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3rd EIP Water Conference Paves the Way Forward for Innovation

Feb 12th, 2016 |

12 February 2016

The setting could not have been more fitting for the third EIP Water event on 10th February in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, a city surrounded by water in a country with large areas below sea level. The host city exemplified for event participants the daily and consistent need for water management not only to keep land area secure from the ocean, but also to ensure freshwater sources for the food and chemical industries that are central to the country’s economy.

High-level speakers from the Commission, local regulators and academics alike all spoke about the increase in awareness that innovation and long-term sustainability for water will make an important contribution to jobs & growth. They acknowledged that investments, research, innovation and policy are all central roles in progressing the achievement of the Water Framework Directive, while procurement and access to better financing are key barriers to innovation. There was also recognition that financing needs to be long-term in order to stimulate real innovation and coherent learning.

In a time where sustainable green growth is generally devoid of funding opportunities, it is clear that smart innovative growth will require investment and risk sharing across the entire innovation chain. Socializing the risks and privatizing the rewards could shift the dialogue, particularly true for areas in which public agencies have been weakened. This is particular true in Europe where cuts in funding, driven by a financial crisis has done little to boost innovation.

Examples from some of the EIP Action Groups highlighted the importance of addressing much needed incentives but also the need to look at water along with cross-cutting issues such as climate, or else the framework of developing a circular economy, via other EIPs. Only by doing this can Europe ensure multiple benefits and develop common solutions as a means to achieve SDGs.

Participants from the event seemed to share thinking that joint roles and responsibilities between government and private sector, by bringing together science, enterprises, government, will serve to move innovation further. The Wetsus Campus in Leeuwarden is a key example of the type of physical space where knowledge, research and expertise are gathered in order to drives innovation and connect with technology’s end users.

This collaboration also helps to address thorny bureaucratic barriers, which are also perceived as key from the research side. Regulatory framework should always promote stakeholder involvement, and in this sense the EIP strives to bring regulators and innovators to the same table.

The conclusions from the day’s events have been highlighted in the Leeuwarden Declaration, read more here.

The Cities & Mayors Conference followed the EIP Water Conference to discuss opportunities to develop the agenda of urban water management. As a result of the conversation at the conference, the ”Leeuwarden draft” of the urban water agenda 2030 will contribute to the EU Urban Agenda to be set forth as part of the Pact of Amsterdam in May, triggering sustainable water solutions and adaptation to climate change in urban areas.

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