The INNOWATER partnership seeks to plug the knowledge gap on marketing new water technologies by helping innovators and water users better understand their value – and one another.
“Water is just very cheap,” explains Harro Riedstra at the European Water Partnership, coordinator of EU water technologies project INNOWATER. “There is no incentive to use less of it.” This is an example of the barriers companies face in selling new technologies to minimise water use. Many such technologies exist but the problem is convincing water users they need them.
Here steps in INNOWATER, launched with a three-year budget of €4.5 million in February 2010 under the Europe INNOVA umbrella. It is a public-private partnership involving innovation agencies, water associations and technology experts from six European countries. It combines water technology producers with potential customers. This means it can address the full innovation cycle from technology creation to uptake.
In its first six months, INNOWATER mapped the water market, identified best available technologies and catalogued existing R&D and innovation support programmes. The purpose was to decide where it could add the greatest value. That exercise led to the testing of two new tools: help for innovators in drawing up a business case; and help for water users in identifying potential water savings.
The Business Proposition Toolkit (BPT) is nearing the end of a first testing phase with 13 companies in Denmark, the Netherlands and the UK. This will be followed by a second, bigger trial envisaged for the UK and the Netherlands. These countries will set up a voucher scheme for some 60 trials, each of which will feature an innovating company paired with an external consultant. The consultant is there to provide information on markets at home and abroad, advice on subsidies and insight into what customers are looking for. Each test is expected to cost some €5 000 to €7 500. At least half and up to two-thirds will be paid for by INNOWATER and the rest by the company.
For water users, INNOWATER has developed an audit to understand how water is used and where it could be exploited more sustainably. A second trial phase, also with around 60 companies paired with consultants, is underway in Spain and will be soon be extended to Cyprus.
Unlike energy, water remains cheap, but with climate change in particular this cannot last. Pressure on freshwater resources is building and it is not only a southern European problem: the EU estimates that Cyprus, Bulgaria, Belgium, Spain, Italy and Malta have the greatest stress on water resources.
Yet, technologies could cut Europe’s water consumption by 40%. Desalinisation could become ten times cheaper. Water will be the European Commission Environment DG’s top priority in 2012. Meanwhile INNOWATER’s value will extend well beyond its trials, Riedstra hopes, by eventually matching up the findings from consultants helping innovators with those from helping users.
How Eco-innovation can contribute to the sustainability of Europe’s water resources:
http://www.eco-innovation.eu/media/EIO_Thematic_Report_Water_May_2011.pdf [2 MB]
The European Commission is currently preparing a Water Blueprint for 2012 that will aim to ensure good quality water is available in sufficient quantities across Europe. Policy recommendations will focus on land management, internalising costs from water use and pollution, water efficiency, innovation, and governance, how to improve water data and its role in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.