Dutch expertise in water technology has great potential for further international expansion. The WTEX10 programme intends to convert that potential into tangible results. It is a Top Sector Water & Maritime initiative in collaboration with the Dutch entrepreneurial development bank FMO and the Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP), and is supported by the Partners for Water Programme. NWP and Water Alliance are implementing the WTEX10 programme. The first focus countries are the UK and Spain, where the first successful export projects will be initiated by the end of this year. The programme’s underlying goal is to boost the export of the broad Dutch water technology sector, emphasises Programme Manager Steven van Rossum.
‘Our approach is based on three tracks and four building blocks, which can be regarded as critical success factors. Track one is to start with a select group of leading water technology companies in their niche, and a limited number of countries. We will jointly conduct a market analysis and build up market intelligence. The second track, 'creating the integrator', involves offering integrated trajectories via consortia on design, construction, finance, maintenance and operation. And the third track is to strengthen synergy between Dutch engineering firms and consultants on the one hand and the Dutch water technology sector on the other. They must and can benefit more from each other's market knowledge and position.
The first and most important building block is market intelligence. We want to know where the opportunities are, what the competition is doing, who the best local partners are and what we need to know about local legislation. We worked with companies and the Embassy to identify target groups in both the UK and Spain. We also started to create an overview of local legislation on water quality requirements.
The second building block is about looking for more cooperation, for example in consortia, as you need local partners to export your products to. And the third building block is access to finance, taking into account the differences between large and small companies. We are looking into pre-financing and export financing, as well as the more complex project financing. To this end, we are working with financial institutions that have investigated a number of concrete financing cases and identified gaps.
The last building block is branding and communication. Dutch companies have very innovative technical solutions, but also need to focus on marketing. We have started a pilot with Holland Water and LG Sonic for micro-targeting via social media and running a webinar about surface water. The first results show that we are attracting the right target group with these innovative techniques. We will spread the knowledge we acquire about branding and communication, and help set up campaigns for other companies.
Having inventoried the situation in Europe and assessed its intelligence and water management and legislation trends, we opted for an initial focus on the UK and Spain. The infrastructure in the UK is outdated and has a massively higher (in some regions 50%) non-revenue water system (water that has been produced but does not pass customers’ water meters) than in the Netherlands (3-5%). Data science offers excellent opportunities to detect leaks and modernise asset management, with cost-effective infrastructure renewal and renovation.
Spain is facing serious water scarcity and these shortages will only increase with climate change and the growth of agriculture and horticulture. In the meantime, only 13% of communal and industrial water is reused. Our water technology could increase that percentage to at least 40% to 50%.
We have now held a webinar for Spain, the UK and the Dutch Embassies in both capitals, to which we invited particular companies. Physical missions to Spain and the UK are being planned for this autumn, if the Covid situation allows. In both cases, we will map out possible combinations in advance and establish contact between potential clients and Dutch water technology companies in the run-up to their meeting. Thorough and focused preparation is imperative for the success of these missions.
We are constantly looking for interaction and synergy with international programmes such as Blue Deal and WaterWorX to provide sufficient, clean and safe water to millions of people through water operator partnerships. These programmes need sustainable techniques and the financial means to fulfil their goals. I believe that greater cooperation will put us in a better place to reach the important SDG Goals incorporated in these valuable programmes!
Our aim is to have initiated several export projects in the United Kingdom and Spain by the end of this year. We will have created processes to form consortia with national and international entities that will include Dutch water technology companies. We want to present the first results at the Amsterdam International Water Week from 1 to 5 November 2021. We will share experiences, results and other valuable information with the sector through NWP and the Water Alliance. We started with a group to lead the process and gain traction, but in the next phase we want to expand and have more companies participate in the programme.
Even more important than these initial results, of course, is what comes next. Everything we do now with a small group must be replicable and scalable so that the rest of the Dutch water technology sector benefits and we can give exports a significant boost. I am convinced that we have the potential so let’s convert our ambition into excellent, tangible results!’