What does the future hold for international water innovation? Last week, over 20,000 water professionals gained insights into the promising answers to this question at Aquatech 2023 in Amsterdam. Many visited the NL Lounge, which was hosted by Partners for Water (PfW) and was part of the NL Pavilion. One thing is clear: the future of water innovation looks very exciting.
Enthusiasm was in the air when Marieke Leenhouts from Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP) inaugurated the NL Pavilion at Aquatech 2023 on Monday 6 November. Together with NWP and Water Alliance, Partners for Water co-hosted the NL Pavilion and facilitated the NL Lounge. Over 23 exhibitors were ready to showcase their innovative water technologies and solutions in the inviting Dutch area amidst the vast international expo. “Today is the start of a promising week,” Leenhouts said, “The programme is packed with inspiring talks, engaging network lunches and valuable delegation visits, without forgetting the free drinks during Wednesday’s networking event in the NL Lounge.” The stage has been set; let the unveiling of water innovation begin.
Earlier that morning, three Dutch companies were recognised with the Aquatech 2023 Innovation Award for their contributions to water innovation. Software developer Factorylab received an award in the category ‘Water Supply’ for their ClipR temperature sensor and product developer Acquaint was awarded in the 'Transport, Process & Control' category for their inline inspection dashboard.
The overall Innovation Award was received by REDStack BV, who were recognised in the categories ‘Wastewater Treatment’ and ‘Innovation Not To Market’ for their Blue Energy Technology. With membrane stacks they generate renewable energy out of contacting flows of fresh and salt water. Pieter Hack, founder of REDStack, honoured the NL Lounge with a presentation about their innovative technology. Hack remarked: “At the end of the day, we rely on the Earth's five available energy sources: solar, geothermal, wind, biomass and hydropower. So the question isn't if our Blue Energy technology will become mainstream, but rather when it will happen.”
Delegations from Guinea, France, Peru, Brazil, India, Oman, Vietnam, Malaysia, Mexico, Spain and Chile visited the NL Lounge. Additionally, Partners for Water hosted two platform meetings —one for India and one for Vietnam. These incoming missions served to strengthen the relationship between the Dutch water sector and its international counterparts, leading to fresh perspectives on water-related business opportunities overseas. Willem Timmerman, First Secretary at the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Vietnam, remarked: “Vietnam aspires to become a high-income country by 2025 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Currently, the nation is facing significant water and climate challenges. However, there is a strong willingness to invest in high-quality solutions, resulting in valuable business opportunities for the Netherlands”
“Artificial intelligence (AI) has transformed leak identification from a reactive to a proactive process,” declared Robert Lodewijk. The founder of AI company Hulo gave an engaging presentation about the potential of AI in water systems. Lodewijk continued: “By utilising AI in conjunction with pressure and flow sensors, we can detect, localise and quantify leaks with the highest possible accuracy.”
“We integrate data from diverse atmospheric and soil sensors into a single forecasting system. Through a user-friendly dashboard, farmers receive severe weather warnings and irrigation advise,” shared Lisa Verschuren, from FutureWater. She presented MAGDA, an elaborative weather forecasting system and explained how this data empowers farmers to anticipate and prepare for extreme weather conditions.
These presentations offer just a snapshot of the numerous insightful discussions that took place over the course of the week. Topics ranged from AI and robotic solutions to water energy consumption and socio-technical integration, all woven together by a shared goal: to advance global water security through innovative solutions.
“For small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), covering working capital needs when exporting can be challenging. That’s where we come in,” explained Marc Cabret from impact investment organisation Invest International. Alongside his colleague Joris Kreulen, he presented the organisation’s financial solutions. Kreulen added, “We offer Dutch and Dutch-linked SMEs aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals tailor-made and blended funding solutions for export, investment and value chain needs .” Invest International is not the only supporter of the water sector. Earlier in the week, Hugo de Vries of Partners for Water highlighted in a discussion on RVO support instruments: “Numerous innovations addressing global water challenges are being developed within the Dutch water sector. The PfW subsidy scheme can play a supportive role in accelerating these innovations.”
Undoubtedly, the youth hold the key to our future. That is why Wavemakers United (WU) and the Young Expert Programmes (YEP) are dedicated to constructing a global impact community and fostering connections among young professionals in the water sector. Partners for Water was pleased to contribute by hosting a facilitated networking lunch in the NL Lounge for young water experts. Young professionals from various sectors within the water sector came together to discuss the future of water and to listen to an inspiring presentation on the work of YEP and WU.
“We all have varied expertise and come from different backgrounds. Progress towards a sustainable and water-secure world happens when we find each other and aim for mutual learning and understanding,” remarked one of the young professionals. It was not only an outreach to the participating water sector but also beautifully encapsulated the essence of the networking event.
From early morning until late afternoon, the NL Lounge was abuzz with the lively chatter of busy water professionals. Over cups of coffee crafted by skilled baristas, new business ideas were introduced, international connections formed, discussions held and thoughts exchanged on the future of water and innovation. The journey towards a sustainable water world is progressing incrementally – and the visitors of the NL Lounge certainly took a collective step forward.
We reflect on a fruitful week and extend our heartfelt thanks to all our collaborative partners and visitors for their enthusiasm and commitment to advancing a sustainable and secure water future.
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