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Digitalization in the water industry: meta-study WaterExe4.0 launched

In a project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) entitled “WaterExe4.0”, researchers at the Institute for Water and Energy Management (iwe) at Hof University of Applied Sciences are identifying success factors for the successful transfer of digitalization projects in the water industry

A meta-study of the current state of science, products and solutions available on the market, and digitization projects that have already been implemented in practice is intended to provide a target-oriented overview of the research and innovation landscape and best practices in German-speaking countries.

Previous studies as a basis

The results of previous projects, such as “Smarte Digitale Transformation in der Wasserwirtschaft” (SmaDiWa) and “KOMMUNAL 4.0 – Customized Services für die Wasserwirtschaft”, provide an important basis for the investigations. Although many practical solutions and approaches to digitization in the water industry have already been developed or analyzed for practicality in these and other projects, hardly any projects are being implemented by municipal operators of water management facilities apart from individual lighthouse projects or individual digital products (e.g., cyber-physical systems). The main reasons for this are, on the one hand, still existing fears of a lack of IT security or the expected and extensive changes. On the other hand, there is a lack of practical examples and guidelines that are suitable for transferring good ideas to one’s own circumstances.

In the “WaterExe4.0” project, which is headed by Professor Dr. Manuela Wimmer and Professor Günter Müller-Czygan, qualitative and quantitative research methods form the scientific framework of the meta-study.

The research group in the project WaterExe4.0 around Prof. Dr. Manuela Wimmer (2nd from left) and Prof. Günter Müller-Czygan (r.) is completed by Viktoriya Tarasyuk (Wissensch. Mitarbeiterin) and Christian Wagner (Wissensch. Mitarbeiter); Image: Hof University of Applied Sciences

Identification of previous and ongoing digitization projects

On the one hand, the German-language research landscape is analyzed for research projects on the topic under investigation that have been carried out to date or are still ongoing, with the aim of identifying digitization topics and categorizing their results. Secondly, the research will be supplemented with an online survey in the fields of science, business and the municipal sector

Companies, research groups, engineering firms, municipal organizations and trade associations will be asked about planned and ongoing digitization projects in the water industry. The aim of this survey is to find factors that were of decisive importance for the success of the respective project and to analyze where the greatest obstacles are seen.

Qualitative interviews

In the third component of the project, industry participants with special knowledge and/or special experience in the planning, installation and implementation of digitization projects will be interviewed. Among other things, opinions will be sought on the expected focus of digitization in the next five years, the prerequisites for a successful digitization project specifically in the water industry, and the requirements to be placed on responsible employees.

Intensive analysis

In addition to providing a first-ever comprehensive overview of digitization projects and technical solutions, the research results will be subjected to intensive analysis to identify and define the critical factors for successful initiation and implementation of digitization projects in the water industry.

These can be technical in nature, based on the benefits of specific software, or reflect nontechnical competencies or strong organizational talent on the part of those responsible for the project. All the results and findings are compiled in a guide that is intended to help users implement digitization projects independently. In addition, users can find suitable partners and solutions for their respective projects on the basis of the meta-study results.

Prof. Dr. Manuela Wimmer
Prof. Günter Müller-Czygan
Viktoriya Tarasyuk
Christian Wagner

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