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Energy startup: Water & Energy Solutions

Set up in the fall of 2010 by Dennis de Reus and Aaldrik Haijer as an independent engineering firm, Water & Energy Solutions provides technical expertise to the process industry. Drawing on their academic training, their experience in pursuing projects in the course of their degree, and the contacts they have built up at the University of Groningen, Dennis and Aaldrik advise industrial businesses on how to adapt their practices to realise important savings in terms of water and energy.

The big picture

Water & Energy Solutions specialises in improving energy efficiency in the process industry, by analysing current operation and control. Focusing on utilities and using an integral top-down approach in their analysis, the two experts identify saving opportunities in plants. This is directly profitable for the client as well as good for the environment.

Entrepreneurship

The idea of starting their own company began from a realisation that their intellectual labour was actually worth a lot. “We started as students in the foundation for foreign excursions’ explains Dennis, “when we were gathering money for the study trip by doing literature studies. We realised we could also do that work to actually earn money!” They then moved on develop an idea for their own business.

The two enjoy the challenge of being entrepreneurs and note that unlike many other students from their cohorts who have joined the labour force, they don't have to climb their way up a ladder. As Aaldrik describes it: “We are starting at the top, talking to CEOs, and doing that as directors ourselves.” Of course, the other side of the coin is more responsibility, and more risk. But, as Dennis explains, “this is the perfect time to be doing it, before we have a mortgage or get used to a big, regular salary.”

Links to the university of Groningen

Dennis and Aaldrik both have a background in chemical engineering from the University of Groningen. During their studies, the two developed important contacts with experts, and these contacts ensure that they have access to cutting edge technology and to the latest research. Furthermore, Aaldrik explains, “being associated with the university, rather than with the business sector, gives us a special position as a more independent outsider, with a fresh outlook and knowledge that is state of the art.”

As graduates, the two are entitled to support for their budding business. The young company is hosted by CUBE050, an incubator set up by the University of Groningen and the Hanze University of Applied Sciences that provides affordable office space and various support services—from parking space for clients to secretarial and PR expertise.

Mentoring

Besides being graduates of the University of Groningen, their experience on the Zernike campus has been formative. When recounting the milestones of the development of their startup, Dennis and Aaldrik emphasise important interventions from mentors. In particular, professor Michel Boesten (Chemical Engineering) has been an important figure. Dennis recounts their interaction: “He is very experienced. Walking around a plant with him has taught us to identify issues. And he remains an important guide—we meet with him regularly.”Other figures, such as Bert Wiersema (GESP) and professor Schoot Uiterkamp (Environmental Sciences) have also been important to the company’s set up, because they provided access to their networks and facilitated participation in key events. Dennis and Aaldrik value the trust and time these mentors have offered them—investments surely motivated by the enthusiasm shown by the two young entrepreneurs who have set out to make a difference in the field.

Last modified:20 May 2022 10.26 a.m.
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