Let's work together. That is the message the Dutch water sector has for the world. The Partners for Water Programme supports this message with both physical and online trade missions, fairs and events.
Actively promoting the Dutch water sector allows the Netherlands to play a bigger part in improving water security and safety worldwide. And this doesn't just mean bringing our expertise to all corners of the globe. There is still plenty to learn for the Dutch as well. The Partners for Water Programme recently ensured an impressive Netherlands Pavilion during Aquatech Amsterdam, in which many organisations from within the Dutch water sector presented themselves, leading to increased visibility and extensive networking opportunities.
During Aquatech Amsterdam, a live event, all of Partners for Water's goals came together. Parties from the Dutch water sector exchanged knowledge and information, partnerships were formed to work on large water-related issues, and commercial opportunities were utilised.
On behalf of the Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP), Daniël van Dijk is jointly responsible for Partners for Water's programme management. Van Dijk: "Promoting the Dutch water sector is at the core of the Partners for Water Programme. From the many activities within the programme, we collect and spread information relevant for the sector. We share this information through our websites, social media channels and newsletters.
Additionally, we actively support activities for and within the sector, and we organise platform meetings around themes, regions or countries in order to facilitate and share developments and opportunities. This increases the programme's cohesion and sheds light onto the many themes and projects within the sector. And it showcases how the programme creates chances for the sector."
As well as involvement with large international events, there are other times at which Partners for Water plays a crucial role, such as during incoming and outgoing missions. "Missions are an important platform for knowledge exchange and meeting local stakeholders," says Van Dijk. "We always give the sector as much opportunity as possible to present itself in terms of content. This way, Dutch expertise is offered in context and given a personal face; this clearly shows where the programme's added value lies."
During these missions, collaboration with the network of Dutch embassies and consulates is vital. As well as providing knowledge of local laws and regulations and access to local business networks, they are also familiar with many interesting organisations and companies that are potential partners for the sector. Van Dijk: "We organise networking and matchmaking events to make the most of these local networks for the parties that join trade missions and other international visits."
Foreign missions are always responsive; a country has a water-related challenge which may be solved by involving the Dutch water sector via the Partners for Water Programme. The water sector aims to jointly presents itself under the Dutch flag, based on the premise that together we hold the solution. Water-related challenges are complex and multi-faceted and require a great deal of cooperation; both within the Netherlands and abroad.
To this end, Partners for Water doesn't just work with the Netherlands Water Partnership, Water Alliance – the network organisation for water tech companies – is also involved. Water Alliance has developed the Holland Innovation Park specifically for presentations at international trade fairs, focused on innovative and often young businesses, and new developments.
Hein Molenkamp, Managing Director at Water Alliance, is enthusiastic about bringing together businesses and organisations on such a large scale. "We have been working with NWP for years, for instance to bring more focus on Dutch innovations during events like Aquatech. The Netherlands Pavilion has become a dynamic spot at the Aquatech trade fair. Everyone visits there, and you know that's where the interesting developments are showcased.
And that's where the Pavilion's success lies, the consistent branding makes people realise: 'That is the Netherlands; a forerunner in water technology.' As a company, you know that when you are present at the Pavilion, you are 'gifted' your first opportunities to connect with relevant parties. Partly because we consistently bring our invitees to the Holland Innovation Park. In the end, it is up to individual companies to create opportunities and business from the connections they've made. As we see many of them time and again, we feel this way of working is a success!"
Because of the pandemic, the business travel and exhibition sector ground to a halt for a long while. It forced the Partners for Water Programme to find new and innovative ways to promote the Dutch water sector. NWP's Daniël van Dijk: "This was quite a smooth process actually; we quickly organised online meetings, webinars and matchmaking sessions to maintain warm connections and exchange knowledge and information."
Additionally, a number of virtual missions took place. Van Dijk: "We did notice people got tired of meeting through their screens after a while. When we were able to physically attend Aquatech Amsterdam, everyone was really looking forward to being together again and meet new people. It's just easier 'live'. And because everyone is now used to working online, it's become much easier to continue the connection virtually."
One of the companies present at the Netherlands Pavilion at Aquatech Amsterdam was Van Essen Instruments, a company specialising in water level monitoring systems. International Distribution Manager Peter Westerhuis is responsible for the company's international contacts.
Westerhuis: "We are a small business, so we often get a small stand in a corner when attending a trade fair. But when you're in the Netherlands Pavilion, you have a central location. It is always buzzing with activity. Not just with all the Dutch companies present, also because there are activities, coffee meetings and drinks taking place all the time. That may sound strange, but personal contact is extremely important during fairs like this. Plus, all stand promotion is done for you; I simply supply all relevant information about our business and then I just show up! With our limited means for these types of events, that is just priceless."
During Aquatech Amsterdam, Van Essen Instruments got in touch with a Mexican delegation. "Even though fewer international missions attended due to the pandemic, we were introduced to a Mexican delegation. Now we have direct contact with a local distributor in Mexico, who we are trying to link with Dutch initiatives, for instance via the Partners for Water Programme and the Dutch Embassy in Mexico. Embassy staff speak Spanish, know the local market. The Partners for Water Programme boosts the bilateral process."
The visit by the Mexican delegation was a direct result of the bilateral relationship supported by the Partners for Water Programme. The programme has established these relationships in 15 countries over the last few years. Maintaining these partnerships will be more hybrid in nature than before the global pandemic.
Van Dijk: "When decisions need to be made or connections aren't running smoothly for whatever reason, a mission to a country provides added value. In between, we are able to stay in contact virtually. For instance, via the online platforms we create to connect supply and demand. This is also a good way to connect to countries with whom we haven't yet established a bilateral partnership, but who are interested. A platform is such an effective way to bring everyone together. However, when we see real opportunities, we will do everything to travel to the country in question and present ourselves in person."
This blog is the loose translation of an earlier article published in the Partners for Water Ezine.