Alex Berhitu: "Proud to receive global recognition from the Water Alliance"

Alex Berhitu: "Proud to receive global recognition from the Water Alliance"

"I have been involved in this business development project on behalf of NOM from the beginning and I am very proud of what we have achieved in the past ten years. In addition, I get great pleasure from connecting parties and moving innovations forward."

From regional project to national partnership

"The Water Alliance was created here in the Northern Netherlands on the initiative of regional governments, knowledge institute Wetsus and a handful of entrepreneurs. They wanted to join forces in the field of water technology with the help of NOM to generate more business together. NOM wrote a project proposal and applied for an ERDF subsidy from SNN. That was the start of originally a four-year subsidy project in which entrepreneurs, knowledge institutes, drinking water companies and water boards worked together to create a cluster around innovative and sustainable water technology.

Our goal was to connect the fragmented water technology in the Northern Netherlands and thereby make it more visible. This sector mainly relies on exports, but as an SME you are actually too small to stand out abroad. With the Water Alliance, we helped the northern water technology companies to present themselves to the outside world as one face.

In fact, we quickly came to the conclusion that this cooperation was too important to limit to the North. After all, you can't solve the global water challenges with the companies here alone. Currently, about sixty percent of the members are from the Northern Netherlands and forty percent are from outside. Moreover, this ratio is becoming increasingly representative of the entire sector, as most new members come from other regions. In this way we are making the best use of all the knowledge and water technology present in our country and we can really profile ourselves as Holland Waterland."

Serious interlocutor for water hubs around the world

"The fact that the Water Alliance is now known worldwide, of course I am very proud of that. For me, it is confirmation that we have done it right. We have become a serious discussion and cooperation partner for water hubs around the world. I dare to call the Water Alliance truly unique, not only for the Netherlands but also internationally. What makes it especially special is that on the Water Campus in Leeuwarden everything comes together: business, science and government are all represented here. Thus, the municipal signs rightly read, "Leeuwarden, Capital of Water Technology."

I think much of the success is due to the fact that these three elements come together in one ecosystem for innovative water technology. Other countries often do not have such a complete ecosystem. Usually only one of the three elements - government, industry or science - forms the core of the cluster. The organizations and facilities we have at our disposal are not seen anywhere in the world. I take it as a great compliment that we are being copied abroad. On the Water Campus, for example, we have set up demo sites where companies can test their innovations. All permits have already been arranged, so companies do not have to do this themselves and the turnaround time is much shorter. We now see that water-tech clusters in other countries want to approach this in the same way.

Something else I am very happy about is that we were able to put the Water Campus in Leeuwarden on the map internationally. It really is a jewel in the region. When we were just starting out, everyone wondered why we were setting up this campus in the far north, myself included. By now everyone - right down to Asia - takes it for granted that Leeuwarden is the center of water technology. In the past, we always had to travel to the Randstad to tell our story to foreign delegations, while of course it is much more convenient to show things on the campus itself. Now foreign guests want to come to Leeuwarden. You no longer hear about logistical objections! We even recently welcomed a Norwegian company that is now based on campus. And the nice thing is that the company approached us because they couldn't get their technology onto the market from their own country."

Connecting parties to help the entrepreneur move forward

"What I love about this project is that it proves that we can achieve so much more together than as individuals. Everyone needs each other to really innovate in the field of water technology. The advantage of my role from the NOM and the Water Alliance is that I can look beyond the companies. Each individual company naturally wants more exposure, but I can determine with an objective view what the market needs and what innovations are needed for that. Then I bring the right people together, within the Water Alliance but also outside of it. That's also what makes the work so fun for me. I don't have to limit myself to bringing a specific product or technology to market.

What also motivates me is that I can help the entrepreneur in many other areas. At NOM, we look at what the company needs and think with them about financial resources, opportunities in the market, or practical matters such as absorbing fluctuations in orders and production numbers. A good example of the latter is that we put Hydraloop, a company that builds domestic water purification systems, in touch with a company that offers a shared production facility for businesses. That makes it possible to flexibly adjust production to demand without unnecessary costs.

On behalf of NOM, I am the link for the Water Alliance that brings parties together and advises entrepreneurs. But then they have to make a success of it themselves. And that also involves trust and the click between people. Precisely that personal contact is very important. It is of course wonderful when we hear that the relationships we help to establish ultimately lead to major commercial successes. A recent example is a company that made a million-dollar investment in the technology of one of the Water Alliance members."

The beating heart of European water technology

"Because of the beautiful powerful message we carry, the Water Alliance has grown into what it is today. And everyone in the region benefits from this success. A partnership like the Water Alliance indirectly leads to more sales and employment and promotes an attractive business climate for Dutch and foreign companies. And that is ultimately what we do it for at NOM. It has always been our ambition to make the northern Netherlands attractive for the establishment of foreign companies and that is beginning to bear fruit. Of course, I would like to see even more companies settle here, but the beginning is here.

In addition, we have many other ambitions for the Water Alliance. Ultimately, we want to be seen by the world as the beating heart of innovative and sustainable water technology in Europe. We think big, which is why we are profiling ourselves as the European Hub for Water Technology. And we are on the right track with that too. The fact that water hubs around the world are eager to cooperate with us is proof of that for me. After all, you can say yourself that you are great, but it is others who determine whether it is really so!"