This year, the innovative, Utrecht (The Netherlands) based water company Nelen & Schuurmans will open an office in Taiwan. In cooperation with local companies and knowledge institutes they will devise solutions for the severe floods in the country. Being part of a Dutch trade mission, headed by mayor Jan van Zanen of Utrecht, they will visit Taiwan at the end of March to finalise the partnerships.

Nelen & Schuurmans is a company that was founded twenty years ago as a water management consultancy, however has grown into an IT company over the years. Former competitors have now become clients, such as Royal HasKoningDHV consultancy. This is due to the innovative way in which Nelen & Schuurmans uses data to clarify water problems.

One of their products is the ‘3Di‘ software with which flooding visualizations can be made of a certain region. This is possible as the company uses all available data – from groundwater levels and threshold heights to the number of trees and soil types. They use this data to perform all kinds of mathematical calculations to predict which houses, streets or neighbourhoods will be most affected by flooding.

Smart city

Taiwan, a country that regularly deals with typhoons and the associated floods, is therefore particularly interested in Nelen & Schuurmans’ software. “In Taiwan, they are often involved in these ‘smart city’ solutions,” says Fons Nelen, one of the company’s founders and managing director. “There is a lot of confidence in this technology and a lot of money is spent on flood solutions. For us, this is the ideal area to see if we can come up with local solutions.”

The board of Nelen & Schuurmans. Second of the left: director and founder Fons Nelen.

There are some technological challenges for the Dutch water company when expanding to Taiwan. “In the Netherlands, the definition of an extreme climate shower is being discussed, whether this is seventy or eighty millimetres,” explains Nelen. “In Taiwan, this is five hundred millimetres of rainfall in one day. We’re talking about a completely different order of magnitude.” There is also a big difference between Taiwanese and Dutch data culture. “In the Netherlands, we have an ‘open data’ culture in which data can easily be obtained. This stimulates innovation in our country and we should be very proud of that. In Taiwan, everything seems to be classified.”

The method of operation therefore requires a slightly different approach than usual. “We also have customers in England and Australia, but the English don’t seem to mind if our software runs their data on a server based in Amsterdam. In Taiwan, the data is not allowed to leave the country,” says Nelen. Therefore, the company will work together with local corporations. The server will be located in Taiwan, making sure the data does not leave the country. In addition, the Taiwanese will be working on the actual solutions. Nelen & Schuurmans supplies the software and advises them.

International

Their expanding step to Taiwan is an example of Nelen & Schuurmans’ international ambition. Nelen explains: “We often hear that the Netherlands is a knowledgeable country, however, I believe we are not very good at marketing that knowledge. Dutch water experts often go abroad to do a study or to draw up a report, but that’s basically it. I think we have found a very good working model with which the knowledge could be sold.”

Twenty years ago, when founded the company, they had a dream to work with their own software, now their dream has grown to international proportions. Nelen: “I hope that the Netherlands, an educated country and a land of water, will become the Silicon Valley of water management, so we can tackle all water issue here.

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