One of the Grand Plans of the new WAITRO Secretariat when it started in 2019 was to expand the scope of the popular biennial General Assembly into a “Global Innovation Summit” that would bring together the Global Innovation Family to discuss research priorities, learn from one another, and showcase the products and impacts of international collaborative research.

The location for the Summit was planned to be Pretoria, South Africa. However, the COVID-19 pandemic made impossible all travel ground, thereby the preparations had to change plans. In 2020, the Secretariat moved the entire event to the cloud, creating the first WAITRO Virtual Innovation Summit. The three-day meeting, from October 28 to 30, used the online Meetyoo platform.

The hard work and great costs gave amazing results, as the WAITRO://50- Virtual Innovation Summit was a resounding success. More than one thousand registrants were recorded during the three-day period from all over the world.

WAITRO://50 – Virtual Innovation Summit

The Summit featured a foyer with welcome videos, documents for download, and an exhibition by key WAITRO partners that was open for all three days. Three “breakout rooms” contained both videos on demand (VoD) and live, interactive sessions. While the former could be accessed anytime, thereby ending the phenomenon of conference jetlag, the live sessions were each repeated so that, as far as possible, members in all time zones could participate without needing to get up in the middle of the night.


A central “virtual auditorium” held further VoDs from the Scientific Advisory Board on the focus topic of water, and two live panel discussions. Finally, a showroom contained multiple VoDs celebrating the 50th anniversary of WAITRO (formally on October 30th, 2020), which also marked the date of the 25th WAITRO General Assembly (GA), complete with online voting.

One breakout room was entirely devoted to the GA, with VoD on every proposal for attendees to view at their leisure, also VoD and documentary support for each candidate for election to the Executive Board. Two live Q&A sessions with the Secretariat were reserved for discussion of GA matters.

Water: The main subject of the WAITRO://50

In early 2019, the Executive Board agreed that focusing on just one Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) would make the Innovation Summit more valuable, and the subject of water was chosen (SDG 6, and of particular relevance to Southern Africa). Four sessions, including keynotes and panel discussions, were part of the WAITRO Virtual Innovation Summit:

  • Water and the SDGs: Innovation and Impact
  • Rebuild Better: An opportunity for a sustainable, resilient and equitable society
  • Innovative solutions to solve energy, water and food nexus stress
  • The critical role of the private sector in solving wicked water challenges

Capacity Development at WAITRO://50

For the 50th anniversary of WAITRO, the WAITRO Secretariat was committed to integrating our members and their capacities as much as possible into our WAITRO:// 50 Virtual Innovation Summit. Members had expressed their desire to actively shape the Virtual Innovation Summit, which is why the WAITRO Secretariat announced a Call open to all members who were interested in sharing their expertise to host their own online capacity development workshop during the event. Four workshops were held:

  • Efficient remote Work – Best practices
  • Meeting the changing conditions following the COVID-19 Crisis
  • Facilitating Sustainable Development with a focus on realizing circular water management solutions
  • New Technologies & Innovation – Drive the recovery and development in the post-pandemic era.

Ideas exchanged at WAITRO://50

WAITRO-UNIDO Connection: Bernardo Calzadilla-Sarmiento Managing Director, Directorate of Digitalization, Technology and Agribusiness, UNIDO.

Bernardo Calzadilla UNIDO“I admire the role of WAITRO in bringing together research institutions, but also now its relationship with companies, because ultimately success comes from working with companies, startups, NGOs, and other government agencies.”

The Successes and Challenges of WAITRO: Moses Mengu, Senior Project Leader at the Danish Technological Institute (DTI)

Moses Mengu DTI e1637165011878“The first lesson that I’ve learned is about mutual collaboration among researchers. When you can put them in one room, face to face, they build confidence and trust in one another. WAITRO brings people face to face and this is what all organizations that work internationally need.”

Roundtable Discussion: Witnesses to 50 Years of WAITRO Chaired by Moses Mengu



Date: October 28-30, 2020

Location: Virtual


  • Collaborative Project
  • International Conference
  • SAIRA Projects
  • WAITRO Capacity Development
  • WAITRO Facilitated Project
  • WAITRO Funded Project
  • WAITRO Workshop
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