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European collaboration stimulates symbiosis between industry and water utilities

Today, the European Commission has signed the Grant Agreement for investing 16.6 M Euro in ULTIMATE, a project on industrial symbiosis for a smarter water society. KWR Water Research Institute coordinates ULTIMATE, working closely with 27 project partners on the transition for EU industries and utilities to a circular economy.

The KWR-led consortium builds an evidence-base of industrial symbiosis applications based on real-world, large scale demonstrations. ULTIMATE focusses on a particular type of industrial symbiosis – “Water Smart Industrial Symbiosis” – in which water/wastewater plays a key role as a reusable resource in itself, but also as a carrier for energy and materials to be extracted, treated, stored and reused. Symbiosis promises benefits from lower costs as well as new types of revenues. Besides the demonstration of advanced technologies, ULTIMATE investigates the socio-economic and business oriented success factors necessary for the successful transition to industrial symbiotic ecosystems.

Circular water, resource and energy solutions

Christos Makropoulos, professor Hydroinformatics at the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) and principal scientist at KWR: “ULTIMATE develops and demonstrates systemic inter-linkages at demonstration sites representing four major industrial sectors: agro-food, beverages, heavy chemical/petrochemical and biotech industry. With the symbiosis demonstrated in ULTIMATE we look beyond water re-use, and we include energy and materials recovered or produced from wastewater. The innovative circular water, resource and energy solutions will be demonstrated at nine large-scale sites across Europe.”

Active engagement is essential

The transition towards industrial symbiosis, however, is not easy and requires rethinking and redesign of workflows, processes and business models. Active engagement of stakeholders and citizens is essential to stimulate uptake and acceptance of the circular solutions promoted and tested in ULTIMATE. Therefore, the consortium fosters discussion with stakeholders in the wider social and governance context through Communities of Practice, living labs and immersive media experiences. All this work is geared towards the development of new circular economy business models and market opportunities.

Strong partnership

“ULTIMATE is a 4-year Horizon2020 project under the EU Water in the Context of the Circular Economy programme”, says KWR senior researcher Gerard van den Berg and coordinator of ULTIMATE. “We have mobilised a strong partnership of water utilities, industry, technology providers, business developers and applied research institutes such as KWR. We aim to create economic and sustainability value by valorising resources from the watercycle.”

The project, which will start on June 1st, has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 869318.