CONCLUSION of Freshwater clustering event

The BIOEAST HUB Czech Republic organised FreshWater Clustering event organized in a hybrid from in Brussels on the 19th of March...


FreshWater Clustering Event

to showcase BIOEAST projects & Discuss Macro-regional priorities

19/ March 2024, Brussels

The BIOEAST HUB Czech Republic organised FreshWater Clustering event organized in a hybrid from in Brussels on the 19th of March to show good practice related to fresh water, discuss BIOEAST macro-regional priorities and intensify the involvement in the international collaboration. The event aimed to illustrate the importance of the “freshwater” topic and highlight the need for further research, innovation, and investment to tackle the scarcity of natural resources and related issues of sustainability, food and energy security, and solution for societal impasse.

The one-day discussion with over 45 participants including high level EU officials, leaders of programs, projects, coordinators, and partners of international projects highlighted the role of the BIOEAST macro-region to solve the emerging issues related to fresh water, food, and energy nexus. The conference was structured into the three following sections: the presentation EU Water Mission and Water4All Partnership approach to water challenges, international cooperation linking water management with social-economic development was a topic of the first one. The second section was a panel discussion focused on good practice, gaps, needs and specificities of the BIOEAST macro-region. The third one was dedicated to pitch presentations of the fresh water related projects.

 Freshwater akce Brusel 2024  Freshwater akce Brusel 2024

The conference was opened by Barna Kovacs, Secretary General of the BIOEAST Initiative. In his welcome speech he challenged the need to transfer the BIOEAST macro-region from the biomass supplier to producer to support the long term self-sustainable food system for Europe. Barna Kovacs advocated the urgent need to build up a European freshwater R&I programme and a specific join programming structures for the BIOEAST macro-region to support knowledge transfer, to mobilise research and innovation investment, to establish efficient research funding structure and human resource to empower the sustainable transition. Anastasia Perouli welcomed the participants on behalf of the BIOEAST HUB Czech Republic and the BIOEAST Thematic Working Group Fresh Water Based Bioeconomy a network supporting dialog between policy makers and academia that is share and building knowledge from the on-goings international projects and enhance the international collaboration.

Szilvia Németh, Deputy Head of Unit for Healthy Ocean, Seas, and Waters at the European Commission, DG RTD, urged better participation and revealed the budget size and number of Mission Charter actions by each basin. The Danube River basin is lagging behind. Less than 10% of the 600 total accepted actions are dedicated to the Danube River basin. The portion from the total budget of 4,5 billion EUR for the Danube River basin does not even reach 150 mil. EUR. Water-related research is covered by the Horizon Europe Cluster 6 Work Programme with a total yearly budget of nearly 200 mil. EUR. There is a good potential to expand the BIOEAST macro-region’s related stakeholders' participation.

Ariane Blum, Agence Nationale de la Recherche, Water4all coordinator describe the Water4All partnerships and all new ways how to support research. Ariane Blum accented the intersections between Water4All target and Thematic Study developed for the TWG Fresh Water Based Bioeconomy: implementation of new solutions based on the new EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate, primarily nature-based solutions, alignment with the Strategy of the Water Framework and Floods Directive; the need to ensure water quality for healthy environment, secure supply of drinking water and prevent contamination and pollution.  She urged BIOEAST Thematic Working Group Fresh Water to get involved in the consultation process to revise the Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda in 2025 and encourage Lithuania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovenia and Western Balkan countries on board.

Panel discussion was opened by Martin Kováč, Climate Club, former state secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture Slovak Republic, who presented new concept for agricultural knowledge base nexus and new solutions for rainwater for climate healing. Martin Kováč illustrated a holistic solution for soil – water – vegetation – climate – food – energy implementing the concept of the Soil – Carbon and Water Bank of valuation and financing of soil and landscape ecosystem services. He demonstrated three key pillars: soil – information & monitoring system, carbon & water bank certification system and new climate fund as financial instrument for climate actions. He clarified the importance of small water cycle renewal over land as it can temper extreme weather events and ensure a growth in water reserves. He demonstrated that sufficient water in the soil causes the transformation of solar energy into latent heat, which is then transported by water vapor into the colder layers of the atmosphere. Daily heat transport can reach 6 KWh/m2 and if the vapor descends, sensible heat accumulates in the lower troposphere of 1,5 °C. This solution is being implemented in Green Restoration Plan of the Košice Region in the recovery programme.

Barbara Botos, Hungarian Climate and Water Ambassador, former state secretary of the Ministry of Innovation Hungary reflected on sharing best practice experience with a solution of developed regions. However, that is not replicable in the BIOEAST macro-region as the conditions related to water management are different. This is, however, just one example to demonstrate that there are differences (both technical and cultural) that require tailored solutions for the BIOEAST macro-region. Barbara Botos proposed that the future European Research and Innovation Framework Program should have freshwater-related topics as a priority area too. Beside Oceans and Seas, we need to develop a freshwater-related strategic research and innovation agenda in the Central and Eastern European macroregion in four interconnected thematic areas: soil, freshwater, food system security, and biomanufacturing. Sustainable supply chains and strengthened local processing of bioresources in Central and Eastern Europe are key for the future European food system security and strategic autonomy in the much-needed context of freshwater. She reminded of difficulties in convincing governmental and local authorities to participate in a research project as they bring benefits in rather a longer period. This needs to be addressed as there are, on one hand, regions emerging with different priorities and processes than the EU and others who are slightly behind to prevent them from being left behind.

This opens a discussion with the EU representative on the role of the EU Commission and the power to influence policy makers.  Central and Eastern Europe differs from the Western, Northern and Southern Europe perhaps in the intensity to involve in the EU Missions, EU Partnership, SCAR committees that is reflected in priorities (that do not reflect CEE needs) and subsequently in the lower participation. The unique role of the BIOEAST Imitative and its working macro-regional (Thematic Working Groups) and national bodies (BIOEAST HUBs) is to bridge these gaps, support policy makers, facilitate the policy – expert dialog, promote existing solutions and introduce experts from CEE.

The third session was opened by presentations of the DALIA Danube Lighthouse project, presented by Marton Pesel, OVF, the project coordinator. DALIA is developing demonstrators for the Danube River to provide innovations for solving emerging environmental and societal issues, reviewing current freshwater restoration assessment frameworks, and providing relevant guidance and standards. The DALIA Knowledge HUB will be launched on-line, likewise, the open call that is planned for May. Anastasia Perouli presented the NIAGARA project coordinated by ITENE which is developing highly accurate, cost-effective solutions; a fast, hydraulic model based on Smooth Particle Hydrodynamics to predict the spread of pollutants in real-time in a pilot demonstrator of the drinking water distribution network in the city of Valencia (Spain).

Oriana Georges, F6S, introduced Restore4Life which is developing a wetland Restoration Decision Support System. Monika Meiczinger, University of Pannonia, showed the Danube Wetlands and floodplains restoration that are being developed through systemic, community-engaged, and sustainable innovative actions in the DaWetRest project. Katarina Cetinic, NIVA, talked about the SOS- Water project which is integrating water system models with sectoral impact models in five different case studies. Twan Stoffers presented the BioAgora project linking up with existing networks, assessing capacity gaps actors, and facilitating capacity building. Lisa Waldenberger presented the Eco Advance project coordinated by BOKU, Gordana Radic, Educons University Serbia, presented the Greenland project, David Attila Molnar presented the DALIA demo site Plastic Cup on the Tisza River Sub-basin, with the Danube, Aqua Plastic INTERREG Danube Project, and Riversaver Schools Erasmus+ project. Michael Kravčík, People and Water NGO, presented a new solution for the Kysuca River integrated prevention against drought, floods, and climate changes. De Meersman Nick, Vlaamse Milieumaatschappij, presented the Clancy project that manages roadmaps for invasive mitten crabs. Zia Zrinyi, Soos Erno Research and Development Centre, introduced the monitoring of water pollutants and an online platform that is being developed with the University of Pannonia. Katalin Bene, Széchenyi István University, presented the DALIA pilot site in Szigetkoz.

Katalin Bene, Martina Makai-Széchenyi István University, presented the Every Drop Counts! project, that is developing a model area for sustainable liveable regional development, good water stewardship, and provision of ecosystem services to improve quality of life, bioecology, and climate resilience. This project was supported by the Insula Magna program supported by the Hungarian Government with a budget of 5 million EUR public funding funds in the last 3 years, an additional 100 million EUR will be spent for the water-related project phase. David Attila Molnar presented the Aquatic Plastic and Riversaver schools that tackle plastic pollution and encourage stakeholder engagement. Bosko Blagojevic presented the Water Balance model for the Danube basin that is coordinated by OVF. Digu Aruchamy, Eurecat Technology Centre of Catalonia, presented the ReCreate project, and Rui Martins, University of Coimbra, Portugal, introduced the H2OforAll project: Innovative Integrated Tools and Technologies to Protect and Treat Drinking Water from Disinfection By-Products. Martin Kováč closed the session with a presentation on the need for institutional support for land restoration and renewal of small water cycles, i.e.: the need to monitor small water cycles and integrated water and soil planning, maintaining, and restoring small water cycles in the ecosystems – land rehydration and secure financial resources to maintenance and restoration of small water cycles as financing ecosystem services as it was discussed on the UN 2023 Water Conference in New York.

Freshwater is crucial for the BIOEAST countries, the execution of relevant agendas is notably fragmented, with multiple ministries and entities involved. Both the EU Mission and the Water4All partnership presents an excellent opportunity for the BIOEAST countries. The BIOEAST Initiative, along with its Thematic Working Group on FreshWater-Based Bioeconomy, holds the promise to serve as a macro-regional network where diverse interests can be deliberated. BIOEAST macro-region has a specific needs and needs tailored made solutions, the solutions from other part of the EU might not be easily replicated.

FreshWater clustering event launched the Freshwater Net as a network bringing fresh water-related projects together, to support the cooperation and effort in gaining lasting visibility. The event attracted projects financed by various programmers from the whole EU. The Freshwater Net aims to venture new possibilities for collaboration and also to support the involvement of policymakers especially from the BIOEAST macro-region in scaling up activities.