“There will soon be a new Cabinet in the Netherlands. It is crucial that the water technology sector speaks with one voice, but this will only happen if everyone knows each other.” With these words Dorette Corbey, the new Chair of the Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP), looks back at a very successful visit to the WaterCampus innovation ecosystem that has developed over the last few years in the north of the Netherlands and centres especially around Leeuwarden. Jointly with Bianca Nijhof, NWP’s Managing Director, and Ignaz Worm, Director of ENVAQUA, she met the water technology sector on 3 June.
The three were welcomed by Johannes Boonstra, a member of the Wetsus and NWP Boards; Hein Molenkamp, Director of the Water Alliance; and Joost Paques, Strategic Director at Paques and a member of NWP’s Board. After visiting various sites in Leeuwarden, the group went to Paques Balk, where the BioBizz Hub, which is part of the WaterCampus, has been located since 2020.
The working visit started in Leeuwarden, where an impressive collection of buildings and facilities have been built on both sides of the Potmarge, the city’s river. “I visited Wetsus years ago, but what has happened here since then is really impressive,” says Corbey. “It is inspirational to see how so many pioneering innovations have come off the ground and have really found their way to the market.”
Bianca Nijhof agreed. “It’s also wonderful to see another whole new generation yet again working on tomorrow’s world. I see young people walking around everywhere in the offices and in the laboratories. Very good to see.”
During lunch, they exchanged ideas on intensifying the collaboration. NWP, Water Alliance and ENVAQUA are already working together in the Dutch Water Coalition. “It is really starting to take shape,” says Hein Molenkamp who was at the founding of the collaboration in the Coalition at the time and sees good synergy between the three organisations. “But we are not there yet. The more we work together, the more we can mean for the Dutch water technology sector that is growing worldwide.”
Johannes Boonstra expressed the hope that the synergy in the Coalition collaboration will further grow if every organisation draws on each other’s specialties and passes more referrals on to each other. “In doing so, you move towards a ‘no wrong door’ principle. This would mean that it would hardly matter who the sector or interested entities from abroad first approach with a question. For outsiders all the facilitating water organisations can seem like a confusing maze.”
In the afternoon there was a visit to one of the demonstration sites at the RWZI (sewage purification plant) in Leeuwarden where Susphos and Brightwork, water tech companies, work on pilots for new technologies. After that was a visit to the water tech company Acquaint that is mostly known for a smart inspection robot that inspects pipes from the inside. “The societal relevance of this innovation is clear,” says Dorette Corbey. “Just look, for example, at a country such as the United States that has so many run-down pipes. This causes backlogs in maintenance and there are regions where no investors can be found anymore. Smart technology such as that of Acquaint will give whole regions a future again.”
The group then visited the BioBizz Hub in Balk. This is a testing ground linked to the water tech company Paques and the WaterCampus where companies develop innovations in the area of water and bio-based technologies. “We are extremely happy that Dorette made time to meet us like this,” says Joost Paques, Director at Paques and Board Member of NWP. “You need to see the WaterCampus ecosystem yourself to understand how it works. We were able to take the time to do this.”
Reflecting on her visit, Dorette Corbey said that “It is impressive to see the dedication of a commercial company like Paques and a public body like the Wetterskip working on the demo site of their RWZI. It is very good that these types of entities take their social responsibility.”
When asked, Corbey and Nijhof were clear about their personal goals. “Greater collaboration so that we can mean more for the Dutch water technology sector,” says Corbey. “And give even more focus on the worldwide water challenge. We already do a lot with our knowledge, but the big challenge is to apply that knowledge in countries with poor infrastructure. The careful use of water and improved purification are the basis for a liveable society everywhere. That’s where I would like to put my efforts.”
Nijhof says that “It’s good that water is being seen much more widely as the starting point for integrated solutions. Smart solutions not only save water or make it circular, but also recover energy use which reduces CO2 emissions. This now starting to be understood everywhere. It is important for the Netherlands to profile itself strongly here.”