Water Alliance is a cluster organization with a broad network, connecting clusters, people and organizations. When taking the leap across the border, exporting your innovation, it helps to know the right people and have the right connections. Water Alliance helps it’s members to make the jump, several local partners help to build lasting connections, but how does this actually work? Who are involved? The following article tells this story.
Hi Godelieve can you introduce yourself? What exactly does Proaxxes do? My name is Godelieve Cooymans, I have been living in Italy for 24 years now. Together with an Italian partner, I run Proaxxes from sunny Florence. With six other Italian employees, we form a close-knit team.
Our work mainly focuses on the technological sectors within Italy, where we mainly deal with Business Development. This entails the first advice to the operational support of companies, until they reach the market. Our working method is quite far-reaching, at the moment a company decides to open a local branch, we even go so far as to host and manage this local branch. We become the ‘integrated partner’ of the management. This solution is quite unique.
In terms of customers, we work mainly with Dutch companies; it inspires a lot of confidence when you can converse with your customers in Dutch.
Is there a big difference in doing business between the Netherlands and Italy? The biggest difference, apart from the language, is the rush that Dutch companies are in, they want to get on the market right away. Italians are not like that, this has to do with the fact that it is a large industrialized country with many local providers. As an outsider you have to ‘prove yourself’ sometimes this is just by waiting, being there every time and showing up, showing your interest.
Another way is when a company has a specific problem, get a case owner excited right away. This method is often a lot faster. Water Alliance mainly works via this formula.
Where are the opportunities for Dutch companies in Italy? There are numerous opportunities, mainly via the Next Generation EU fund, also within the framework of COVID-19 relief.
The EU has allocated a substantial sum of financial resources to Italy. In addition, the new government of Mario Draghi has appointed many technical people in addition to many administrative people. This translates into the country’s plans. The programmes include a lot of green, circular economy and water. This ‘Transizione Ecologica‘ also offers a lot of openings for Dutch watertech companies.
The Italian water distribution system is in poor condition; a lot of water leaks into the soil. In a volcanic country like Italy there is also a lot of land subsidence and land erosion. In addition, there is a strong focus on recycling and reducing water consumption, both at home and in industry.
What is the working method? How do Water Alliance and Proaxxes work together? Proaxxes looks for a tangible case for Water Alliance and Water Alliance connects it’s members to it. This often allows them to spar with a case owner and make an offer, with the ultimate goal of delivering on this. Because the first step is taken towards an actual case, there is a good chance of success, it’s not like making contacts at random. However, these are often longer processes in which Water Alliance and Proaxxes take care of the initial connection and bring parties together.
Proaxxes and Water Alliance have known each other for quite some time now. Proaxxes played a role in the Waterlink symposium last February. In addition, in 2017 Proaxxes accompanied Water Alliance in a large matchmaking as part of a trade mission to Italy with, among others, King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima and Hein Molenkamp (director Water Alliance), Proaxxes then sought contacts for Water Alliance.
During Ecomondo 2018, we got in touch with Juliette Douglas, Liason Southern Europe (Water Alliance). Ecomondo is the exhibition in the field of green and sustainability and circular economy. Together in 2019 we set up an event, in the form of a webinar where two problem owners presented cases in the field of grey water.
Last year was the virtual trade mission with Minister Kaag, at that time Minister of Foreign Trade, from which followed a water webinar with Harro Brons (Business Development, Water Alliance) and Juliette Douglas. Several companies participated also in the subsequent matchmaking. Topics included the Italian water market, horticulture, (grey) water reuse and communal water.
How do you experience the collaboration with Water Alliance? Extremely pleasant, very efficient, to the point and personal. The Water Alliance members have real innovations to offer. This is also reflected in the response of the Italian parties, with whom we have been working.
A few weeks ago there was a specific Italy webinar, how does something like that work? What kind of companies participated? Who were involved? Who was the problem owner? Water Alliance members, NX Filtration, CE-line, Van Remmen, VDH, Staal Instruments and Hatenboer Water participated. All with their own specialties. During the webinar, the companies had the opportunity to pitch themselves to the problem owner, in this case Sfera Agricola.
Sfera Agricola is a very important grower in greenhouses. In Italy you have some innovative big players, Sfera Agricola is located in southern Tuscany. They grow tomatoes, leafy vegetables; mainly basil and supply it to supermarkets.
There are several challenges involved, they use a lot of rainwater for irrigation. In the summer it is very hot and there is little rainfall, so there is not enough water available. Therefore, in the summer many wells are used, this water contains a high salt content, there is very brackish water. This is also due to the close proximity to the Tyrrhenian Sea. In addition, there are a diversity of issues, in the context of nutrients, desalination, disinfection, measuring reuse.
What was the result/conclusion? The participating companies almost all sent additional presentations, also many questions were asked, they have now been answered by Sfera Agricola. In the meantime, follow-up talks have been scheduled with two companies, which look quite positive.
How does it work with the follow-up? The first follow-up is done by Proaxxes, if there is interest from the case owner we will continue individually with the Dutch company.