Interview with Wim Van Vierssen, Water Europe Vice President for Innovation
After your election as the Vice-President for Innovation, could you tell us a few words on how you see this new role?
In the new composition, the Board has a division of tasks between a number of vice presidents. I see it as my task to carry out my activities mainly in synergy with the Vice Presidents of Advocacy and RTD. Our VP Advocacy focuses mainly on policy making and legislation, and the VP RTD on everything that takes place in the world of research and development. My role is to work with our members on the implementation of what we want, a water-smart policy and what we can technically achieve. Of course, we have to think carefully about how we are going to do that. We have decided to develop the instrument of a WELL; a Water Europe Living Lab. Together with our top-down approach to policy and legislation, it should help to shape bottom up a Water-Smart society together with the citizens of Europe. We will try to do this in Europe, together with parties outside Europe and with the use of digital means to get as close as possible to the citizens of Europe.
What are your Water Europe priorities and what activities you plan for their implementation?
My priorities concern three aspects. In the first place, I want to dedicate myself to developing the WELL as an instrument for the successful implementation of innovative water technologies. A WELL can serve as a practical example for a Water-Smart Society and help to get water even higher on the political agenda. In addition, a WELL could profile our members as standard bearers of a Water-Smart Europe. We want to do this with a number of innovative partners in Europe who are involved in water-smart solutions in cities, rural areas or in the field of industrial symbiosis. We also want to try to use the instrument when entering into relationships with countries or regions outside Europe. With our so-called International Water Dialogue, the IWD, we opt for neighboring regions such as North Africa, commercially important markets and are looking for examples in which the SDGs of the UN have been exemplified. Finally, we thought it would be a good idea to start shaping these priorities from a digital perspective.
How can the Water-Oriented Living Labs contribute to the achievement of the Water-Smart Society?
There is still a gap between what we know and can technically do on the one hand and what we achieve in society. This has everything to do with the time it takes to convert policy into practical measures and bringing technical innovations to the market. Water Europe is committed to properly informing policy-makers about what is technically possible to use water sensibly. That is the way we point to a Water-Smart society. The knowledge and expertise that our members bring to this dialogue are of crucial importance; show that a Water-smart society is feasible. At the same time, we want to show policymakers that the road to realization does not have to be long. We want to demonstrate this with a number of WELL initiatives in rural areas, the urban environment and through examples of industrial symbiosis. To this end, we are going to look for parties that want to team up with Water Europe for a number of years with that aim. With this, we want to develop a WELL as a WE brand that stands for a successful, bottom-up implementation of innovative water technology.
What are the International Water Dialogues and how do you foresee the European water sector strengthening its relationship and collaboration with other strategic regions?
We can be proud of what Europe is doing in the field of water. But sharing that knowledge with the rest of the world, both in terms of policy, but especially also in the technological field, should be even better. This is about supporting our water technology companies, but also about sharing the successes from practice.
With the IWDs, we aim to share the way in which the implementation of successful water technology takes place in a WELL. We want to promote partnerships between groups of institutions and individuals that work together for a Water-Smart society. This can only succeed if we ensure that a WELL can also form a business case for our members. After all, participating in a WELL activity must be affordable at the very least. I think that the Horizon Europe programme can make it attractive for our members to contribute to shaping a WELL. I would therefore like to make sure that WELLS become a success factor in the upcoming Horizon Europe programme.