Norway has oil, Holland has water

Foreign delegations fly on and off to The Netherlands to see with their own eyes how the Netherlands solve water problems. Netherlands had no major water problem since what is known as the “Delta Works”, a major undertaking after disastrous flooding in 1954. The Delta Works gave the Netherlands a strong reputation in almost all aspects of water technology sanitation waste water management and other related fields.  The Dutch international reputation is largely attributable to the Delta Works where hydraulic engineers developed many valuable hydrological models for the implementation of major hydraulic structures and special purpose dredgers, the basis the basic for the spectacular growth of the Dutch dredging company Van Oord and Boskalis. The Dutch government made “water” one of the “core technology centers for their innovation policies (“knowledge centers”)

What is lacking however is a comprehensive intellectual property (or better: patent) strategy to turn Netherland’s water technology into a major stream of license income based on strategic patenting. Major companies in the water technology like Global Water Technologies Inc. have patented their new technologies. New technologies are developed in public-private cooperation agreements between industry and universities. Traditionally technical universities have been reluctant at best to patent their inventions, due to numerous factors, like e.g. existing cooperation agreements leaving the IP at the party who contributes financially in the cooperation, rather than providing clear IP allocation, ignorance on many levels what IP can do, absence of a Bayh-Dole type of law in The Netherlands enabling universities to monetize their inventions.

A major drive towards a clever and comprehensive IP policy should come from, or at least be facilitated by, the Netherlands Government. However, all kind of stimulus packages are being developed, but IP is notoriously absent.

It now is the best time to turn the vast technology knowledge present in Netherlands into a future stream of  royalty income based on an aggressive patent strategy aiming to patent each and every development in the water technology with the sole aim to arrive by 2020 at a stage where license income contributes to GDP as oil does in Norway. Impossible? Not at all! It needs however a drastic change of mind at many government and university levels. Forget IP as a means to exclude others. See IP as a solidification of existing and future knowledge developed at Dutch companies large and small, universities and R&D centers. Once developed and encapsulated in IP, we can start thinking about an open licensing policy where all patented water technologies are open to a (public) license, provide rights are being acknowledged and paid for.