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Navigating challenges and opportunities in Danish water technology research

Monday, 5 February 2024

Denmark has long been a global leader in water technology research contributing innovative solutions to address pressing societal challenges. We look at a comprehensive report prepared by the IRIS Group for Water Valley Denmark, supported by The Grundfos Foundation which sheds light on the current state of water technology research in the country.

Water technology solutions

Water technology is an industrial strong-hold in Denmark, representing a global market projected to grow significantly by 15 per cent annually until 2030. Furthermore, the Danish water sector has set an ambitious target of climate neutrality by 2030, necessitating ongoing research and development in water technology to meet this goal.

Analysis, however, suggests that Danish water tech research strongholds are facing pressure and
are at risk of losing ground. Countries such as Singapore, Switzerland, Sweden and the Netherlands are
making strides and are poised to leave Denmark behind unless efforts are made to unite, prioritise and
support Danish water tech research, according to the new ‘Water Tech Research in Denmark’ report.

From contaminated water resources to efficient distribution of potable water, the report highlights how water technology contributes to managing climate change impacts and facilitating a broader green transition in society.

For example, key Danish players like Grundfos, Kamstrup and AVK have pioneered water tech solutions that are implemented worldwide, while smaller enterprises bring innovation to the water sector with specialised components.

Five focal areas for Danish water tech

The report identifies five focal areas for future water technology research and development. These include:

•    Water systems (intelligent and efficient water systems)
•    Management of stormwater in cities
•    Efficient and sustainable wastewater treatment
•    Clean water for green hydrogen production
•    Supply of clean and healthy water.

One key challenge highlighted in the report is the fragmentation of Danish water technology research environments. Seventeen research environments, distributed across six institutions, face vulnerability due to their small and fragmented nature.

The report suggests that concerted efforts are required to unite, prioritise and support Danish water technology research to avoid losing ground to global competitors.

Stagnation in funding and competitive collaboration

Despite the importance of water technology, the report reveals a stagnation in public funding over the last decade. In comparison to other technology fields like robotics, water tech appears underprioritised. Additionally, the competitive environment among research institutions for funding hampers cross-institutional collaboration.

To fortify Denmark's position in water technology research, the report proposes:

•    The development of a long-term national strategy
•    Increased emphasis on strategic research funding
•    Improved conditions for research institutions to participate in development projects
•    Regulatory support for innovation in utility companies and the development of a robust talent base through collaborative education initiatives.

The report said: “In the near future, new knowledge and solutions are needed to combat an increasing number of groundwater contaminants (i.e. pesticides and PFAS), manage stormwater on a larger and more frequent scale, and supply large quantities of water for green hydrogen production, which is essential in the green transition of the energy sector.”

In conclusion, the report underscores the importance of immediate action to strengthen the conditions for water technology research in Denmark.

Failure to do so may jeopardise the nation's global leadership position, hinder the achievement of climate goals and impede the export of Danish water technology, the report added.

Collaborative efforts of research institutions, industry and policymakers are crucial to navigating the future challenges and opportunities in the dynamic field of water technology.

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