Flash report: ICT4Water cluster Annual Event 2022

June 29, 2022, 10:00 – 12:30, Virtual (Teams)

On June 29, the ICT4Water cluster met with policy makers from various DGs to discuss the cluster’s activities and plans for the next few years. Next to that, the Policy Brief on the Digitalisation of water sector developed by the synergy group DW2020 (group of 5 ICT4Water cluster projects), and the links with the BRIDGE Energy cluster were presented. In this online meeting, which attracted about 50 water professionals and policy makers, short presentations were combined with discussions in breakout sessions.

The cluster is strongly supported by the European Commission, as mentioned in the welcome speech of Arnoldas Milukas (Head of Unit B3, REA). Mr. Milukas explained that REA took over responsibility for the cluster from EASME and is actively supporting and investing in the cluster. He underlined that the ICT4Water cluster has been successful for providing concrete inputs for EU policy shaping and implementation and gave the following examples:

  • The cluster’s contribution to the Commission Staff working document ‘On Digital solutions for zero pollution’ (SWD(2021) 140, see p.25-26) that is a part of the package of the documents on the new Zero Pollution action plan;
  • The cluster’s contribution to the cybersecurity and critical infrastructures protection policy;
  • The cluster’s participation in ETSI and SAREF networks for standardisation regarding data ontologies and data brokerage; as well as the cluster’s contribution to the ‘Rolling Plan for ICT standardisation’ with a special chapter on water; the plan being an initiative from DG GROW.
  • The recent policy brief on the Digitalisation of water sector drafted by the synergy group DW2020.

Mr. Milukas pointed out that opportunities for further contribution seen from the policy perspective are the European Green Deal, the Zero Pollution (ZP) initiative, the common European data spaces, and particularly European data space for Smart cities and communities that aim at digital technologies to reduce resource input and improve the quality of life for their citizens.

Policy brief by DW2020 on ‘Digitalisation of water sector: gaps and recommendations’

Ulf Stein (Ecologic) presented the Policy Brief developed by the synergy group DW2020, consisting of sister projects DWC, Fiware4Water, ScoreWater, NAIADES and aqua3S. The policy brief contains the gap analysis of the EU water-related policies regarding digitalisation and the recommendations on technological, economic, social, regulatory, and environmental aspects. Such recommendations are the introduction of EU regulations for online monitoring of pollution or mainstreaming water security regulation in EU policy, and last but not least, underlining the gap in having closer relationships between technical standards and the EU legislation. The draft version has been sent to the Commission services and their feedback is currently being processed. The final version of the policy brief is planned to be released by the end of this summer.

ICT4Water cluster: Structure and operation

Lydia Vamvakeridou Lyroudia (KWR/ICT4Water) provided the overview of the cluster including a short history and the scope; the revised structure and core activities of the six Action Groups, and major cluster achievements. She encouraged each Action Group, during the breakout sessions, to discuss the recently revised version of the cluster Action Plan and provide their contribution to finalise it.

It was announced that alongside the Water Projects Europe event, a physical cluster event is planned on 19 October 2022 in Brussels. Details and program will be communicated later.

Links with Energy cluster BRIDGE

Xavier Domingo Albin, the representative from Enabling Data Sharing Action group, presented ICT4Water cluster collaboration with the BRIDGE cluster. BRIDGE is a cooperation group of H2020 & HEU projects for Smart Grid, Energy Storage, and Digitalisation and it has been set-up to overcome cross domain challenges. He highlighted the following BRIDGE actions (and collaboration points) for 2021-2022 relevant to the ICT4Water:

  • Questionnaire about water reference architectures and data models;
  • Survey on the European (energy) data exchange reference architecture 2.0;
  • Revision of the joint document entitles as “BRIDGE Data Management WG”.

Action Groups

In two parallel breakout sessions all 6 Action Groups presented their work of the past year and discussed their plans for the next few years. The discussions were based on the final draft version of the ICT4Water cluster Action Plan, which will be finalised in autumn 2022, based on the discussions and the final input in the parallel Action Group’s sessions. After the breakout sessions each Action Group reported back to the closing plenary session on their main discussion points. Each Action Group stressed the importance of better collaboration and interlinks between the action groups.

Action Group Enable Data Sharing: Xavier Domingo Albin reporting back underlined the importance of considering climate data and climate prediction models for use-cases/ scenarios related to water. Therefore, the importance to have demonstrators in data sharing activities was also stressed as a key enabler. To enable trust data sharing across countries, the AG should work in finding demonstrators to test this concept. In addition, it was highlighted the need to have a closer link to the Policy AG to work together in linking architectural needs of the EU Data Spaces. This would enable to generate better impact from this activity.

Action Group Intelligent and Smart Systems: Demetris Eliades presented the idea of an Online marketplace. Also, more focus could be on the technical aspects of IOT (Internet of Things) to assist decision makers. AG also discussed (i) the possibility and the need to collect the set of case studies dealing with digital twins in water sector as well as collection of case studies and applications to improve efficiency and circularity in water use and reuse; (ii) the promotion of the use of AI techniques for big data analytics for the water sector.

Action Group Critical Infrastructure Protection: Rafael Gimenez introduced the following three main actions planned for this AG: (i) scanning the pool of existing projects to invite them on board to strengthen this AG, (ii) finalise white paper on ‘Raising awareness on the cybersecurity for the water sector’ and (iii) to organise capacity building and education e.g. in creating awareness raising activities for water operators in critical infrastructure protection.

Action Group Policies: Richard Elelman mentioned the good collaboration across AGs and highlights the importance that all Action Groups link to Policy AG. Updating the Action Plan on mandatory automatic metering might be too ambitious. The focus will be on collecting good practices and examples (on selected topics from the other action groups), and based on those, to create white papers and recommendations to support the implementation or shaping relevant policies; to inform stakeholders, utilities, industry, on best practices and to engage with stakeholders in cities. Finally, it was underlined that a bottom-up approach is needed to secure long-term relation with stakeholders and citizens.

Action Group Business Models: Francesco Fatone presented practical cases illustrating what the market is asking. Today, large tenders include criteria for environmental impact. Industry is struggling with interpreting these requirements and new taxonomy and procurement methods is needed, just as standardisation in this area.

AG: Actor Engagement and Co-creation: Guido Schmidt explained the need to ensure good co-creation actions among the cluster AGs. Another attention point was that the engagement of citizens should not only about harvesting the data, but also about real involvement. The cluster could learn from other sectors like the energy sector, which introduced the concept of energy citizenship. More focus should be on capacity building to build the trust and to ensure long-term relationship with stakeholders.

Closing remarks

Sotirios Kanellopoulos (REA) on behalf of Evdokia Achilleos (head of Sector B3.2), closed the meeting by thanking everyone for their participation and especially the Action Group leaders and cluster managing team for the chairing and coordination of their dedicated activities and sessions.

REA B3.2 team was welcoming the updated ICT4Water cluster Action Plan and underlined that the proposed actions are an excellent instance of the innovation and policy agenda for the next decade regarding the water sector digitalisation enhancing digital-green transition in Europe.

The speaker expressed the appreciation for the ambitious objectives in regard to contributing to several policy aspects, with a particular interest for some of the new elements included into the updated Action Plan, for example:

  • Setting up data spaces with water data and models that can serve climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies in the water sector or other sectors like energy or transport
  • The use of AI techniques for big data analytics for the water sector especially in view of uncertainties due to climate change

REA colleagues involved into ICT4Water cluster welcomed the continuity of the collaboration of the cluster with other sectors like energy and encouraged further activities on engaging stakeholders and citizens in the design of digital solutions for the water sector. This can become a great innovative strategy because innovation originates not only from system developers or scientists but also from the operational users. It was stressed that it is always important to communicate clearly the value of the digital transition for the water sector and that this can happen with well-articulated business models driven by new digital solutions. After the updated Action Plan is adopted by the cluster, the biggest challenge lies ahead – that of cooperation and implementation.