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TU Delft farewell address: ‘Innovation by Nature’

Wim van Vierssen advocates human dimensioning of innovation

Wim van Vierssen is leaving his chair at TU Delft. On Tuesday 29 May, he gave his farewell address in the Auditorium on the campus. ‘Big innovation and transition challenges await us concerning a series of societal themes,’ said Van Vierssen in his address. ‘An efficient transfer of knowledge over the entire process, from idea to market, is a key factor. The water sector in the Netherlands is well on course, provided the innovation system is structured in a numerical manner, with an eye to human dimensioning.’

Wim van Vierssen held the chair on ‘Science System Assessment of the water-related research’ at the Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences. Within the chair’s mission TU Delft (Watermanagement department) and KWR (Knowledge Management Research Group) conducted joint research into the functioning of knowledge systems related to the safe and reliable provision of water. The water sector involves a number of small players. With its Water Top Sector initiative, the Netherlands has considerable export ambitions and therefore also a strong interest in well organised knowledge and innovation management.

Sustainability Guilds

An efficient transfer of knowledge over the entire process, from idea to market, is a key factor. In this intricate sector, it is crucial that the innovation system be structured in a numerical manner with an eye to human nature, and that close attention be paid to the dimensioning. On the basis of a number of propositions and examples, Van Vierssen addressed the optimal group size for innovative knowledge production (research groups), the support of big societal transitions (knowledge consortia), and the associated societal implementing organisations – the latter he characterised as ‘Sustainability Guilds’.

Innovation and transition themes

The themes that will confront the sector, and thus society, with major innovations and transitions are:

  • Resilience of the water infrastructure,
  • Transition to a hydrogen economy,
  • Water recycling,
  • Water safety & security and
  • Resource recovery.

Van Vierssen presented concrete examples and concluded that the Netherlands, thanks in part to government direction in the field of innovation, is well on course internationally.

Prof. dr. Rob Mudde, Vice Rector Magnificus/Vice President Education at TU Delft, thanked Wim van Vierssen for his commitment and inspiring address. Fellow professors Luuk Rietveld (Professor Drinking Water & Urban Water Cycle Technology and Vice Dean of the faculty) and Hubert Savenije (Professor of Hydrology), as well as Andrew Segrave (former PhD student and KWR researcher) reminisced on their special collaborations with Van Vierssen.

Wim van Vierssen in the Auditorium of the Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences of TU Delft: ‘In the intricate water sector it is crucial that the innovation system be structured in a numerical manner with an eye to human nature, and that close attention be paid to the dimensioning.’

 

Andrew Segrave, whose doctorate was supervised by Wim van Vierssen: ‘Wim inspired me with his focus on the big societal challenges, his transdisciplinary approach to science, and his sublime perspicacity. In my PhD project I compared how people in different occupations experience and construct ‘time’ in Ghana, Japan, Brazil and the Netherlands. Temporal perspective has a strong influence on our decisions and actions. I wish Wim the very best for his future, whatever it may hold.’