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Bianca Nijhof: Our climate needs innovation and transformative solutions

Bianca Nijhof
Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Innovation happens when different countries, sectors and organisations meet, writes Bianca Nijhof, CEO of the Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP). She discusses the collaboration between the Netherlands and Egypt and the launch of the Dutch Resilience Hub.

Different countries, common climate challenges 

This year in the Netherlands we experienced our warmest start to November since measurements began in 1901. Temperatures reached 19.1 degrees Celsius! Only five times before, did we reach a temperature above 18 degrees Celsius in November. And of all these times, it took place after the year 2005. Climate change is happening, and it is impacting us everywhere.

A few weeks ago, I took part in the programme of the Cairo Water Week. There are not many countries in this world which I thought to be more different from the Netherlands than Egypt. But surprisingly or not, we found many, many common challenges. All of them linked to climate change.

“While in the Netherlands we have traditionally always been focusing on getting surplus water out of our country, today we are facing challenges of the opposite kind too.”

While in the Netherlands we have traditionally always been focusing on getting surplus water out of our country as fast as possible, today we are facing challenges of the opposite kind too. Droughts are occurring, agricultural grounds are becoming more saline, and energy consumption for irrigation is on the rise. 

Egypt, used to the abundant, annual flooding of the Nile, is also facing growing water shortages. Upriver water consumption is increasing, more dams are reducing the natural water flow, and energy demand for pumping water from limited sources is soaring.

Where innovation happens

Despite all the climate challenges and our growing concerns around this theme, when I left the conference, I was in a positive mood. This was because sharing our challenges as two countries also leads to new connections, and to new solutions. 

Innovation happens where different countries, sectors and organisations meet.

With all of the above in mind, I could not have been more delighted with the launch of our Dutch Resilience Hub, that same week. Bringing different countries, sectors and organisations together and finding new transformative answers to climate challenges is exactly what this platform is aiming to achieve. 

The start was successful and very promising for the future. In total, 150 participants from 27 countries, from different types of organisations and companies, took part in our launch event. Examples were shared, including some highly interesting water technology-related projects in which several of NWP members are involved.

Water technology in resilience

Let me mention just a few of these examples… 

Data consultancy, Nelen & Schuurmans, explained how geospatial tools could make open data more accessible and useful for organisations and climate solutions around the world.

Blue21, a world-leading organisation when it comes to floating solutions, made it clear that when water technology and engineering solutions come together, this can lead not only to climate adaptation but also to climate restoration. 

KWR shared insights around the promising outcomes of a three-year study of the Urban Waterbuffer solution, enabling new methods of subsurface water storage solutions helping to solve flooding and drought challenges in an integrated manner.

Speed dating

Many more examples were shared but what I found the nicest add-on to the plenary sessions, were the one-on-one matchmaking meetings. 

Through our digital matchmaking platform, we were able to connect resilience experts around the whole world for online speed-dating-style sessions of 20 minutes each. Altogether, we were able to orchestrate 210 one-on-one meetings during the time of our event! 

Sharing information and connecting partners is, without any doubt, what happened the experience. And I know for sure that some of these conversations are leading to collaboration and new projects as we speak.

Share, connect and innovate

But the opportunities do not stop with this event. Our Dutch Resilience Hub is open for business. Check it out on our website, fill in the intake form and step in. 

Start taking part in this transboundary exchange of ideas and cooperation. 

Let me repeat: Where different countries, sectors and organisations meet, where diverse people meet - that is where innovation happens. And our climate needs innovation and transformative solutions!

Bianca Nijhof

Bianca Nijhof

Netherlands Water Partnership

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