An EU-funded project is forging partnerships and networks on water-treatment technologies across the Mediterranean in a bid to protect the region from - and prepare it for - the very real threat of water scarcity.
There are few resources we need more than water, and yet few that are quite so threatened. An example of this serious problem can be seen particularly close to home in the Mediterranean region, where irregular rainfall, other climatic conditions and increasing pollution are creating considerable concern over water shortages. In response, the EU-funded FP4BATIW project set out to identify the causes of these shortages and come up with new water-treatment technologies to address them.
FP4BATIW aims to create a framework for better market uptake of research results, and greater cooperation among research and innovation actors across EU and Mediterranean Partner Countries (MPC). It is also establishing a permanent platform for educating and training specialists in water management.
However, as explained by project leader Manuel Valiente, “the most crucial innovation would be to involve all relevant stakeholders in the water value chain from both shores of the Mediterranean, as well as increase education and training in related disciplines”. FP4BATIW is therefore focusing on collaboration, cooperation and exchange between EU Member States and MPC countries.
The project has made progress through a variety of concrete methods. These include research exchanges and organised training across the EU and MPC, as well as technical support to MPC industries, assistance with business ideas in water-treatment, and brokerage events through tailored workshops.
New collaboration platforms that connect research with industry and SMEs have proved particularly useful. Finally, clustering the multiple synergies and outcomes by creating alliances and action plans in the medium/long term should guarantee continued collaboration and cooperation across the Mediterranean area.
Going with the flow
According to Valiente, one of the most important elements in the FP4BATIW strategy concerns “fostering mutually beneficial public-private-partnerships between Member States and MPCs through the market uptake of research results and the ongoing training of specialists”. On the one hand, this includes speeding up the commercialisation and optimisation of potential water-treatment technologies being developed, ensuring a constant flow of interaction in response to market demand. On the other, it involves educating local technologists, to enhance the value chain for further EU-MED collaboration between those with similar capabilities.
FP4BATIW has also been instrumental in expanding the global market for EU eco-innovative technologies and services, thereby increasing the competitiveness of Member States and MPCs in this field. This has not only enhanced the potential for economic opportunities and innovation in the EU, but has also generated new ‘green’ jobs and provided a future supply and demand for skilled workers.
The project team has identified one of the biggest challenges in the area of Mediterranean water scarcity as the lack of trust between research and industry within the water-treatment sector. In a bid to overcome this, FP4BATIW has fostered activities that contribute to the creation of innovative businesses, new dynamics for cooperation, and the setting up of new forms of public-private partnerships. Not only have these activities overcome many of the trust issues between research and industry, but they have also improved the trust between the EU and MPC partners.
This is seen as the real and lasting impact of the project, and perhaps its biggest achievement to date. Valiente explains that the project’s “hope to accomplish an EU-MED community working at equal levels of knowledge, competence and capacity is no longer just a distant dream”.
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