Hubs Glossary


Most water innovation hubs have a global outreach, though many hubs focus their activities on a specific region (e.g. with match-making meetings). Therefore, regions are here more narrowly defined as the area where the core (or most) activities of the hub take place. In the current release of the water innovation hub listing, the following broad regions are use:

  • Northern Europe
  • Eastern Europe
  • Southern Europe
  • Western Europe
  • Northern Africa
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Northern America
  • Latin America and the Caribbean    
  • Eastern and South-Eastern Asia
  • Central and Southern Asia
  • Western Asia
  • Oceania
  • Global



Water innovation hubs may deploy a wide range of activities for their users or members. The range of activities is primarily depended on the aim and objectives of the hubs. But also contextual factors can determine the need (and supply) of certain activities (e.g. in emerging- versus advanced markets; young- versus mature hubs). There are three groups of activities identified, each with a range of potentially available activities:

Intelligence tools

Intelligence tools are tangible resources that help support water innovation in technological development and in introducing innovation in the society and market.


Services encompass specific activities of hubs to improve and accelerate the introduction and uptake of innovation in the water sector.

Policy actions

Policy actions are activities of hubs to seek improvement in the enabling environment of water innovation.



Water innovation hubs often specialise on certain stages of technology (or technology readiness levels, as practised in the EC Horizon 2020 programme) to maximise their impact with the activities for their users or members. Here are two broad technology stages used:

  • Focus on early stages (broadly R&D)
  • Focus on later stages (broadly deployment and commercialisation)



Water innovation hubs focus normally on a variety of innovation areas and topics, here summarised under content focus. The content focus of hubs is categorised by the EIP Water priority areas:

  • Water re-use and recycling
  • Water and waste water treatment
  • Water-energy nexus
  • Flood and drought risk management
  • Ecosystem services
  • Water governance
  • Decision support systems and monitoring
  • Financing for innovation
  • Smart technologies
  • Non-water sector



Water innovation hubs have a certain organisational (and legal) structure to deliver the intended activities. The organisational structure gives the hub visibility and a means to operate. Water innovation hubs are here not defined as economic entities where organisational collaboration is aimed to address market failures that at individual firm level cannot be corrected (i.e. through acquisition and mergers and other approaches). There are four hub types identified:


Group of interconnected individual institutions a/o firms, each with its own strategy and organisation, that wishes to exchange information, experience, and expertise to improve their individual efforts – that either may be knowledge or commercial products and services – or as a group to focus resources on promotion, lobby and awareness raising efforts on key political and legislative priorities that bring benefits of water sector related innovation to the market.


Same as Partnership, but tend to be membership-based with exclusive access rights. Also the internal organization tends to be more formalised than in a partnership. The difference with a partnership is thus a gradual one.


Same as Partnership, but incorporated (being a legal entity) with a physical location, that houses experts and support staff who work towards a common purpose, and that may have physically separated units associated with the centre.


Group of interconnected individual institutions a/o firms, with an incorporated cluster organisation, that are located near to each other (defined in spatial and social terms), with the presence of key inputs (raw materials) or key capabilities (skilled personnel), that have reached a potential scale to develop and utilise specialised services to (further) stimulate innovation with intensive interactions, sharing of facilities, knowledge and expertise. The nearness and concentrated economy of scale, i.e. in joint production, makes a cluster distinct from a centre. The current release of this water innovation hub listing has no clusters included; this is foreseen in the next release.



A defined partnership with the users or members of a water innovation hub is essential; the type of partnership explains the focus area, constituency and type of activities of a hub. There are three types of partnerships identified:

Public-private networking

Public-private networking hubs offer the public- and private sector to interact and harness their collective resources to advance water innovation that could lead to improvements in the market conditions and institutional frameworks.

Technical institute collaboration

Hubs centred on technical institutions seek collaboration between research laboratories, universities, technology institutes and other types of centres of excellence. With a broad or more focused agenda they strive towards joint analyses and research programmes with sharing good practices for deployment or commercialisation of water innovation solutions.

Public led technology collaboration

Publicly led technology collaborating hubs (led by individual governments or multilateral) seek to advance water innovation through collaborate efforts and by leveraging resources. This collaboration can consist of shared roadmaps, joint tests and analyses, and common demonstration programmes.


Reference to resources used or modified in the above definitions:

  • European Commission - Innovation Unit
  • Europe INNOVA / PRO INNO, Europe paper Nr 9, 2008
  • OECD, Policy Brief, Competitive Regional Clusters: National Policy Approaches, May 2007
  • UNEP, Discussion paper, climate technology centers and networks, November 2010