Alu Circles: Pan-European Innovation Partnership procedure boosting the circular economy

Can cost reduction and sustainability go hand in hand? The answer is yes, as already proven in practice for residuals from drinking water production including lime pellets and ferric sludges. Aluminium based sludges are the next target, the disposal of which comes at a substantial and ever-increasing cost. The Alu Circles Initiative, a Pan-European Innovation Partnership Procedure of Drinking Water Companies from The Netherlands, Belgium and The United Kingdom will make this happen. Allied Waters and Corvers Procurement Services are in charge of the coordination and organization of the project. August 2020, we launched the Selection Phase of an Innovation Partnership procedure on ‘alum sludges’.

Innovation Procurement: R&D and deployment of solutions

Alu Circles aims for a co-creation by technology providers, water suppliers and researchers in a multi-stage process combining R&D and deployment of solutions. Examples of current innovation procurement projects in progress pertain to supercomputers (, or – more close by – smart meters for the water sector ( As regards to Alu Circles, we are confident that a procedure which combines R&D and the deployment of solutions provides the basis to develop new, sustainable solutions achieving a cost reduction of more than 30% for the aluminium sludge issue.


Public Announcement of the launch of the Alu Circles Initiative

Alu Circles has been initiated by three leading European organizations in the drinking water industry (the Public Buyers Group – PBG): AquaMinerals (NL), De Watergroep (BE) and Scottish Water (UK). The aim is to develop beneficial use of alum sludge, a residual from drinking water treatment. The Innovation Partnership procedure – a Public-Private Partnership model – has been chosen by the Public Buyers Group as the procedure to tackle the issue; this includes both the R&D of innovative methodologies and working methods as well as the foreseen possible deployment of the developed innovative solutions in three different countries.

The innovative solution should result in a sustainable, beneficial use (‘upcycling or recycling’) of alum sludge. The underlying rationale is that based upon a solid economic analysis the Public Buyers Group can act as an international forerunner and initiator to speed up market developments. Market parties are invited to propose their innovative solutions.

What are the benefits for the technology vendors?

  1. Possibility to align and team up with water companies from three European countries to speed up the innovative market developments on the upcycling of alum sludge and to broaden its market share.
  2. Possibility to align with water companies from three countries as launching customer for the deployment of the developed innovative methodologies and working methods.
  3. Reference site for (other innovation) procurement projects from water companies in Europe and other regions.
  4. Additional co-funding for the upscaling of the innovative solution, on top of the own investment by the technology vendor.

More information and to download the relevant materials

Update 9 October 2020: By this short notice, we would like to inform interested parties that the Request for Proposals and all the related documents for the Alu Circles Initiative will be published on 16 October 2020. Click here for the modified time schedule.

Innovation Partnership procedure

Given that the Innovation Partnership procedure (regulated by the European Directives and Aanbestedingswet 2012 deel 3) bundles the R&D phase and the deployment of methods/solutions, this procedure has been selected to develop and deploy solutions/methods/processes which can be qualified as so-called ‘specialised products’, as these can be specially used by Contracting authorities operating in the water sector. The procedure is based on the rules that apply to negotiated procedures with prior call for competition and  Framework Agreements are awarded on the sole basis of the best price-quality ratio, which is most suitable for comparing tenders for innovative solutions.

The R&D phase will be partially funded by the public procurers, next the market party must bear the other part of the costs. The deployment phase will take place on the basis of a framework agreement by every participating water company if they wish (there is no obligation to purchase the solution developed). The available budget, therefore, only extends to the R&D phase and does not comprise the deployment phase. In addition, a multi-disciplinary approach has been set up to comprise legal, economic and technical expertise required for the proper implementation of the envisaged project.

This Request for Candidacies (or ‘RFC’ – TD1) enables interested market operators to gain a clear idea of the services that the Alu Circles Initiative wishes to procure. Interested parties are invited to submit a Request to Participate based on the instructions in this RFC. AquaMinerals and partners will subsequently select the Candidates to submit Offers during the award phase. The present RFC does not govern the award phase; in the next phase, we will distribute a Request for Proposals (or ‘RFP’ – TD2) to the selected Candidates, which will describe the award phase.

Prior to the present RFC, technology providers were invited to propose their innovative solutions during a Market Dialogue, targeted at TRL-level 7 (i.e. system prototype demonstration in operational environment) or higher; for an explanation of the TRL-system, click here. June 30, 2020 the Market Dialogue Report was published in Tender European Daily (2020/S 126-309098). Did you miss the webinar on the 27th of August? Have a look. Questions and Answers (Q&A) part of the ongoing Request of Candidacies (RFC) are enclosed (see 03-09-2020 update here).

Further information

For any question, you can contact Allied Waters: Nicoline Scholman or Jos Boere.

About us

Allied Waters focuses on implementing game-changing innovations in the urban water cycle. ‘Driving the circular economy’ is our central motto ( We collaborate in Collabs, public-private partnerships including  research centers, commercial-enterprises and end-users.

Corvers Procurement Services ( and partner Vtrek ( are specialized in European public procurement law, innovation, economics, IPR and contracting. Corvers acts as an advisor and external expert for governmental bodies offering a complete range of services  from legal academic research and analysis to legal consultancy & training.

AquaMinerals is a Dutch enterprise fully dedicated to upcycling residuals from the water sector ( Annually, over 250.000 Mt of residuals are given a second life in number of applications. Continuous development and innovation are key elements to establish sustainable and economically feasible valorization routes.

De Watergroep is the largest water supplier in Flanders, Belgium (, serving 3 million people and hundreds of companies. Further, as an integrated water cycle company De Watergroep offers products and services in the industrial water and wastewater area.

Scottish Water ( takes care of both drinking water supply and wastewater services for the 5 million inhabitants of Scotland, UK.


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