Exploratory BTO Research
Drinkwater company of the future
The water sector’s joint research programme (BTO) has a number of overarching themes. One of these is the Exploratory Research component, which helps keep the water companies apprised of new developments and ways of thinking and orient their innovation. The launch of the “Drinking Water Infrastructure of the Future” project in 2013 is set in this framework.
Setting the robustness of the strategic choices against the future scenarios
Are the strategic choices made by water companies robust in view of future developments? This is the question addressed at a KWR workshop on 20 November. Chris Büscher, Knowledge Networks and Futures Studies researcher, did the preparatory work together with his colleagues, Mirjam Blokker and Claudia Agudelo, researchers in the Water Infrastructure team, and Luc Palmen, a member of the Drinking Water Treatment team. “We have developed four scenarios. Is one better than another? No, the idea of scenario planning is that every scenario is equally plausible.” The future visions sketch out four different cities: the collective, the self-sufficient, the competitive and the intelligent city.
Different roles for water companies
In the collective city, the government plays a strong directive role, in the competitive one it’s everyone for himself or herself, in the self-sufficient one the citizens value self-organisation, while in the technology-driven intelligent city the emphasis is on the individual. “This can lead to very different water company roles,” says Blokker. “In the one scenario, you might have a ‘super utility’ that supplies high quality water at a high price, in the other there would be several smaller suppliers, while in the third scenario the water companies are perhaps more advisors than suppliers, and in the fourth water supply would be governed more by customer needs.”
Fleshing out the scenarios
The discussion is lively and provides much food for thought. “Drinking water companies face strategic choices,” says Blokker. “The art of it lies in weighing the robustness of these choices against the scenarios.” The researchers would like to help the water companies in this. “The next step in 2014 is to flesh out the scenarios. We’ll be focusing even more on the water sector.” Then another meeting with the water companies is planned. “I want to know what keeps them from sleeping at night,” says Büscher. “Then we’ll be able to set their possible choices up against the scenarios.”
© 2017 KWR Watercycle Research Institute
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