our preparations, upcoming events and new projects.
The news of the month is that the last call of Horizon2020 was officially published. With a funding of 1billion euros, the EU Green Deal Call is here to cover a variety of aspects and sectors, aiming to drive a rapid transition to a circular, green and clean industry: a growth engine that will not leave any industrial sector behind. The Call will be another tool for Europe recovery from the Covid-19 crisis and the development of strength, capacity and resilience. Water Europe has made an extensive analysis of the funding opportunities for water-related activities and we can positively say that water-related project proposals can be developed in 8 out of the 11 areas and 3 areas have potential to develop proposals for Water-Oriented Living Labs.
To give our members and network the opportunity to receive the latest information from the European Commission about the Horizon 2020 Green Deal Call and pitch their project ideas, we are virtually hosting our EU Green Deal Call Brokerage event from the 12th to the 16th of October. Following the successful example of our Water Innovation Europe 2020 digital week, we are preparing a programme that combines a bit of everything: new insights and tailored information on the Call, networking opportunities through our B2B matchmaking sessions and of course, our Working Groups meetings that will take place in parallel with the event.
During our Brokerage event, we will also launch the first edition of our new event ‘Water Projects Europe’ that will take place on the 13th of October 2020. The event will be dedicated to the topic ‘Industrial Water Reuse’ and many Water Europe projects will be there to present their achievements and latest developments. Through this new event series, we aim to increase the visibility of running or recently closed projects, strengthening their collaboration with the EC and other stakeholders.
This month, we also had two new Horizon2020 projects kicking-off their activities, ULTIMATE and B-WaterSmart. We are glad to be part of such promising projects and strong consortia which have been funded under the SC5 call on ‘Building a water-smart economy and society’, a call inspired by our Water Europe Vision 2030: The Value of Water: Towards a Future proof model for a European water-smart society’. PathoCERT and Water Mining are two more projects that will initiate their work next weeks, and we cannot wait to meet our partners and start new collaborations.
Last week, we also had the pleasure to welcome on board our new member, Microsoft. As part of its commitment to become water positive by 2030, Microsoft joined us to promote smart water solutions and advance policy efforts in Europe. We are looking forward to working together, raising the voice on the value of water and building a Water Smart Society.
Next month, our Water Europe Board of Directors will meet for the first time in its new composition. An important item on the agenda will be the elections of the 4 WE Vice-Presidents and their portfolios.
I look forward to meeting you all online on the 12th of October at our WE EU Green Deal Brokerage Event. Until now and then, stay safe, stay connected and join us digitally.Read More
During emergency response operations, first responders are at risk of being exposed to dangerous pathogens (such as norovirus, e. coli and v. cholerae) through skin contact, ingestion or inhalation. These pathogens pose a significant risk of illness, disease or even death. Currently, there are very few available field-validated technologies to assist first responders when having to operate within an environment with such dangerous pathogens.
To address this challenge, an international consortium of 23 partners, including Universities, Research Centers, NGOs, Emergency Responders, Agencies, Water Utilities and Companies from the European Union (Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Spain, Sweden) and South Korea, joint forces, as part of a new 3-year Horizon 2020 Project entitled: Pathogen Contamination Emergency Response Technologies (PathoCERT). The project is coordinated by the KIOS Research and Innovation Center of Excellence at the University of Cyprus and was launched on September 1st, 2020.
The project has received €6.9M from the European Union, under the Horizon 2020 programme, to research, develop and evaluate specialised technologies, tools, and procedures, to handle emergencies and investigate events that involve possible waterborne pathogen contamination events. The PathoCERT’s outcomes will strengthen the capabilities of first responders and agencies, in terms of real-time accurate pathogen detection, increased situational awareness, improved ability in contamination event control and risk mitigation, and joint coordination between agencies to effectively manage these events.
PathoCERT will host its kick-off meeting on the 5th and 6th of October 2020. To read more about the project click here.
More updates on the project’s developments will follow soon. Stay tuned.
The city of Leuven in Belgium is the European Capital of Innovation 2020. The award recognises Leuven’s excellent innovation concepts as well as processes and governance models creating a framework that brings ideas to life. The municipality will receive a €1,000,000 prize funded under Horizon 2020, the EU research and innovation programme. The five runner-up cities, Cluj-Napoca (Romania), Espoo (Finland), Helsingborg (Sweden), Valencia (Spain) and Vienna (Austria), will receive €100,000 each.
Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said:
‘Leuven is a mission-driven city that excels in innovative governance models. It offers its people an opportunity to get involved in critical decision-making processes. But it’s an honour to recognise the initiatives of all six winners. Their vibrant innovation ecosystems are an inspiration to all European cities.’
What is the European Capital of Innovation (iCapital) Award?
This is an annual cash prize awarded to the European city that is best able to demonstrate its ability to harness innovation to improve the lives of its citizens. In particular cities that contribute to open and dynamic innovation ecosystems; involve citizens in governance and decision-making and use innovation to improve the resiliency and sustainability of their cities.
Read more about the European Capital of Innovation Award 2020
Water Europe invites you to join the 2020 Water Knowledge Europe from 12 to 16 October 2020 dedicated to the EU Green Deal Call of Horizon 2020.
This is an online event where the European Commission will present insights and expectations whilst you will enjoy a unique international networking experience to forge the winning partnerships of the future.
Water Europe has made an extensive analysis of the funding opportunities for water-related activities under the H2020 EU Green Deal call. Water-related project proposals can be developed in 7 out of the 10 areas and 3 areas have potential to develop proposals for Water-Oriented Living Labs. Read here our full analysis to find out more.
The programme will include presentations from the European Commission and will provide a unique opportunity to pitch ideas and expertise in front of leading research organisations and cutting-edge innovators from across the industry. On the 13th of October, Water Europe will also launch the first edition of Water Projects Europe, the new Water Europe series of events made to foster collaboration between R&I projects working on specific topics. This edition will be dedicated to Industrial Water Reuse.
Why should you join?
– Be the first to receive exclusive information about the Horizon 2020 Green Deal Call
– Pitch your project ideas and expertise
– Meet your future project partner at the B2B matchmaking session
To register your interest in attending this event and learn more, please click here.
join for free.Read More
Pernille Weiss has been appointed as the new chairwoman of the MEP Water Group. MEP Pernille Weiss, is a politician from the Conservative People’s Party of Denmark and a member of the European People’s Party, EPP.
Ms. Weiss holds a seat in the Industry, Research & Energy Committee (ITRE) and is a substitute in The Committee on the Environment (ENVI), Public Health and Food Safety. Ms. Weiss also holds a substitute seat in The Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee (FEMM).
Prior to being an MEP, Ms. Weiss served eight years as a County Council member. Ms. Weiss holds several degrees; she is a nurse (RN), Master of science (health) and additionally holds a Master degree in Innovation and Leadership (LAICS). She is an acknowledged Nordic expert in architecture and health as well as the impact of the build environment on complex institutions. In addition, Ms. Weiss has been a board member of SME Europe since 2019. Ms. Weiss has been a head manager in the public health care sector and the building consultancy industry before establishing her own consultancy firm in 2008.
Find out more about the MEP Water Group activities.Read More
The survey is an opportunity to have your say on the most pressing challenges for the Industry and Services sectors (e.g. digitalisation, electrification, industrial symbiosis and others) and how to address them specifically within the first multiannual work programme of LIFE (2021-2024). So far, over 130 stakeholders across the EU have expressed their views and recommendations.
The survey will be closing on Friday, 4th September 2020. You can access it here.Read More
Water Europe summarised this year’s entire innovative water week in less than 10 minutes of video. Whether you have joined Water Innovation Europe 2020 or missed the opportunity to attend the digital edition of the event, you can now watch an overview of the conversations, debates and insights given by water experts during the conference.Read More
Joint Interview with Claudio Jesus & Ηans Goossens – Water Europe Board Members for College C ‘ Utilities’
You were recently re-elected as Water Europe board members of college C ‘Utilities’- Could you tell us what drives you personally to have this role at Water Europe? What do you want to achieve?
Hans Goossens: The water utility sector is seeing challenges it has not faced before. Climate change with more and longer heatwaves intermitted by heavy rain bombs puts pressure on water availability, as well as flood management. The water management system needs to be redesigned in a climate- resilient manner. Innovation is the key word and needs joint efforts from public water utilities together with private companies, both large corporations and small start-ups, academics and public authorities. Personally, I am very convinced about the importance of bringing together the diversity of stakeholders with innovative breakthroughs in order to give an answer to the current and future challenges in the water world. Water Europe is in that sense unique, and much more than a confederation of utility companies, different from a lobbying network for international conglomerates and more inclusive than a research network.
Claudio de Jesus: I’m very keen to contribute to Water Europe with a slightly different view than the traditional one at the College of Utilities. Acting in the water sector markets in developing countries has deepened my understanding that the traditional approaches have to be adjusted to those realities, where aspects related to innovation are fundamental to fill the lack of resources available to technicians in the water sector. Creativity is the keyword if we want to support the achievement of universalization of water services as advocated by the Sustainable Development Goals.
Representing the utilities at Water Europe, which ones do you consider the key challenges and the most burning needs of this college and how do you contribute to addressing these in the context of Water Europe?
Hans Goossens: The utility sector is a capital-intensive sector with a long-established business model. Implementing innovative solutions puts pressure on the fundamentals of the business models of public utilities. The college shall address the need for new business models for public water utilities and promote all types of collaboration, initiatives and projects that support water utilities to find their new role in a new climate-resilient water supply and sanitation model.
Claudio de Jesus: We must always think of a holistic approach, moving away from traditional models. In fact, as we all know, utilities play a fundamental role in the context of Water Europe as these are the entities that most directly interact with citizens. Therefore the challenges of efficiency (water, energy and resources) are key aspects of a more efficient water public policy. Training and qualification of technicians in the water sector is also decisive for the achievement of the intended objectives.
Utilities are traditionally regarded as the problem owners & the ones in need of innovative solutions. How can utilities become more ambitious in adopting existing innovations & seizing the new opportunities presented?
Claudio de Jesus: It is essential to be more efficient and for that to happen it is essential to innovate permanently. Recently a leader of a multilateral financial organization emphasized that the pandemic has underscored the importance of having adequate water, sanitation and hygiene services worldwide. For this to come real it’s mandatory the commitment of all stakeholders and utilities will naturally play an important role only possible to fulfill with the best technologies and innovation solutions.
Hans Goossens: Utilities need to be challenged by the public on their readiness to guarantee water supply and sanitation under future climate scenario’s. They need to understand the urgency for adaption, and at the same time gain self-confidence on their capability to embrace change and see the opportunities that innovation can generate.
Based on our vision, Water Europe aims to build a Water Smart Society. From your point of view, which actions shall we put forward to make this happen and how could utilities contribute to that?
Claudio de Jesus: Water is without a doubt the most important resource on our planet. As such, water diplomacy is central to conflict prevention. Today, issues of water scarcity as well as its lack of quality are present in virtually every country in the world. The Water-Smart Society is all of this: it is vision, strategy and appropriate diplomacy applied to the correct management of water resources. And the role of Water Europe is, more than ever, fundamental in the pursuit of these goals.
Hans Goossens: Digital offers a whole range of new opportunities for more efficient water management and true customer centricity. The investments needed are substantial and the utility sector has the capability to make such type of investments. The data generated by the broad range of IoT devices offers massive opportunities for unrivalled new services. We need to capture the good examples, share them and stimulate the debate. The utility sector has a meaningful size and a tradition of sharing experience. It can be the lever itself to build the Water-Smart society.Read More