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Challenges and Opportunities of Modular water Infrastructures for Greening the Swiss Economy (COMIX)

English title Challenges and Opportunities of Modular water Infrastructures for Greening the Swiss Economy (COMIX)
Applicant Truffer Bernhard
Number 172366
Funding scheme NRP 73 Sustainable Economy
Research institution Eawag
Institution of higher education Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology - EAWAG
Main discipline Social geography and ecology
Start/End 01.01.2018 - 31.12.2021
Approved amount 645'928.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
Social geography and ecology
Civil Engineering

Keywords (5)

Modular Infrastructuresystems; urban water management; lead market strategy; modular infrastructures; sustainability transitions

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Wir untersuchen die Herausforderungen modularer Infrastruktursysteme für die Schweizer Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft. Die Frage wird am Beispiel der Siedlungswasserwirtschaft durchgespielt.
Lay summary

Hintergrund
Modulare Wasserinfrastrukturen ermöglichen es, Versorgungdienstleistungen auf fundamental neue Arten bereitzustellen. Die Nachhaltigkeit solcher Entwicklungen ist aber weitgehend unklar. Gerade im Bereich der Siedlungswasserwirtschaft bestehen Risiken von Fehlinvestitionen. Umgekehrt kann sich ein Verpassen der Entwicklungstrends für Kommunen und Versorgungsbetriebe als kostspielig erweisen, wie es der Stromsektor in den letzten Jahren eindrücklich gezeigt hat.

Ziel
In industrieller Hinsicht untersuchen wir, ob und wie Schweizer Firmen künftig eine international führende Rolle im Bereich modularer Wasserinfrastrukturen spielen könnten. Im Bereich der Entsorgungsverantwortung fragen wir, wie sich die Akteure auf mögliche Szenarien vorbereiten können. Die beiden Fragestellungen führen wir schliesslich zusammen, um zu beurteilen, ob die Schweiz eine Vorreiterrolle in der Umsetzung modularer Konzepte einnehmen kann und soll.

Bedeutung
Das Projekt wird von Forschenden der Eawag, der ETH Zürich und der Beratungsfirma Ecoplan betrieben und beinhaltet eine enge Zusammenarbeit mit Praxisakteuren aus Industrie, Versorgungsunternehmen, Verbänden und Behörden. Die Kompetenzen der verschiedenen Praxisexperten werden mit wissenschaftlichen Erkenntnissen aus Volkswirtschaftslehre, Politikwissenschaften, Wirtschaftsgeographie und Innovationsforschung verbunden.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 27.02.2018

Lay Summary (French)

Lead
Nous étudions les défis rencontrés dans le cas des systèmes d'infrastructures modulaires pour l'économie et la société suisses. Pour ce faire, nous examinons l’exemple de la gestion des eaux urbaines.
Lay summary

Contexte
Les infrastructures modulaires permettent d'assurer des services d’approvisionnement d’une manière fondamentalement nouvelle. Cependant, la durabilité de tels services reste floue. Cela est vrai en particulier dans le domaine de la gestion des eaux urbaines, où il existe des risques de mauvais investissements. Inversement, ne pas tenir compte des tendances en matière de développement peut s’avérer coûteux pour les collectivités et les services publics, comme l'a montré le secteur de l'électricité ces dernières années.

Objectifs
Nous cherchons à savoir si les entreprises suisses seraient dorénavant en mesure de jouer un rôle de premier plan sur la scène industrielle internationale en matière d’infrastructures modulaires et, si tel est le cas, de quelle manière. Nous nous demandons en outre, comment les acteurs peuvent se préparer aux différents scénarios possibles. Enfin, nous réunissons ces questions pour évaluer si la Suisse peut et doit jouer un rôle de pionnier dans la mise en œuvre de concepts modulaires.

Importance
Le projet est dirigé par des chercheurs de l'Eawag, de l'EPF Zurich et de l'entreprise de conseil Ecoplan. Il est mené en collaboration étroite avec des professionnels de l'industrie, des services publics, des associations et des autorités. Les compétences des différents professionnels du milieu seront conjuguées aux connaissances scientifiques des domaines de l'économie, de la science politique, de la géographie économique et de la recherche en innovation.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 27.02.2018

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
We are identifying the challenges of modular infrastructure systems for the Swiss economy and society. This issue is to be explored using the example of urban water management.
Lay summary

Background
Modular water infrastructure systems make it possible to provide supply services in fundamentally new ways. However, the sustainability of such developments is largely unclear. Particularly in the area of urban water management there are risks of making bad investments. Conversely, overlooking development trends for municipalities and utility companies could prove costly, as the electricity sector has shown impressively in recent years.

Aims
From an industrial point of view, we are investigating whether and how Swiss companies can play a leading role internationally in the area of modular water infrastructure. In the area of waste management responsibility, we are asking how the involved players can prepare themselves for possible scenarios. We then aim to combine both these questions in order to assess whether Switzerland can and should play a pioneering role in the implementation of modular concepts.

Importance
The project will be run by researchers from Eawag, the ETH Zurich, and consulting firm Ecoplan, and will involve close cooperation with practitioners from industry, utility companies, associations and authorities. The know-how of the various experts will be combined with scientific insights from the fields of economics, political science, economic geography and innovation research.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 27.02.2018

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Project partner

Publications

Publication
Alternative governance arrangements for modular water infrastructure: An exploratory review
Pakizer Katrin, Lieberherr Eva (2018), Alternative governance arrangements for modular water infrastructure: An exploratory review, in Competition and Regulation in Network Industries, 19(1-2), 53-68.

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
14th Interantional Graduate Conference Talk given at a conference Let’s go modular: Governance conditions for implementing alternative water systems 12.12.2018 Jerusalem, Israel Pakizer Katrin;
Gestion intégrée des eaux: enjeux entre société et nature Talk given at a conference Water provision in Germany and Switzerland: cases of public and private management 06.12.2018 Lausanne, Switzerland Lieberherr Eva;
International PhD course on Economic Geography, Utrecht University Talk given at a conference Multi-Scalar Valuation Processes and Regional Path Creation 10.09.2018 Utrecht, Netherlands Heiberg Jonas;
2018 European Group for Public Administration Conference Talk given at a conference Modular infrastructures and new regulatory landscapes: Implications for accountability and legitimacy 04.09.2018 Lausanne, Switzerland Lieberherr Eva;
5th Global Conference in Economic Geography Talk given at a conference Approaching multi-scalar systems of resource mobilisation 24.07.2018 Köln, Germany Truffer Bernhard; Heiberg Jonas;
7th Biennial Conference of ECPR Standing Group on Regulatory Governance – Regulation between Effectiveness and Legitimacy Talk given at a conference Modular infrastructures and new regulatory landscapes: Implications for accountability and legitimacy 04.07.2018 Lausanne, Switzerland Lieberherr Eva;
7th Conference on the Regulation of Infrastructures Talk given at a conference Alternative Governance Arrangements for Modular Water Infrastructure: A Systematic Review 21.06.2018 Florenz, Italy Pakizer Katrin;
9th International Sustainability Transitions Conference Talk given at a conference Operationalising system resource mobilization in Global Innovation Systems 12.06.2018 Manchester, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Truffer Bernhard; Heiberg Jonas;


Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
Lippuner Fachtagung Wasser 2018 Talk 15.11.2018 Thun, Switzerland Lieberherr Eva;


Self-organised

Title Date Place
International Workshop: Non-grid solutions for the future of urban water management: The path forward 14.03.2018 Monte Verità, Switzerland

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
107157 Regional infrastructure foresight (RIF) - transition management for the sanitation sector 01.07.2005 NRP 54 Sustainable Development of the Built Environment

Abstract

The COMIX project aims at analyzing opportunities and challenges of a Swiss Sustainable Economy, which are associated with a foreseeable fundamental shift towards more modular system designs in many infrastructure sectors. The analysis will primarily be focused on the Swiss urban water management sector, scrutinizing impacts on Swiss industry, utilities, professional associations and regulators. The case of urban water management is particularly well suited to analyze these challenges due to strong path dependencies and considerable impacts on sustainable futures globally. The core research questions that will be analyzed in the project relate to in how far the challenges and opportunities of modular infrastructures could represent a first mover advantage for Swiss industry and a strategic chance to anticipate future system configurations for Swiss operators and regulators and in how far synergies between these two aspects could be identified. This is synthesized in a hypothesis about a so called lead market potential in Switzerland. The proposal is subdivided into two research streams and a synthesis module. The first stream aims at understanding opportunities for Swiss water companies in the context of global industry dynamics associated with modular water technologies. It assesses the success conditions at both innovation systems and at company level. The second stream identifies challenges and opportunities that modular infrastructures represent for utilities, professional associations, consultancies and government departments, which are responsible for planning and operating UWM structures. More specifically, the project will conduct an encompassing cost benefit analyses of alternative transition scenarios from today’s mostly centralized system configuration towards future more hybrid forms. Furthermore, alternative governance arrangements will be elaborated and assessed that would enable running hybrid system configurations at a similar level of performance like the incumbent system. The synthesis module integrates results from the two analytical streams by assessing the lead market potential for. COMIX is conceived as an inter- and transdisciplinary project run by research teams from various disciplines such as management, economic geography, political science, economics and engineering. Additionally representatives from industry, utilities, professional associations and government will be involved in several sequences of participative workshops. The project addresses a large number of relevant topics listed under modules 2 and 3 of the NRP 73 call.
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