The world requires solutions to growing existing and new problems in the availability and quality of water for personal, agricultural, industrial use and nature.
At the same time, the focus must be on sustainable solutions for these problems, requiring less energy, reusing valuable minerals and metals and low or no production of greenhouse gasses. Thereby, enabling higher water availability with a lower environmental footprint. Traditional engineering solutions will not be able to provide solutions for these challenges that our society faces now and in the future.
New water process technology will be necessary to develop new concepts to treat waste water and to produce clean water from alternative sources like salt (sea) water, waste water or humid air to minimize the use of precious groundwater.

The research objective of Wetsus is to develop innovative and sustainable water technology. In our vision, this technology must be:
• based on process technology
• a potential breakthrough solution
• emission free
• part of an endless cycle (cradle to cradle)
• introduced into society by entrepreneurs

As part of the Dutch Topsector Water approach within Wetsus research institutes and industry jointly implement market-driven, application- oriented, multidisciplinary, (pre)competitive scientific research in the field of sustainable water technology.

Wetsus focuses on research and development of entirely new concepts and on breakthrough improvements of existing technology. In both cases, an entirely new approach has been chosen whereby the basic principle is always the integration of various knowledge disciplines. In addition to collaboration between industry and universities, there is also unique scientific collaboration within Wetsus.
Many scientific chairs from multiple scientific disciplines cooperate in the program. Leading researchers from various universities and other research institutes can physically work side-by-side in the Wetsus laboratory. This unique collaboration brings synergy and new creativity to the search for new sustainable water treatment technology.

Not only new solutions are needed but also new minds that can develop and bring further breakthrough concepts. These future leaders of the sustainable water technology sector should have, next to high scientific standards, a high societal awareness.
The interdisciplinary scientific nature of the Wetsus research and the intensive collaboration between companies and research institutes create a unique multi-faceted learning environment for this as shown on the right. A dedicated personal development program has been developed (on top of that of researchschool) to enable the PhD-student to develop personal skills required to make a meaningful contribution.

Research projects are defined within a research theme during an idea driven iterative process between the participating commercial parties and invited academic researchers. This leads to a clear business orientation combined with excellent academic quality of the research activities. The final project proposal is evaluated by the management board and by an independent program council. The program council, consisting of independent experts from the field, advises the management board on the project proposal based upon three pre-def ned criteria. Based upon this advice, the management board decides on acceptance of the proposal after positive evaluation of its strategic fit in the program and its financial feasibility. In the program, in which 51 professors are connected, the focus is on the following five main research areas in clean water production and waste water treatment.

  1. Sustainable water supply
  2. Waste water treatment and reuse
  3. New water sources
  4. Reuse of components and production of energy
  5. Sensoring of micro/nano pollutants

100th Wetsus defense, Gerwin Steen and his paranymphs

26 EU universities and research institutes participate in Wetsus

Wetsus research themes
Overview of all themes

Towards an economy of value preservation | By Niels Faber


The realisation of a circular economy has thus far unfolded under the assumption that it would fit within existing economic arrangements. In practice, we witness many circular initiatives struggling to give shape to their ambitions, let alone develop to maturity. These past months, various material recycling organisations terminated their activities, seeing virgin alternatives from other parts of the world flooding the market at prices against they cannot compete. If the transition towards a circular economy (i.e. an economy of value preservation) is to be taken seriously, a new perspective on value in our economic system seems unavoidable, as the rewriting of the rules of the economic game. At this moment, current perceptions of value stand in the way of this transition both at micro as well as macro levels. Several contours for a collective exploration of new directions of value and economic configuration that foster circular transition will be addressed.

Searching Innovation for the Common Good | By Cees Buisman


In his key note he will conclude after a life of innovations that it is impossible that humanity will stay within the save planetary boundaries with innovation only. We should be more critical about the behaviour of the rich population in the world and more critical about new innovations that prove to be dangerous, like the PFAS crisis shows at this moment. In his keynote he will investigate how to look at the world that can stay within the save planetary boundaries, how should we change ourselves? It is clear if we only talk about the words of science and systems we miss the essential words of how we should cooperate and change ourselves. And his search for coherent save innovations. Which innovations will be save and will lead to a fair and sustainable world? And will lead to a world we want to live in.

Future-fit economic models: What do they have in common – how can they join forces? | By Christian Felber


There is a growing number of new sustainable, inclusive, cohesive, participatory, just and humane economic models. A possible next step in the discourse about them is the comparative analysis in order to find out key commonalities, potential synergies, and “requirements” for a future-fit economic model. The author and initiator of the Economy for the Common Good provides an overview of these „new sustainable economic models“ and compares them according to underlying values, principles, and practical ways of implementation. The keynote addresses the cooperative spirit of the conference and prepares the ground for its public highlight on the eve of June 3rd, the round table with representatives of diverse future-fit economic models.

The era of postgrowth economics | By Matthias Olthaar


The scientific debate on whether economies should always continue to grow increasingly becomes a political and societal debate. On the one hand further growth for the most affluent countries seems neither possible nor valuable, but on the other hand there is still lack of understanding and knowledge what a non-growing economy should look like and could best be governed. In this lecture we discuss various policy measures that can be realistically implemented, take into account government finances and aim at a higher quality of life despite a non-growing economy.

Democratic principles for a sustainable economy | By Lisa Herzog


Democracy is under pressure, and less and less able to stir the economy into a sustainable direction. Therefore, to stabilize democracy and to make possible the socio-ecological transformation of the economy, democratic principles need to be implemented directly in the economy. This is not only a matter of morality, but also has practical advantages. Democratizing the economy can increase legitimacy and take advantage of the “knowledge of the many” to accelerate the transformation. Democratic practices, especially deliberation, allow bringing together different forms of knowledge, which is crucial for the local implementation of principles of social and ecological sustainability. This talk explores what this idea means in more concrete terms, from democratic participation in the workplace to the democratization of time.

Market, state, association, and well-being. An historical approach | By Bas van Bavel


Over the past decades, markets have conventionally been seen as the best instrument to stimulate economic growth and enhance prosperity and well-being. The automatic link between markets and economic growth is increasingly questioned, however, as well as the automatic link between economic growth and enhancement of well-being. This has led to attempts to capture well-being development more directly than through GDP per capita figures and has produced a more variegated picture of well-being growth. Also, this has led to a shift of focus to other coordination systems than the market, as primarily the state but increasingly also the association. Analyses of the historical record suggest that especially the latter could be a vital component in future well-being.