Hubs to hubs: Declaration unites global water tech clusters
What do China, South Korea, Israel, Singapore, the Netherlands and the US have in common?
At a first glance, it might seem these nations vary greatly in terms of politics, economics, geography and history. Yet through the common interest of promoting global water technology innovation, these countries have now joined forces.
During the European Water Technology Week hosted in Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, the six nations signed a cooperation to create the ‘Water Tech Hub Alliance’ and committed to the global acceleration of “innovative water treatment technologies as an open platform”.
Each of these countries has had a different experience developing a water hub, or cluster, bringing together the government, academic/research and business communities necessary to promote the development of water technologies.
The six representatives of the Water Tech Hubs who signed the declaration included: Dean Amhaus, The Water Council, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, US; Han Loong Fong, PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency; Yossi Yaacoby, Mekorot-Watech, Israel; Jinyoung Jung, Yeungnam University, Korea Water Cluster, Daegu, S.Korea; Hein Molenkamp, Water Alliance, WaterCampus, Netherlands and Shaoxian Zhang, Jiangsu Institute of Environmental Industry, Jiangsu Cluster, China.
A total of six priorities were agreed, including:
1) Define needs – identifying local water challenges and calling for solutions
2) Find innovation – scouting and review of innovative technologies according to common criteria
3) Show opportunity – sharing business possibilities and bringing stakeholders together for collaboration
4) Verify proposals- identifying technical and business experts to assist with the advancement of member programs
5) Develop talent – supporting the exchange of human resources for innovation and sharing educational programs
6) Showcase success – promoting the best innovative new technologies of water hubs on a global stage.
Such a collaboration is a positive move for the global water market. For example, a company developing technology in Europe with an interest in the US market may have previously found market entry challenging. Now the hubs can connect technologies and companies across the networks, each with partnering utilities.
Alex Berhitu, business development manager of the Dutch Water Alliance, said: “It takes vision and endless patience to develop a hub. International cooperation is absolutely essential. Getting things off the ground is an intensive and often laborious process.”
He added: “A process like this calls for regular occasions where you put down anchor points and finalise matters. This is why it’s such an important step that we’ve now taken by agreeing on and committing to common activities in the declaration. Obviously, the driving idea behind all this is our core business, and that’s about speeding up the process of allowing locally developed innovations the opportunity to reach an international audience as quickly as possible.”
Yossi Yaacoby from Mekorot in Israel believes water reuse will be a key focus to knit the global hubs together.
“All of us know that one of the main areas for growth is wastewater reuse. It doesn’t matter if it’s a wet country in the north of Europe, or a desert country in the Middle East - there’s a lot of overlap and a lot of development to be done together. It’s not just in the Netherlands but hubs from all over the world.”
Dean Amhaus from the Water Council in the US said: “We believe that a hub is not something you necessarily build, it’s something you find. It’s got to be organic. For us in Milwaukee we’ve been involved in water for many decades, tied to the brewery industry. Developing over the last ten years, we now have 225 water companies in our region, multiple universities doing research moving towards commercialisation and very good utilities open to pilots. From a cluster standpoint, you have to have those components together, as part of your DNA. As an organisation, what we do is match and connect people.”
One of the ambitions is to bring the Water Tech Hub Alliance together at key events throughout the year to report on progress of the six priorities.