TKI Water Technology – 2023 Annual Report: helping to shape the innovation policy

A series with inspiring impact stories about successfully completed projects and a preview of how water technology is helping to shape the innovation policy needed for a future-resilient Netherlands. That is the heart of the TKI Water Technology 2003 Annual Report that was published recently. A striking element is the personal preface by board member Rudy Dijkstra. As a representative of SMEs, he emphasises the importance of the business sector in bringing new technologies to the market. He argues that examples such as the construction of heating networks and more sustainable methods for removing arsenic from drinking water sludge demonstrate this commitment to technological innovation and sustainability. A brief impression follows here of the Annual Report. Among other things, it includes an assurance that TKI Water Technology is firmly in place for the next five years.

With TKI Water Technology, commercial companies, knowledge organisations and government are joining forces to transform the best knowledge and innovations in water technology into practice. The clean, safe and energy-efficient production of drinking water, process water and wastewater is crucial. The focus of this powerful alliance is on challenges in society relating to a range of water issues, national and international.

Impactful and award-winning projects

The 2023 Annual Report spotlights a series of TKI projects that were successfully completed last year. Ranging from a blue-green roof as a new appealing solution for urban climate adaptation to improving data for use in pipe condition models. A wide-ranging group of technology suppliers, researchers and end users set out their views. How are knowledge and innovation transformed into practical applications? What impact will this have, and for whom? What could be improved? Motivated professionals answer these questions on the basis of their personal experience.

In addition, there were two award-winning projects to celebrate in 2023. The HerCauWer (Reusing coagulant from aquafer) project received the prestigious Best Practice Award on Resource Recovery and was commended for its achievement: a circular flocculant that has been shown to be more effective than commercial iron pyrites, with lower costs and a significant reduction in the environmental impact. In addition, the HerCauWer project also won the 2023 award for the best professional paper in 2022 in the leading journal H2O. The TKI project Urban Photosynthesis was awarded the title ‘Roof of the Year’ for its contribution as an integrated solution to adapting the urban environment to climate change.

Mission-driven innovation policy

In a separate chapter, the Annual Report outlines how interest in water technology is growing in the Dutch mission-driven knowledge and innovation policy. Thanks to this policy, more opportunities to work together and more funding sources have become available. The water technology sector plays a crucial role in supporting other sectors. TKI Water Technology is involved in the coordination and implementation of the Agriculture Water Food Knowledge and Innovation Agenda (KIA), and the TKI is coordinating Submission C on climate-resilient rural and urban areas and water quality. In 2023, the knowledge and innovation agendas were revised for 2024-2027, focusing on the major transitions facing society: climate and energy, digitalisation and key technologies, and the circular economy. Collaboration with sectors such as energy and cybersecurity has intensified. In addition, the economic impact of the water technology sector has been studied and a report will follow in 2024.

Preparations for the new contract period

In a conversation with the TKI permanent secretary and KWR researcher Joep van den Broeke, this innovation and valorisation expert particularly emphasises the section of the Annual Report that looks at TKI Water Technology’s new way of working. “In 2022, it was decided to extend the TKI scheme for five years. The form of this prolongation was determined last year, including a number of changes. All TKIs will receive a set programme budget in advance. In previous years, this funding was based on the research activities of the knowledge institutions involved. An application had to be submitted every year. The fact that this is no longer necessary provides more certainty.”

Another substantial change is that the programme budget must be completed with PPP (Public-Private Partnership) projects within eighteen months. It used to be possible to use the allocated funding over a long period. Van den Broeke explains that this speeding up of the procedure is a meaningful incentive to actually get projects off the ground. “Previously, for example, establishing a collaboration agreement could take quite a long time. We now have to move faster and demonstrate that we really need the funding.”

Finally, Van den Broeke refers to the change that fundamental research will no longer receive 100 percent funding but a maximum of 80 percent. “A significant difference,” the researcher believes. However, the subsidy percentages for industrial and experimental research will remain the same at a maximum of 50 percent and 25 percent respectively.

New projects and Water Technology Growth Plan

In addition to these changes in the TKI working approach, the 2023 Annual Programme provides an overview of the fourteen new projects established in the year under review in collaboration between knowledge organisations and the business sector, including two cross-sector alliances with TKI Delta Technology. It also reports on the progress of the Water Technology Growth Plan, for which the national government decided in April 2022 to reserve funding from the National Growth Fund. After a request for a review, the consortium submitted a revised plan in December 2022, which received definitive approval on 24 February 2023. More than 300 million euros will be invested in this way in the water technology sector over the next decade. The aim is to promote development, growth and exports in this sector and to improve sustainable water availability in the Netherlands. Of the 300 million euros that have been allocated, 135 million will come from the National Growth Fund, while the rest will be contributed by business, local government authorities and knowledge institutions. “After discussions with the responsible Ministry (Infrastructure and Water Management), the official launch for the Water Technology Growth Plan has been set for 1 January 2024,” explains Van den Broeke. “TKI Water Technology will act on behalf of the operational consortium as the lead partner.”

Networking and knowledge sharing

Finally, the Annual Report echoes the enthusiasm about the fact that TKI Water Technology was able to host physical meetings again in 2023 after the COVID-19 lockdowns. These meetings further knowledge transfer and valorisation, and establish connections for SMEs with research and innovation. The Chain Connector and Wall of Support facilitate collaboration by identifying issues and coupling them to innovation brokers to foster private-public partnerships. An overview of all meetings with SMEs in the past year lists the Aqua Nederland Business Fair, the National Water Symposium, the Houten Climate Fair and the Installatie Vakdagen in Hardenberg, among others.

Would you like to know more about the concrete results from TKI Water Technology in 2023? Read the entire report here.