Netherlands is known for its vast knowledge on water technology and water management skills, like off-shore civil engineering, flood control, coastal zone engineering, desalting for drinking water projects and industrial water supply projects. The Dutch battle against the sea resulted in major “Delta works”, they are known for their “impoldering” (land reclamation) . The Maeslantdam or “Maeslandkering” (two enormous steel constructions as lockable gates to the river Maas) are another example of hydraulic ingenuity in water technology.
However, there is a large gap between knowledge and world market share. The total water market is estimated to be €425 billion per year. 40% of the world’s water technology knowledge can be found in Netherlands. However, Holland’s market share on the total market for water technology is only 1%.
One of the reasons is that Netherlands has never been very good at thinking about long term protection of their vast knowledge via intellectual property (patents). Now we are not (only) referring to the number of patents, but rather the “licensing” quality of those patents.
On top of that we are happy to tell everyone who wants to hear it what we have to offer, basically for a engineering fee. When Katrina hit the New Orleans coast, Dutch engineers were invited to advise the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers how to deal with protection from the water. Dutch engineering companies were invited to the US to provide services for the design, build and operation and management for hurricane protection in New Orleans. If Dutch engineers would have protected their inventions in water technology more aggressively and if we would have a much more managed and active licensing out policy under those water technology patents, water would mean for Netherlands what oil is for Saudi Arabia.