Creating solutions in collaboration Annual report 2013

Cost-effective answers and practical solutions  

Water sector research: enthusiastic and engaged collaboration

25 January 2013BTO

KWR has over the decades assisted the water companies, via the sector’s joint research programme (BTO), in (cost) effectively answering their research questions, and in converting scientific answers into practical solutions. The solutions must be implementable in all of the drinking-water provision practice, from the protection and use of drinking water sources, to water treatment methods and distribution, and from area planning processes, to sustainability, energy, reuse and customer requirements. KWR is the coordinator and principal implementor of BTO, which was renewed over the course of 2012.

Starting in 2013, the new direction and organisation of the research programme becomes operative. Water company managers and experts are more closely involved in the direction and supervision of BTO. Co-makership is a central pillar of BTO: because experts from water companies and KWR develop new knowledge jointly, the results of the research find their way to practical applications more readily.

Well-defined projects, from collective to one-on-one

BTO’s research over 2013-2017 now consists of the following four components:

  1. Thematic Research which involves the collective research for all water companies and VEWIN, and is divided into ten themes.
  2. Tailored Research which is conducted for a single or a few water companies – for example, to accelerate work on the development of specific research issues or technologies.
  3. Exploratory Research which is undertaken at KWR’s own initiative and helps keep BTO apprised of new developments and ways of thinking and orient the innovation.
  4. The Organisation and Networking component, which includes the programming, management and coordination of the joint research programme, and looks after the communication on these matters among the BTO participants and with the water sector and (international) knowledge community.


This new structure stimulates water company research managers and KWR researchers to decide precisely where and how research efforts are targeted. Under Tailored Research, this can be done on a one-on-one basis, with research targeted specifically for a single water company. But it also occurs in the collective research projects, within the ten collective themes, where the research is directed by theme groups.

Research is by definition a long-term matter. It takes time. But the research managers and researchers also want to see quick results. BTO manages to strike a balance between the short and long term.

Enthusiastic and engaged

The collaboration within the theme groups works very effectively: the groups consist of enthusiastic and engaged people, who are ready to work and think together. When it comes to the research content, they are up to date on the latest developments. The theme groups operate with short lines of communication and take quick decisions when directing the research. Those seated around the table have the required authority to make the decisions.

Wide, international network

BTO offers KWR, and thereby the water companies, a solid basis upon which to collaboratively engage in research. KWR researchers are linked to universities – from professors to research trainees – and therefore also mobilise university knowledge for the water sector. At the same time, KWR’s researchers have a wide network within the water sector. As a result, KWR functions like a spider at the centre of an extensive web.

This makes it possible for example to connect BTO research themes to national initiatives, like NanoNextNL, Knowledge for Climate and TKI Water Technology. Similarly, collaborative work is done within BTO on large European research projects, which opens it up an extensive international knowledge network.

© 2018 KWR Watercycle Research Institute

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