"Boost water innovation" 
Guido Schmidt from the Secretariat of the European Innovation Partnership on Water (EIP Water)
Your EIP Water Conference will kick off on February 10. Why did you choose the theme: "How is water innovation succeeding in Europe?"?
This will be the third EIP Water Conference – and the themes of the two earlier Conferences in 2013 and 2014 respectively were “Networking and Interacting – Innovating water” and “Connecting Innovation demand and supply”. These themes already referred to one of the key functions of the EIP Water: we aim to stimulate and support Europe-wide partnerships and a strong network as a basis for innovation processes in the water sector.
This year, we will obviously maintain the networking activities – for example by organizing over 15 thematic side meetings and an exhibition area for organizations, research projects and others to show what they are doing to advance water innovation. But we also want to reflect on the achievements of European innovation policy and actions within the water sector so far, and identify remaining challenges, barriers and key activities to further “boost water innovation” as we claim.
The European Innovation Union initiative started in 2010, and has just presented an assessment report on the past five years; the EIP Water has recently entered into a second phase after its kick-off in 2012 - the initiative’s structure allows us to be flexible, the discussions during the conference and its conclusions shall guide us to effectively answer the theme of the event and thus we hope to know better after the third Conference what needs to be done to make water innovation succeed in Europe.
For your EIP Water Conference 2016 you have chosen Leeuwarden. Why?
The conference will be held in Leeuwarden because our local partners – Wetsus, Water Campus Leeuwarden, City of Leeuwarden, Province of Fryslân, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, VEWIN and the Dutch Water Authorities – made an excellent proposal which won an open call for hosting the event which we organized in April 2015.
Leeuwarden is one of Europe’s main hubs for water innovation, with different organizations involved, such as research institutes, a university, business and public authorities. This is a good seedbed for starting and testing, and it ensures political buy-in and willingness to host and promote an international Conference such as ours. And of course, there are synergies with ongoing EU research and innovation projects – participants can register for eight site visits for example to a demosite of wastewater treatment technology in Leeuwarden and hospital waste water of Antonius hospital in Sneek or to Spannenburg, one of Europe’s largest and most innovative groundwater treatment plants and many others.
And of course, even though Leeuwarden does not have its own airport, it can be easily reached by public transport from Amsterdam. Participants from over 50 countries have already registered, and we are confident they will experience a city with great infrastructure and facilities for water innovation.
What will be the highlights and main results of the conference?
For a one day conference I believe we have a lot of highlights – in fact, the entire day will be a highlight! But let me mention just two outstanding elements that come immediately to my mind:
First I would like to mention that Mariana Mazzucatto will address the over 500 delegates. She holds the RM Phillips chair in the Economics of Innovation at SPRU in the University of Sussex and has held academic positions at the University of Denver, London Business School, and others. Her recent book “The Entrepreneurial State: debunking public vs. private sector myths” was on the 2013 Books of the Year list of the Financial Times, and I believe that the water sector and participants can and will learn a lot from her expertise.
Secondly, I would like to mention that we will have, for the first time, a strong Conference declaration as the main outcome of the event. We are currently engaging with the participants to provide comments on the draft declaration and we are confident that document will be a strong document describing the way forward for water innovation in Europe.
Even though it will not be possible to follow the conference via live-streaming or the like we will ensure our messages will be heard, produce a series of short water innovation interviews. disseminate the conference results shortly after the event and ensure they are fed into EU policy-making processes.
What are the main challenges for EIP Water these days?
The main challenge is to go beyond business as usual approaches and to ensure innovation is taken up in the water sector more easily and rapidly. This applies to both private businesses and public water management authorities, and topics such as water re-use and re-cycling; water and wastewater treatment; the water-energy nexus; flood and drought risk management; and the maintenance and restoration of ecosystem services.
To foster innovation in these fields, a lot of activities are ongoing to provide better financing for research and innovation, to ensure public procurement considers innovations properly, to develop smarter regulation with ambitious targets but less administrative burden, to establish the right partnerships and to learn together, for example, by visiting demonstration sites and discuss successes as well as failures. This is also part of what we will do in Leeuwarden!
The European Innovation Partnership on Water (EIP Water) is an initiative within the EU 2020 Innovation Union.  The EIP Water facilitates the development of innovative solutions to address major European and global water challenges. At the same time, the EIP Water supports the creation of market opportunities for these innovations, both inside and outside of Europe. The EIP Water aims to remove barriers by advancing and leveraging existing solutions. Its implementation has started in May 2013 with the main objective to initiate and promote collaborative processes for change and innovation in the water sector across the public and private sector, non-governmental organizations and the general public. This is mainly done via the establishment of Action Groups. 
w w w. eip-water. eu