400 participants launch the EIT ‘Water Academy’ looking for innovative solutions to address water scarcity in Europe

The three sessions of this workshop allowed to better understand the key problems, directly related to the climate crisis. Professionals from areas such as the agri-food sector, the manufacturing industry or the public sector of Spain, Italy and Greece have participated. This new forum is promoted by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), together with four of its Knowledge and Innovation Communities (EIT Manufacturing, EIT Food, EIT Climate-KIC and EIT Digital). After this first sessions, the ‘Water Academy’ will continue next year. Food consumes 70% of the planet’s fresh water, industry another 20%. Better management is needed to face the challenges related to the world population increase.

The climate crisis is a water crisis. Its scarcity is a serious problem since, as predicted by UNESCO, the planet will have to face a world water deficit in the next 15 years. To correct this, innovative solutions are needed and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) is one of the most active agents in this regard.

At the same time as the Glasgow Climate Summit, during the last week, the ‘Water Academy’ was launched, an initiative promoted by the EIT together with four of its Knowledge and Innovation Communities. It is coordinated by EIT Manufacturing, an innovation community that is part of the EIT, a body of the European Union; and EIT Food, EIT Climate-KIC and EIT Digital have also participated, as well as other partners such as Athena Research and Bioazul.

The ‘Water Academy’ has brought together 400 participants in three onlines sessions, mainly from Southern Europe. Spain, Greece and Italy. The goal is to improve knowledge and overcome current barriers to address the problem of water scarcity through innovation, entrepreneurship, education and communication. This initiative is part of a broad EIT programme called ‘Water Scarcity’.

The sessions have focused on the most closely affected areas: the agri-food sector and the manufacturing industry. Food production, according to FAO data, consumes 70% of the world’s freshwater resources; not only in crops and animal husbandry, but also in processed foods. Industry, on the other hand, accounts for another 20% of consumption, and the remaining 10% to human supply. Meanwhile, the world population is growing, with the consequent demand increase.

This reality is combined with the forecast that in Europe floods and water scarcity will increase if the objectives of the Paris Agreement on climate change are not met. Because, today, most of the water is wasted, and there is a lot of room for improvement.

New technologies, better irrigation management, drought-resistant crops or recycling water in factories could save up to 40% in the agricultural and industrial sectors. That’s why the European Commission is working to overcome these challenges and encourage countries, business and households to implement more efficient measures.

Innovative solutions

The goal is to find innovative solutions. That’s why the ‘Water Academy’ has been organized, with the presence of some of the greatest European experts. The 400 participants came from different areas, precisely where this challenge is most evident: the agri-food sector, manufacturing industry, companies directly related to water, municipalities, the tourism sector, SMEs, university students and political actors, among others.

Among the speakers,in addition to the host, Antoni Pijoan, managing director of EIT Manufacturing West, some prominent interventions were Maurizio Griva, Senior Innovation Manager leading sustainable digital solutions developments enabled by IoT. He advanced the possibilities offered by digital twins to collect data on water use, recycling, waste and reuse, and verify compliance with regulations and sustainability goals. 

Likewise, Jennifer Moeller-Gulland, Water Risk and Economics Expert, leading water risk assessments for Wolrd Bank, MNcs, etc., guided the attendees on how to assess the risk exposure of water and potential financial impact, for example, in municipalities and the tourism sector.

Stella Tsani was another of the featured speakers. She is water expert,who helped companies understand how to EU Water Framework Directive affects them and, specifically, to identify opportunities and challenges.

With these three sessions held by the ‘Water Academy’ in the last week, a solid network of experts is being built to strengthen the innovation ecosystem related to water management. 

“Our goal”, explains Antoni Pijoan from EIT Manufacturing, “is to create a dialogue with industries that address disruptive and profitable technologies, and educate new innovation companies, along with university students, about emerging opportunities in the segment of water management, emphasizing the 3R concept: Reduce-Reuse-Recycle”.

After the success of this year, ‘Water Academy’ will continue with new workshops the next year.