On 22 March – World Water Day –, over a hundred entrepreneurs, researchers and local representatives from the water industry in Flanders and northern France took part in the event ‘national and international opportunities for water’ in the Budascoop in Kortrijk. This event was organised by the province of West Flanders, VITO, Vlakwa and Aquapris.
On behalf of Jean de Bethunde, deputy Economy of the province of West Flanders, Stefaan Matton, CEO POM West Flanders explained the policy plan 'West Deal' (with a nod towards Roosevelt's New Deal). In this plan, the strategic guidelines for the economic policy of the province are developed. It is essential that forces are combined at various levels and by many economic players. Developing an action plan to support Flemish and provincial knowledge centres and anchor in the province is a priority. And the role of water in this? "Industry is very important for the region. If we want to be future proof in West Flanders, we have to be water proof as well."
Dirk Fransaer, Managing Director of VITO elucidated his ambitions in the region and Kortrijk: “The initiatives of VITO and the ambition of the province of West Flanders fit together harmoniously. We want to establish the Water Connect Platform for demonstrations and living labs to test and implement innovative technologies for sustainable water management. The first project is Kortrijk as ‘Robust Water City” to make water management in an urban environment more sustainable. A second project is the creation of living labs to optimise water management in the agri-food sector, which is strongly anchored in West Flanders”. To realise this in Kortrijk, the cooperation with strategic partners including knowledge centres such as UGent campus Kortijk, HoWest, Kulak and VIVES and the province of West Flanders, is very important.
Didier Copin, regional director of CCI Nord de France added his wish to reinforce the existing, cross-border partnerships and to create new ones. These partnerships act as an important leverage to Aquapris, a cluster of CD2E and CCI Grand Lille, which is the reason water challenges are taken on in the territory of the region Nord-Pas-de-Calais.
The speakers of the academic session were unanimous on the unique opportunities that an increased cooperation between different partners in the region offers. The participants already brainstormed about different water challenges, resulting in various project proposals for cross-border cooperation.
On 21 April, within the scope of Aquapris, another event will be held at SCENEO in Longuesse where the delegations will further concretise the partnerships.