Looking back at the EIP Water Conference 2016
How is water innovation succeeding in Europe?
The 3rd EIP Water Conference on 10 February 2016 in Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, provided a thought-provoking and pragmatic exchange about innovation and how innovation partnerships in general, and specifically in the water sector, are progressing in Europe. Take five minutes to watch diverse insights from speakers and participants and hear what they said about the challenges of driving innovation in the European and global water sector.
The Leeuwarden declaration
Consultation of the main stakeholders and other interested parties during two months leading up to the 3rd EIP Water conference had resulted in a draft declaration covering eight main themes related to water and innovation in Europe, This process led to the final Leeuwarden declaration with which the event concluded. It presents the key findings of the event and sets out a set of actions to addressing the main barriers to innovation in the water sector and how to overcome them; a short presentation on the key elements of the declaration can be viewed here.
A great location - and what happened on 10 February in Leeuwarden
The location of the 3rd EIP Water conference itself was and is an inspiring place for anyone involved in water: The Netherlands have of course put water high on their national agenda and Leeuwarden in the province of Fryslan has created a stimulating environment by bringing together a wide variety of public and private stakeholders and great minds to research, develop, test and commercialise water solutions. The EIP Water conference in Leeuwarden was recognised as an official event of the Dutch presidency of the European Union in the first half of the year 2016.
Speakers in the one-day conference with almost 550 participants from over 50 countries appealed to stakeholders to be mission-driven and ambitious, with governmental agencies not simply taking on the role of facilitating private sector engagement, but being an integral part of the innovation chain by setting the roadmap, helping partners to navigate along it and ultimately being part of the team that celebrates the accomplishments. This approach by state agencies led, for example, to the development of the internet and the smartphone, which took far too long and was far too crazy to have been attractive to private sector investors and developers. The presentation by the City of London provided a good example of how such a big mission is absolutely critical to be able to master the stresses of climate change, rapid population growth and ageing infrastructure and avoid once more facing the “perfect storm” disaster that the city was facing after consecutive winter droughts in 2011 and 2012.
Participants were further inspired to be brave and not see failure as something to be ashamed about; rather, failure should be seen as an integral part of any innovation, based on having learnt what does not work as part of the process of discovering what actually does. Both public and private investors recognise that a failure rate of 7-8 for every success is to be expected - especially when pursuing the more ambitious missions. Private investors are not interested in innovations that make only incremental gains of, e.g. 2-3% overall efficiency. Innovations need to be real game changers in their economic and societal impact. This became apparent in the EIP Water’s Got Talent competition where the winner – Resolute Marine Ltd. - demonstrated a significantly different approach with a technology that desalinates at the coast by using wave power.
The innovations and the partnerships from within EIP Water that were showcased verified that financing and regulation are the two key barriers to innovation in water in Europe. A panel discussion of how to resolve these key barriers recommended for example extending the EU Life+ Programme’s focus on replicability. In addition to an inspiring programme, participants enjoyed the networking opportunities before and during the event which contributed to reinforcing the European water community with a specific interest in innovating the sector.
Full Conference documentation available now
In addition to a series of 15 video interviews which were produced during the event, most conference presentations are now available here. Find out who attended here and get a feeling for the great atmosphere of the 3rd EIP Water conference here.
Who was behind the EIP Water conference 2016?
The 3rd EIP Water Conference 2016 was organised by the European Commission, with the support of an important number of partners including:
- Water Campus Leeuwarden
- City of LeeuwardenProvince of Fryslân
- Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment
- Unie van Waterschappen / Dutch Water Authorities