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Interview Details

Interview with Robert Schröder

  • National expert in the 'Protection of Water Resources' Unit, DG Environment, European Commission
  • Dated: Monday, October 10th 2011

  • EWP: What is the Innovation Union? What are its objectives? Why does Europe need an Innovation Union?

    Robert Schröder: The Innovation Union is one of the flagship initiatives to reach the goals of the Europe 2020 Strategy for sustainable economic growth and jobs. Indeed, the Innovation Union tries to open up the innovation potential that is already existing in Europe. The EU should drive innovation to create jobs and support economic growth. Therefore, it is crucial to improve the framework conditions for innovation, reduce fragmentation in and between the sectors and avoid duplication of similar efforts in different Member States. From this comes the idea to set up the European Innovation Partnerships (EIP). They are a clear response to achieve this aim and to respond to specific key challenges faced by society today.

    EWP: The European Innovation Partnerships should pool forces to achieve breakthroughs. DG Environment is currently developing a proposal for a European Innovation Partnership (EIP) on Water Efficiency. What are the objectives of the EIP on Water Efficiency?

    Robert Schröder:  First of all, I have to mention that we are working on a candidate European Innovation Partnership. It will be up to the European Council and the European Parliament to decide if and which EIPs will be initiated.

    With the EIP on Water Efficiency we would like to tackle two major societal challenges: One, Europe needs to develop innovative solutions to effectively deal with water related challenges, such as floods, droughts or water quality issues.

    Two, by working on these innovative solutions we try to  give a boost to the European Water sector in the widest sense of the word, including all related sectors and industries and to create market opportunities inside and outside of Europe. 

    EWP: How will the EIP on Water Efficiency be concretely implemented?

    Robert Schröder:  The EIP on Water Efficiency is based on two key principles: On the one hand, we follow a multidisciplinary approach. This means that we don’t only look at technology and research, but we also take into consideration for example governance, financing and institutional aspects. On the other hand, we would like to initiate a multistakeholder approach, including the water sector, the technology and research community, but also other sectors like the chemical industry, local and regional governments as well as SMEs. This way, we aim to ensure that we combine both, the demand side and the supply side and create a bottom up approach.

    The current line of thought for the EIP implementation is to create three work packages: one on urban areas, one on rural areas and one on industrial users. These work packages are linked through transversal themes such as water and energy, climate change or micro pollutants. The operational part includes what we call innovation sites, of which we will establish up to 10 per work packages. These can be large scale projects, focusing on particular water challenges. In this context, we will apply the multidisciplinary and multistakeholder approach in order to develop innovative solutions to the identified water challenges. These solutions will then be tested and disseminated.

    EWP: So far, one pilot project on Active and Healthy Ageing has been launched. When will the first projects on Water Efficiency be launched? And what are the concrete steps before the launch?

    Robert Schröder: We will organize a number of stakeholder consultations. The first general one will take place on the 20th of October in Brussels and will be followed by more specific stakeholder consultations on particular elements of the proposal until the end of February 2012. After that we hope to present a Commission Communication in June 2012 with a concrete proposal. This Communication will then need to be endorsed by the Council and the European Parliament later in 2012. If it gets endorsed, we can make a start with the real implementation of the EIP.

    EWP: Which outcomes do you expect from EIP on water efficiency?

    Robert Schröder: We hope to boost innovation with regard to water related challenges. We aim to develop, test and disseminate innovative solutions to these challenges which in turn will hopefully create market opportunities. The European water sector, including all related sectors, should become a global market leader in developing and supplying innovative solutions to water related problems.

    EWP: From your personal point of view, what is the added value of the EIP on water efficiency?

    Robert Schröder: The EU added value is – as water is a transboundary issue – that we need to look for European-wide solutions, while taking into account that water issues are often felt on the local level. We hope to link the many existing European and national initiatives and make use of their experiences and activities. We hope to be able to come with solutions and opportunities throughout Europe. For SME's, for example, it is often very hard to find opportunities in other European Member States. This should change and the EU is in the position to provide a good framework to work on innovative solutions.

    EWP: Thank you for the interview.
  • Robert Schröder
  • National expert in the 'Protection of Water Resources' Unit, DG Environment, European Commission
  • Robert Schröder is working as a national expert in the 'Protection of Water Resources' Unit of the Directorate General for the Environment of the European Commission. In this position, Mr Schröder is responsible for the development of the candidate European Innovation Partnership on Water Efficiency. Mr. Schröder has a Master degree in Political Science – International Relations. From 2001 until 2004, he has worked as a political assistant to a Dutch member of the European Parliament, working on environmental affairs. From 2004 until 2011 Mr. Schröder has represented the Association of Dutch Drinking Water Companies (Vewin) and the Association of Dutch Regional Water Management Authorities (Unie van Waterschappen) in Brussels.
"We hope to boost innovation with regard to water related challenges."

- Robert Schröder
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