Spotlight | Dr. Marc Vermeersch

Spotlight | Dr. Marc Vermeersch


QNRF is at the forefront of fostering a thriving and dynamic research culture and helping Qatar become a leading center for knowledge creation and exchange. To support our efforts, we launched the Conference and Workshop Sponsorship Program (CWSP), which now in its 21st cycle, connects researchers from around the world and helps them learn about research opportunities in Qatar.

Under the banner of CWSP, We are proud to support Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI) in organizing the upcoming 2nd International Conference on Sustainable Energy Water and Environment Nexus in Desert Climates (ICSEWEN21). This month, we feature Dr. Marc Vermeersch, QEERI’s executive director, to learn more about ICSEWEN21 and how it will contribute to ongoing research on the energy-water-environment nexus.

  1. Can you explain the theme of the conference?

ICSEWEN21 is a specialized conference to address the challenges and opportunities at the energy-water-environment (EWE) nexus, in particular the research and technology development requirements for the EWE nexus in harsh arid and desert climates.

As QEERI has a mandate at the national level to deploy market-driven and applied research, our priority is to support Qatar and maximize our impact with tangible results to help local stakeholders. We specialize in the three major challenges the country is facing in the key areas of energy, water and environment issues (EWE), and provide support to industry, private sector, government, and academics to address these challenges.  These three key areas are closely intertwined in a nexus and need our combined attention.

Today, this EWE Nexus approach for arid and desert regions is our “brand”, and while Qatar remains our priority, the reality is that our results can be applied or adapted to an increasing number of regions – which are unfortunately increasing in size – due to the ongoing climate change. We understand the importance of academic exchange on an international level and are therefore organizing this conference at an international level as a platform to maximize and optimize the exchanges amongst researchers, scientists and engineers. This will help to nurture the scientific community with a “think out of the box” mindset, and bring key, factual elements to decision makers.

ICSEWEN is designed to be inclusive, and to highlight at all levels the contributions that can be made in this area; from the highest level plenary speakers from both academia, industry and government sectors, all the way to PhD student competitions and our Young Innovators Award for school children. Through this conference, we showcase innovation and local innovators, provide a platform for exhibitors and sponsors, and bring together the global community over the virtual conferencing platform to strive towards making progress in the EWE nexus arena.

2. What are the unique challenges that countries with a desert climate face when it comes to the energy-water-environment nexus?

As stated above, the number and the size of the desert and arid areas in the world are increasing. All these areas, along with their respective populations, are under heavy hydric stress and face water scarcity. Rapid population growth, urban growth, combined with climate change impact – including the rapid land degradation - are exacerbating this water scarcity. Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is a global hotspot for unsustainable use of water, especially in terms of lack of recycling of wastewater and of extensive over-usage of the underground water reserves.

Qatar is no exception to this phenomenon. It has extremely limited fresh, natural water resources, and as a result it mainly relies on seawater desalination – mainly performed with the waste heat from traditional, gas-powered electricity generation plants – which intimately connects the energy to the water components of the nexus. The third component is the environmental impact of both the traditional energy generation, and of the desalination. Any modification of one component directly impacts the two other branches of the nexus.

3. What role can, and has, research played in solving these challenges?

Focusing on QEERI, I think that our “nexus”, global approach has something unique as most of the research entities in the world are specialized on one or two aspects of it. We at QEERI, are bringing together research centres to focus on the three nexus components in line with the holistic approach that is part of our genes. Scientifically speaking, although many elements are available at various technology readiness levels, there is still a high need for research in several areas including, but not limited to,

 (1) how enhancing the solar (or renewables) share of the energy mix in Qatar will impact our water treatment capacity, and how to solve it

(2) how to diversify the water quality segments and adapt them to the market needs

(3) how to limit the environmental impact of these industrial activities (and their transition), such as brine management

(4) how to support the deployment of the farming activity in Qatar without increasing aquifer depletion, while offering a sustainable solution to the farmers (in terms of irrigation and cooling solutions and energy sources)

4. What are you looking for in successful abstracts and what message whould you like to give prospective researchers interested in presenting at the conference?

ICSEWEN21 provides a platform for global communication of innovative and outside-the-box approaches to the EWE nexus, bringing together outstanding researchers and changemakers. Participating researchers will get a chance to showcase the contribution of their research to the ongoing dialogue in the area add value to the conference topics.

ICSEWEN21 is the only online conference specifically focusing on the nexus approach for arid environments and is the perfect venue to join together with likeminded scholars across the globe. Participants will be able to get a taste for Qatar and its culture and atmosphere thanks to the carefully chosen conference partners and excellent online platform, as well as availing of opportunities to meet with exhibitors and take part in competitions such as the graduate student, best poster and best oral presentation awards.


*To learn more about ICSEWEN21 and submit your abstracts, please click here.

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