Leeuwarden City Partnerships Challenge - Leading
Leeuwarden: Building the European Water Technology Hub through partnerships and innovation

8 Dec 2014


Addressing global water issues – building the local economy

In combining water technologies, international connectedness, culture and community, Leeuwarden’s project as an Innovating City in the Cities Programme builds on developing technologies. The goal is to successfully address global water challenges, involving economic revitalisation, increased employment, stimulation of business in the city and building community awareness and culture in relation to water in the region.

As global water markets grow significantly, development and demonstration of innovative water technologies is expected to be an economic force to stimulate employability and business. It is through the development of water technology and a highly skilled workforce in the sector that Leeuwarden aims to increase the city´s international connectedness and address contemporary global water issues.

Water challenges in the City of Leeuwarden are similar to those of others in the region. Leeuwarden is blessed with high quality drinking water and sufficient amounts of surface and groundwater. Moreover, a smart specialization on water technology was initiated in Leeuwarden in the nineties because of particular environmental and societal problems, and economic opportunities in the global water market.

Based on its expertise, the Netherlands takes responsibility to lead the way when it comes to shaping a sustainable water future  as the world faces increasing water challenges due to urbanisation, demographic changes, population growth, climate change, etc. The government has selected the Dutch Water Sector as one of the ‘top-sectors’ of the Dutch Economy, where government, research and businesses work in close partnership in the Dutch Triple Helix to increase the added value of the sector.

Building on this, the aim of the project is to economically revitalise, increase employment, stimulate business in the city and build community awareness and culture in relation to water in the region.


  • Strengthen the water technology sector - to develop 2000 knowledge experts by 2020

  • Create high impact knowledge and creative technologies, and

  • Build community  consciousness in relation to water technology.


Private Sector



Civil Society


Frisian Water Authorities   |  


The overall duration of the project in 4 years (2015-2019). The WaterCampus and their partners have three key pillars in this designated project:

  • International collaboration,
  • Involvement of citizens and
  • Initiation/demonstration of innovative water technology.


For this project we are collaborating with partners in fields related to business, education, governance and innovative water technologies. The strong commitment and cooperation of all stakeholders in the Water Technology sector are key drivers that made the progressive approach and results at the WaterCampus possible. This commitment enabled a vivid innovation ecosystem on Water Technology to accelerate the innovation process. The WaterCampus region actually is a lively test garden for showcases and projects which attract an increasing number of international visitors interested in new solutions.

Bringing people together from across the world has been an important part of the alliance of partners work in Leeuwarden to achieve the objective of becoming the European Water Technology Hub. In 2016 Leeuwarden hosted the 2016 EIP Water Conference event which attracted over 500 delegates from more than 50 countries. In 2017, Leeuwarden hosted Water Alliance’s first international event (See videos below).



Wetsus has already generated over 350 scientific papers with high citation impact and 65 patents, most of which are transferred to the involved companies for commercialisation. Currently 70 PhD students from all over the world, but predominantly from the EU, are performing world class research at the Wetsus laboratories. The Wetsus program has led to many new technologies, which are currently being implemented. The 25 spin off companies of WaterCampus often play an important role in that.


As part of the WaterCampus innovation ecosystem, six Water Technology demonstration sites (demosites) are currently available for water authorities and industries to test, develop and optimise their new Water Technology products. The most recently opened demonstration site is the one at the Antonius Hospital in the city of Sneek (Friesland), where researchers, businesses and industries can use several specific hospital wastewater streams and temporarily apply their technology in a practical and simple plug and play setting.


A regional innovation subsidy “Fryslân Fernijt” enabled about 45 SME’s to cooperate in approximately 20 innovation projects on Water Technology these past few years. Another great example is the commitment of the Frisian Water Authorities adopting the Green Deal and in order to stimulate the application of innovative water technologies. By looking for connections with developments regarding energy, agriculture, food, health and domestic activities, special attention is given to cross-over innovations.

The national government has selected the Dutch Water Sector as one of the ‘top-sectors’ of the Dutch Economy. Several programs were launched focussing on science and innovation, human capital, export & promotion and global cooperation. As a recent example, The Dutch Water Sector partnered with the World Bank in tackling global water challenges. Programs are carried out in close cooperation with the WaterCampus Leeuwarden as the WaterCampus is offering a physical hot spot on Water Technology.


Project Contact is Anke Hoekstra (anke.hoekstra@leeuwarden.nl).

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