Top Sector Alliance for Knowledge and Innovation (TKI) Water Technology

Innovating through public-private partnerships

TKI Water Technology focuses on innovation themes in the areas of resource efficiency, smart water systems and sustainable cities. KWR organises demand-driven research projects within these themes in partnerships with public sector end-users (water utilities, water authorities and municipalities), industrial end-users and businesses (suppliers, engineering consultancies). This promotes efficient knowledge development and the application of innovations in the field of water technology.

TKI Water Technology

Through the Top Sector Alliances for Knowledge and Innovation (TKIs) the Dutch government stimulates the demand-driven development and application of knowledge and innovation. The TKI scheme has been in force since 2012 and is part of the top sector policy of the Ministry of Economic Affairs. Partnerships between the business community, research institutions and end-users lie at the heart of the initiative. The top sectors refer to those knowledge areas in which the Netherlands excels, both socially and economically.

Water is one of the designated top sectors. Years of investment in Dutch knowledge development has resulted in a high-quality knowledge infrastructure in the field of water. This knowledge also presents opportunities for our economy. The aspiration is to double the added value of the water sector by 2020. TKI Water Technology, which is one of the three programmes within the Water & Maritime Top Sector, focuses on clean, high-quality water with due regard to the living environment. It brings together, strengthens, binds and supports the Dutch water technology sector.

These are TKI Water Technology’s four innovation themes:

  • Ensure clean and safe water. The drinking water provision and wastewater treatment are under pressure due to climate change, urbanisation, intensified agriculture and livestock production, and polluting substances. In this theme we develop knowledge and innovations to render the drinking water provision and the wastewater treatment climate-robust, in balance with the environment and the water system, for urban and rural areas. Which techniques can we use to measure and remove emerging contaminants and microorganisms? How can we make better use of the natural purification in the water and soil system? How can we bring water demand and supply into balance and increase self-sufficiency? Which alternative water sources present future prospects?
  • Reuse water and raw materials. The treatment of water and of wastewater can go hand in hand with the recovery of raw materials. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium can be recovered from wastewater and treatment sludge and then be reused, thereby closing the nutrient cycle. The key challenges are the creation of processes, products and conditions that are closely aligned with market requirements, and can compete with the production of primary raw materials. Through smart applications, we can also make more efficient use of water, as a primary raw material. Wastewater and greywater can be reused through the selective removal of undesirable compounds. We can also apply these techniques to prevent toxic compounds from wastewater from spreading in the soil, surface water and groundwater.
  • Generate and store energy with water. In 2030 energy from water will form an integral part of the energy and climate policy. In this theme we develop knowledge and innovations aimed at using surface water and groundwater as a source of sustainable energy (as well as heat), as a storage medium, and to provide space for infrastructure for sustainable energy. Aquathermia (from surface water, and from waste- and drinking water) is a fully deployable alternative for the heating of the built environment. Various innovative, very predictable ways of using water as an energy generation source, or as a means of energy transport, or energy storage (salinity and/or pH gradient, aquifer thermal energy storage, geothermal energy, biogas from wastewater, green hydrogen) are tested for their feasibility.
  • Smart measurement and operation for water and infrastructure. In this theme we apply ICT innovations for a more sustainable, efficient and reliable use, management and maintenance of the physical system (water and soil, drinking water production and distribution, wastewater collection and treatment). Smart and rapid detection methods, self-learning networks of sensors and soft sensors, alarm systems based on data mining algorithms (both forecasting and backcasting), are vital for security in the water cycle. Innovative monitoring and control technologies are also essential for asset decision-making and smart and robust maintenance and management, for a decentralised approach to contamination sources, for more extensive optimisation of the system’s efficiency, and to enable communication, mitigation and economic strategies.

Demand-driven research for the water cycle

Since 2013 KWR has launched about 20 TKI projects every year. We help give the innovations shape, working with SMEs and the water sector as ‘launching customers’. Private businesses, as well as research organisations, play a fundamental role in the partnership projects, in which research is conducted on the basis of shared funding and risks. We are supported in our activities by our own Advisory Council for TKI Water Technology, which consists mainly of outside experts.

Our research projects are directed primarily at practical applications. These mostly involve ‘industrial collaboration projects’ and ‘experimental development’ in accordance with the TKI regulation. The business partners are responsible, respectively, for one-half or three-quarters of the project’s financing (cash or in-kind), while the remainder is covered by the TKI premium.

Businesses that would like to receive TKI support for their research and innovation investments through KWR are invited to contact us. We then jointly develop suitable collaboration projects and innovation activities. KWR bears the main responsibility for the project plans, working of course closely with the businesses and other project partners concerned.

Promoting efficient knowledge development and innovation

By promoting demand-driven, efficient knowledge development and application of innovations in water technology, commercial products can be brought to market faster and be more accessible to end-users domestically and internationally. The collaboration that TKI Water Technology strives for has a number of benefits. The synergies within the ‘golden triangle’ of business, science and government stimulate an effective use of resources and strengthen the export prospects of Dutch businesses.