Water scarcity in Southern Europe: Raw materials expert insights

In this new In Our Community series, we interview experts from the cross-KIC initiative “Finding innovative solutions for water scarcity in Southern Europe.” The initiative tasks 16 experts from different disciplines—climate, food, manufacturing and raw materials—to identify core challenges to tackling water scarcity and 30 start-ups are called to offer solutions to them. The initiative concludes with capacity-building for professionals from diverse sectors working on water scarcity. In this article, we talk to a selection of the raw materials experts.

 

Ana Rita Ferreira, NOVA School of Science and Technology, NOVA University Lisbon

What motivated you to be part of this initiative on water scarcity in Southern Europe?

“Water is the most valuable resource on Earth, and it’s increasingly under stress. For me, the fact that I can use my knowledge and experience to contribute to protecting and mitigating the pressure on water resources is inspiring. Working with other experts—aiming at innovative solutions for water scarcity and driving towards the circular economy to secure supply and improve the raw materials sector in Europe—gives me a sense of accomplishment.”

What raw materials expertise do you bring to the initiative?

“I’m an Environmental Engineer with a Ph.D. focusing on innovative and cutting-edge (bio)chemical technologies. I’ve been working for different international projects addressing water scarcity challenges in Southern Europe with a balance of expertise in agriculture and critical raw materials.”

What does “innovation” mean to you?

“From my point of view, innovation means pursuing a different way of thinking by continuously trying without giving up—the result will lead you to a unexplored path! It’s not only the creation of a new solution for an identified challenge, but also includes thinking from a different perspective and finding new purposes for something that already exists. For water scarcity, innovation plays a key role in the design and development of new solutions, which are not always easy to implement as they need to be disruptive. Innovation is essential to the prosperity of society, and without it we will be not able to build a better future.”

The initiative brings together different experts, sectors, organisations, start-ups and professionals. Moreover, it’s a collaboration between multiple KICs (Knowledge & Innovation Communities), among others: Why do you think ‘breaking down silos’ and bringing together diverse perspectives is important to transforming how we deal with raw materials?

“Water scarcity is a leading challenge of our times that affects whole ecosystems. Thus, the only way to overcome the current barriers is to bring experts from different fields and build a shared, global vision. Through a multi and interdisciplinary approach, it will be possible to take into account supply, use and demand, and find new opportunities for the raw materials sector.”

 

Dr Felix Gonzalez, ACCIONA

What raw materials expertise do you bring to the initiative?

“I’m a Natural Resources Engineering PhD and Economist BsC, who tries to use the knowledge of both worlds to develop sustainable practices and circular models that are able to address the challenges of the present and the needs of the future. Water is the most circular resource by definition, and we must aspire not to waste one single drop of it.”

What are some of the current challenges with regards to water scarcity in Southern Europe?

“The United Nations gave the world a wonderful gift, The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as the roadmap to sustainability, not only for governments, but also for citizens and private companies. And while the SDG 6 is fully focused on water, none of the remaining 16 goals will be reachable without a global and inclusive water management strategy. The challenge is huge: Agriculture, consumption, climate change… but the source is still there, and all we have to do is to preserve it; the real gold of our civilization.”

How do you think these can be addressed through the initiative?

“The beauty of the initiative is a great combination of passionate and committed cross-sectorial professionals and the convening power of the EIT to promote and strengthen cooperation among them. With such a powerful formula, the solutions are blooming and I do hope they get some traction in the coming years.”

Who or what gives you inspiration in your work with raw materials?

“I guess it was a laconic phrase: “Matter is not created or destroyed, only transformed.” We don’t create matter (yet), and consequently, all our activities are based on the use of raw materials we are able to process. The challenge of finding a sustainable way of doing so has got me trapped in this world.”

 

Marco de la Feld, ENCO srl

What motivated you to be part of this initiative on water scarcity in Southern Europe?

“Water scarcity is one of the most relevant problems, particularly in the south of Europe. Taking into consideration climate change, water is one of the most important resources for industrial countries. A circular economy approach in 2020 is needed, with the main objective to reduce the water consumption and to use wastewater, like a primary resource for secondary raw materials. New technologies and innovative approaches are primed to transform wastewater into water with added value, with a significant reduction of water consumption. Being part of this expert group, allows me to provide important information about the state of the art, the main policies developed by the EU, and the most relevant technologies developed in the last years, also with EU support and co-funding of the H2020 programme.”

What raw materials expertise do you bring to the initiative?

“Taking into account my experience as an expert in the raw material sector, and my experience as a project coordinator in different H2020 projects in wastewater treatment, my main expertise is related to innovation management in the water sector. In particular, the work done in the last 10 years allows me to provide specific information about innovative technologies present on the market, how to increase water reuse, and how to recover secondary raw materials from wastewater. Technologies play an important role in the EU and particularly in countries like Italy, Spain, Greek and Israel.”

What are some of the current challenges with regards to water scarcity in Southern Europe?

“The main challenges are related to water reuse while taking into consideration global climate change. In fact, it completely changes water availability. Innovations to increase water reuse, following a circular economy approach, is essential for southern countries in the EU to thrive. At the same time, water is one of the most important resources for secondary raw materials. Developing and improving innovative technologies to recover this is an important step the EU must take in order to reduce the dependency on other countries (outside EU) and make the EU independent.”

How do you think these can be addressed through the initiative?

“Putting together different competences around the EU and in different fields of interest is an important step in attaining an overview of the EU’s water use and recovery. All the main considerations, related to innovation, market, industrial needs and policy are covered by this expert group, so in the end, the innovations to be implemented will be identified. Researchers, industrial experts and policy experts can work together in order to identify country-specific needs as well as the most relevant solutions for EU-specific problems.”

 

Emanuele Bompan, Water Grabbing Observatory

What are some of the current challenges with regards to water scarcity in Southern Europe

“I believe the key issue is the lack of an integrated, systemic, circular approach. Some issues are dealt with in silos, rather than finding an approach that can merge tech, civic society, regulations and the many stakeholders; from agriculture to hydro-energy to water’s right activists.”

How do you think these can be addressed through the initiative?

“We have to avoid tech-only solutions, and also focus on the necessity of raising awareness. We rarely correlate climate change with water scarcity; few think about the complexity of this nexus and how many layers are woven together. If we focus on proper innovations that can favor systemic change, we will be successful.”

The initiative brings together different experts, sectors, organisations, start-ups and professionals. Moreover, it’s a collaboration between multiple KICs (Knowledge & Innovation Communities), among others: Why do you think ‘breaking down silos’ and bringing together diverse perspectives is important to transforming how we deal with raw materials?

“Hyper-specialisation and an engineering-driven approach is a mistake of modern society. In the XVII century, thinkers were mixing philosophy, biology, mathematics, theology and history, not entrenching in silos. We have to think as nature does. In a system.”

Who or what gives you inspiration in your work with raw materials?

“I had done a long term project on the Alps, assessing the melting glaciers and the potential risks to water security. In particular, I did a five-day hike in the Ortles-Cevedale Group, where all the glaciers are poised to die. The image of melting glaciers is one of the driving forces that keeps me going.”

 
Location
Related Focus Area
Sustainable Land Use
Related Goal
Goal 6: Nurture forests in integrated landscapes
Articles you may be interested in
In The News
Call for proposals: Scaling the New European Bauhaus Ventures

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) has...

Call for proposals: Scaling the New European Bauhaus Ventures
In The News
Glasgow City Region in the race to resilience

Glasgow, which is hosting this year’s UN Climate Change...

Glasgow City Region in the race to resilience
In The News
Gipuzkoa’s quest for sustainability

Gipuzkoa, the smallest Spanish province located in the Basque...

Gipuzkoa’s quest for sustainability
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC to host week-long celebration of climate innovators

The EIT Climate-KIC Week of Action will celebrate, recognise...

EIT Climate-KIC to host week-long celebration of climate innovators
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC launches new series of circular economy courses

As companies and practitioners around the world are looking...

EIT Climate-KIC launches new series of circular economy courses
In The News
NetZeroCities: the new project leading European cities’ transition to net-ze...

Starting in October 2021, the new project NetZeroCities will...

NetZeroCities: the new project leading European cities’ transition to net-zero emissions by 2030
In The News
In the face of complex challenges, Europe stronger together, says EU President...

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen outlined her...

In the face of complex challenges, Europe stronger together, says EU President von der Leyen
In The News
New IPCC report reveals urgent need for climate innovation

The IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report has launched. The report...

New IPCC report reveals urgent need for climate innovation
In The News
Moving beyond ‘brown coal’ in Europe’s rural regions

Together with Partners, EIT Climate-KIC is leading a process...

Moving beyond ‘brown coal’ in Europe’s rural regions
In The News
EU’s “Fit for 55” to spur policy innovation for climate action

The European Commission has released its “Fit for 55”...

EU’s “Fit for 55” to spur policy innovation for climate action
In The News
Munich Re and ERGO invest in EIT Climate-KIC carbon removal programme

Major German corporate group sets the ambition to accelerate...

Munich Re and ERGO invest in EIT Climate-KIC carbon removal programme
In The News
23 pilot projects selected by EIT to unlock higher education’s innovation po...

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) has...

23 pilot projects selected by EIT to unlock higher education’s innovation potential in Europe
In The News
Investing in start-ups scales the offering of climate adaptation solutions in ...

A partnership between EIT Climate-KIC and CDC Group, the...

Investing in start-ups scales the offering of climate adaptation solutions in African and South Asian countries
In The News
Irish Aid extends support for innovation and development from the ground up

The Government of Ireland’s development assistance programme, Irish Aid,...

Irish Aid extends support for innovation and development from the ground up
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC showcases climate innovation at R&I Days

EIT Climate-KIC participated in the European Commission’s Research and...

EIT Climate-KIC showcases climate innovation at R&I Days
In The News
Branch Magazine wins Ars Electronica Award for Digital Humanity

Branch Magazine, a collaboration between EIT Climate-KIC, Mozilla Foundation...

Branch Magazine wins Ars Electronica Award for Digital Humanity
In The News
Cross-KIC project to boost circular economy in Western Balkans

The circular economy concept is of crucial importance to...

Cross-KIC project to boost circular economy in Western Balkans
In The News
Exploring new horizons with Pioneers into Practice

Enrolment is now open for placement hosts and participants...

Exploring new horizons with Pioneers into Practice
In The News
Circular bioeconomy start-up receives €2 million from European Innovation Co...

EIT Climate-KIC supported Lixea (formerly Chrysalix Technologies) has received...

Circular bioeconomy start-up receives €2 million from European Innovation Council Fund
In The News
Embracing a new approach to climate change in Moldova

Moldova is one of Europe’s most modest contributors to...

Embracing a new approach to climate change in Moldova
In The News
Krakow: transforming the city towards climate neutrality

Poland’s former capital and one of its oldest cities,...

Krakow: transforming the city towards climate neutrality
In The News
Is Europe doing enough to tackle climate change?

On 23 April, EIT Climate-KIC CEO Kirsten Dunlop spoke...

Is Europe doing enough to tackle climate change?
In The News
EU Commission publishes sustainable finance taxonomy

The European Commission has published its EU-wide classification system for...

EU Commission publishes sustainable finance taxonomy
In The News
New European Bauhaus: what kind of future do you want to live in?

On 22 and 23 April, the first conference dedicated...

New European Bauhaus: what kind of future do you want to live in?
In The News
Estonian innovation to help stabilise grid as renewables increase

EIT Climate-KIC supported Estonian start-up Sympower has raised €5.2...

Estonian innovation to help stabilise grid as renewables increase
In The News
Five EIT Climate-KIC community members in Forbes 30 under 30 list

Twelve entrepreneurs from across the EIT community have been...

Five EIT Climate-KIC community members in Forbes 30 under 30 list
In The News
These eleven organisations are building a greener Europe

Google, in partnership with EIT Climate-KIC, launched the €10...

These eleven organisations are building a greener Europe
In The News
New equity crowdfunding programme unearths cleantech start-ups

Found by us, funded by you, a new start-up...

New equity crowdfunding programme unearths cleantech start-ups
In The News
From start-up to 100-person industry player in 18 months: air up is launching ...

It’s a beverage revolution: Healthy hydration while fooling your...

From start-up to 100-person industry player in 18 months: air up is launching in new markets
In The News
#TurnItAround: an event for all climate solutions seekers, suppliers and enabl...

As part of the fifth SDG Global festival of...

#TurnItAround: an event for all climate solutions seekers, suppliers and enablers