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Social, entrepreneurial and excelling doctors for water technology

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - WaterSEED (Social, entrepreneurial and excelling doctors for water technology)

Reporting period: 2016-02-01 to 2018-01-31

WaterSEED stands for Societal Entrepreneurs and Excelling Doctors in water technology. The objective of the WaterSEED project is to provide a doctoral program to excellent early stage researchers (ESRs) that want to develop their skills and contribute to the development of breakthrough technologies for water related challenges, such as:
• Decrease of biodiversity (by waste water discharge, hormone disrupting substances, salination, water depletion)
• Growing shortage of water (water reuse and desalination required)
• Emission of greenhouse gasses, need for sustainable energy and energy efficiency
• Millennium Development Goals (global water and sanitation availability)
• Growing antibiotics resistance (treatment of water from hospitals & pharmaceutical industry)
• Depletion of raw materials (recycling of metals and minerals from water required)
Wetsus aims to offer a breeding place for innovate breakthrough processes by bringing together innovative companies and creative scientists to jointly operate a pioneering multi-disciplinary research program aiming at original solutions. The role of the creative scientists is to come up with ideas and to ensure the scientific quality of the research. To bring these innovate breakthrough processes into practice, companies are needed that further develop, produce and distribute these solutions. The role of companies is thus to ensure commercial relevance and to bring the new ideas to real applications.

Not only new solutions are needed, also new minds that can develop and bring such solutions further are a necessity. Therefore the core of the research program is a PhD program that brings PhD researchers from various disciplines together in one research lab. This gives the PhD researcher a unique possibility to work in a multidisciplinary environment, see figure 1 for the overview of the main disciplines relevant for water technology. Wetsus research takes place where research disciplines have signifant overlap.
These new minds are recruited within the WaterSEED project via the WaterSEED recruitment procedure. The recruitment is organized in two yearly calls with 6-15 positions. Such a call gives more credibility to a Wetsus position, as on average 40 applications are received for every posted open position. This is a 7-fold increase compared to earlier years, reflecting the increased reputation of Wetsus. The candidates go through a three-step procedure, where the first step is an evaluation of CV+motivation letter, the second an oral interview, and for the third step, the so-called Waterseed Recruitment Challenge, the selected candidates are invited to come to Wetsus. On that day they have a job interview and also presentation and communication skills are assessed. In all steps both the university and Wetsus are involved in the assessment. In addition, an experienced researcher from the so-called expert committee performs an independent assessment.

The WaterSEED project will further expand and strenghten the reserarch program by attracting 45 international, excellent young researchers to the program in the period of 2016-2021.
It will also strengthen the European connection of the program by increasing the number of researchers from other countries than the host organisation to over 70%.

Personal development is part of the values of Wetsus and is necessary to equip the PhD researchers with the soft skills and competences needed to thrive in the Wetsus network and in their working life after the PhD program. Therefore, a PhD training program has been set up. This program is additional to the training provided to the PhD students from the different research schools, and focuses on “soft skills”. The training program covers the full PhD research period and is schematically depicted in the figure attached (uploaded).
"Since the start of the project 6 calls have been launched to recruit new PhD students. The calls and available research projects are advertised at a dedicated website Besides our own dedicated recruitment site, Wetsus also advertised the positions at the jobportals Euraxess, Academic Transfer, ResearchGate, and ScienceHR. Social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) and other channels (Wetsus newsletter, Wetsus university network, Student Associations) were also used to promote the call.
Wetsus visited several Career Events.
Till end of January 2018 25 researchers, 13 female and 12 male, are hired from 15 countries (Spain, Portugal, Russia, Slovakia, Nigeria, Mexico, Iran, China, Bangladesh, South-Africa, Rwanda, Turkey, India, Italy and Germany). The 2 researchers recruited in call 6 will start in March/April 2018. On average 40 applications per position were received. About 26% of the applicants is female. The chance getting a PhD position is 1,5%. Based on the 6 calls we see that 9,5% of the applicants make it to the 2nd round, 3% reaches the recruitment challenge and 1,5% is employed.
The recruitment site receives a lot of traffic. The 6 calls attracted more than 46.000 (unique) visitors (more than 90.000 sessions). During the months the calls are open there are lot of visitors (3.000 -9.000 per month). In the ""quiet"" months (outside the calls) there is a constant stream of traffic of around 1.000 sessions (700 visitors).
More than 50% of the visitors reaches the website directly. This shows that all the efforts to promote the call and recruitment website via mailings, flyers etc. have sorted effect. Also social media plays an important role as 25% of the visitors is directed via social media. Facebook is responsible for 75% of this traffic.

All PhD students made a start with their personal development program. As a group (together with other new PhD students) they follow the program to get to know each other better and to strengthen their bond and getting more connected. Self-reflection is a key element in the training program.

A first scientific peer reviewed article has been published and one patent has been filed."
"Wetsus expects to hire 45 PhD students (ESRs) till the end of the project period. Several of the recruited PhD students (of the 1st 2 calls) will probably have found positions in collaborating industry, or academic, partner organisations, or in some of the spin-off companies that have been created from their research projects.
The number of publications is expected to rise to 50 and the numbers of patents to 10 at the end of the project period.
The PhD students are positive about their experience in the programme, with extensive professional development opportunities, both through formal traning courses at Wetsus and their ""home"" universities and informal interactions with industry partners and their peers.

There is a wide range of global and regional water-related issues and challenges that Wetsus research makes strong contributions to. These cover not only the provision of water with adequate quality to society, but also include environmental and biodiversity protection, the recovery of valuable materials from waste, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the development of energy-efficient water treatment processes and the exploitation of novel sustainable energy sources. These issues are all pervasive and the Wetsus programme is making significant and growing impacts in these areas, therefor the research of Wetsus is very relevant to society."
schematic representation of the PhD personal develoment program
main disciplines relevant for water technology.