Together, reliable and future-proof
The context in which we provide our services as a water company is constantly changing. That presents us with challenges. Technological innovation and a sustainable interaction with the environment are increasing in importance. Both aspects enhance the resilience of our water company, improving our ability to react to (unexpected) changes. These challenges also require specific research and innovation, in cooperation with several market and knowledge institutions.
As a water company, we depend on developments in society, such as the demand for drinking water, energy transition, climate change, digitalisation and economic growth. These are all developments with a considerable uncertainty factor which, moreover, take place much faster nowadays than we were used to. This results in challenges for an infrastructure that usually has a long technical lifetime. Sometimes we make choices for a hundred years ahead, without being certain whether or not some of these choices might be challenged in the long run.
This poses new challenges. As a water company, we must enhance our resilience, without losing our reliability. We see many opportunities for doing so, particularly by investing in a sustainable interaction with the environment and in technological development.
A sustainable interaction with the environment
To deliver top-quality drinking water, we depend on the availabili¬¬ty of high-quality water sources. Clean groundwater has our highest priority. However, these sources are vulnerable, primarily because of increasing pressure on the environment and because of energy transition requirements.
To realise a clean living environment, we must cooperate intensively with stakeholders in the areas where our water is abstracted from, both above and below ground. This requires a broader spectrum, integral assessments based on risks, sustainable cooperation, and synergy between our goal and that of others. In short, new insights and approaches.
Society is digitalising under the influence of technological development. A rapid process that offers plenty of opportunities to optimise our reliability, flexibility, supply of information and service to clients. We see opportunities for real-time monitoring of the production and distribution of drinking water; for automating production and distribution and for making the right choices based on insight whenever we have to solve problems. In this manner, we can improve our reaction to changes in water quantity and quality, and communicate transparently and proactively about it. The new technology that is needed for this leads to additional requirements for research and innovation.
To realise these ambitions, profound insight is necessary. Insight into the individual steps of the water production process, and into that process as a whole. The innovation and research needed for that exceed the regular development of knowledge in our departments. Technically, because the physical infrastructure that we possess will have to comply with the demands of the moment. For example, the design of a distribution network that measures water quality real-time, an autonomously controlled treatment process, or the usage of sustainable materials in building the infrastructure. But social research and innovation are necessary as well, because we must possess the knowledge, insights and methods to adequately react to changes. For example, integral assessment frameworks, data models and a clear vision of customer requirements.
This Innovation & Research Agenda points out the subjects that have our attention, and which we will use to realise our objectives.
Insight into the different steps of the water production process, both individually and integrally.
Think with us and support us
This agenda is an invitation. We wish to contact everyone who can help us in realising our ambitions. We like to be surprised by new knowledge, innovation and ideas that may help us with our job as a water company, now and for future generations. We also need the assistance of research institutions, knowledge institutions and educational institutions for the implementation of projects that will emerge from this agenda. In conclusion, a call to action for everyone within and outside the sector to think and work with us, from experimental set-up through implementation.