What does it mean to make it in the north? This is part of a series of portraits of local people, organisations, and companies working to further internationalise Groningen, Friesland, and Drenthe. This time we spoke to Karin Kloosterman, HR advisor at the Water Alliance, a networking organisation that helps Dutch water-related businesses and start-ups find business partners and bring their ideas to market.
By Erin Goedhart-Stallings
As you drive into Leeuwarden, the town sign proudly proclaims it the ‘Capital of Water Technology’. I am here to talk to the Water Alliance about their part in making this a reality. HR advisor Karin Kloosterman meets me in the former Catholic church that is now an incubator for water technology companies.
‘The Water Alliance is one of three partners in the WaterCampus Leeuwarden, the physical hub of the Dutch water technology industry’, Karin explains. ‘The other two are Wetsus and the Centre of Expertise Water Technology (CEW). Together, we form an innovation chain that helps develop, test and launch new water technology products. Wetsus and the CEW focus on the science and applied research sides; we focus on business. There are more than 600 companies in the Dutch water sector, so there’s a lot of potential.’
The Water Alliance functions as a sort of intermediary between those companies. It is a unique partnership of public and private companies, government agencies, and knowledge institutes involved in water technology in the Netherlands. The Water Alliance focuses on innovative and sustainable water technology that can be used worldwide. It brings together a complete chain of innovation for water technology, from first idea, research, and development, to specialised laboratories, a water application centre, various demo sites, and launching customers to international applications with commercial companies. Indeed, from knowledge to business. It is driven by the idea that technological developments and innovation are needed to develop new markets and thus create new business opportunities for the water technology industry. In this way, the Netherlands will become the European Water Technology Hub, with its focal point at the WaterCampus Leeuwarden.
One successful Water Alliance member is Hydraloop Systems, winner of the 2018 Water Alliance Innovation Stimulation Award (WIS). They produce a water recycling system that retrieves, purifies, and disinfects shower, bath, and washing machine water. It can recycle 85% of the water used in homes. ‘This is the kind of technology we are quite keen on; it’s innovative and it could seriously contribute to a better world’, Karin says. ‘Since Hydraloop won the 2018 WIS award, we are giving them a year of help with marketing and finding partner companies that can help them grow.’
With the growing focus on sustainability and creating more ‘green’ solutions for use in everyday life, the importance of the work that companies supported by the Water Alliance do is growing. The UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was adopted by all member states in 2015, specifically includes the role of water technology in its goals. Stated aims include to ‘substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors’, and ‘implement integrated water resources management at all levels’ – and these goals are important thought-leaders for those within the Water Alliance family.
The Water Alliance was founded in 2010 and has grown quickly. ‘Two years ago, we had just 10 employees. We now have 15. It can be hard to find good, qualified candidates for the more technical positions within the water technology sector, so our WaterCampus partner, CEW, is promoting education to train more people to work in this field. The Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences right next door is running various programmes in water technology. Thanks to our large network, the Water Alliance finds qualified personnel relatively easily.’ Naturally, Water Alliance positions will also be placed on Make it in the North’s job portal, too.
Dutch is the language of business in the Water Alliance office, but English is important as well. ‘Many of our employees speak English in their work with international partners. In marketing, you have to speak English, so it’s helpful if someone does so naturally. Last year, we hired an English communications officer. We found a great candidate who speaks Dutch but also grew up speaking English with her father.’
The Water Alliance is constantly working to expand its national and international networks with the goal of making the north of the Netherlands the leading water technology region in Europe. ‘We want to be the place to be’, Karin notes. ‘If a company has a water-related issue, they must come to Leeuwarden – the beating heart of the European Water Technology Hub – so we can help them find solutions and connect with companies.’
Erin Goedhart-Stallings is a writer and editor who works on Make it in the North with the International Welcome Center North (IWCN). For more information about Make it in the North, just visit www.makeitinthenorth.nl
PHOTO: Hoge Noorden/Jaap Schaaf