The Tuesday programme of the European Water Technology Week opened with a fireside chat in the New York congress room in the WestCord WTC Hotel in Leeuwarden. For almost an hour, Cees Buisman, scientific director of Wetsus, and Prince Constantijn van Oranje-Nassau of the Netherlands, special envoy of the StartupDelta, had an informal and incredibly fascinating and inspiring conversation about creating innovative ecosystems for a sustainable future.
StartupDelta is an initiative of the Ministry of Economic Affairs. Governments, knowledge institutions, start-ups, investors and companies work together to support Dutch start-ups by granting access to capital, networks and knowledge. “We believe in added value by strengthening, connecting and expanding the start-up ecosystem. There is much potential for starting, growing and internationalising business. Water technology is one of the industries in which the Netherlands excels.”
According to Buisman, many innovations stem from tinkering. Scientists and entrepreneurs have a brilliant idea with which they tinker to give it shape. “At Wetsus, we even have a Chief Thinkering,” explains Buisman. “He is currently working on the development of ice membranes. Now, that would be a breakthrough! All good ideas go through a so-called ridiculous phase when the response is that it ‘isn’t possible, it’s bizarre.’ It is then up to the scientist to prove that his or her innovation works.”
Constantijn van Oranje-Nassau—as he wants to be known at work—was surprised that is costs Wetsus quite some effort to obtain extra funding for scientific research from the national government and thus to be able to evolve into a European hub in the field of water technology. “This is where world-class scientific results are achieved. They may not always yield immediate results, but instead create long-term economic profits, for example, because they result in successful companies. An environment in which scientists and entrepreneurs innovate together and create new business is different to a profit centre.”