I (Irma) Steemers-Rijkse

I (Irma) Steemers-Rijkse

Programme Manager Circular Water Technologies

As Programme Manager for Circular Water Technologies at Wageningen Food & Biobased Research (WFBR), my primary goal is to accelerate the transition to a circular and biobased economy. This involves closing the loop on water and nutrients, preventing aquatic pollution, and introducing biobased and energy-efficient technologies within the water domain. Together with a diverse group of experts from Wageningen University & Research (WUR), we work on the development of sustainable water technologies and water treatment products to provide economically viable solutions.

Within the Circular Water Technologies (CWT) team, our focus lies on several key propositions; circular water, the reuse of valuable nutrients, desalination, (waste) water purification, and the development of biobased and biodegradable water treatment chemicals. Additionally, we explore disinfection technologies, rapid monitoring of micro-organisms and pollutants, and technologies contributing to the energy transition in the water domain.

While Wageningen is renowned for its expertise in agriculture, horticulture, and the food industry, the issues we address are relevant across various industries, given their extensive water usage. These sectors share a common water chain and face similar challenges, particularly the demand for sufficient and clean, fresh water. Working on the WUR campus allows me to cultivate a multidisciplinary approach to water-related issues, contributing to a biobased and sustainable economy.

My educational background includes a degree in Analytical Chemistry from HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht, in Environment, Technology & Ecotoxicology at the Open University (OU), and in Management topics (OU). Despite my formal education, I am continually learning through engaging in challenging activities, for which the WUR society provides an excellent environment.  

My professional journey began at TNO-ITC Utrecht, where I focused on polymer membrane research, followed and the Bio-Organic Chemistry department at the University of Utrecht, conducting research on carbohydrates. Subsequently, for over three decades (1987–2019), I worked in the chemical water treatment sector, contributing to research and development, product management, customer and sales support, project management, and the formulation of commercial market strategies for private entities. In the last two decades of my career, my focus shifted towards biodegradable compounds, sustainable solutions, and innovation pathways, ultimately leading me to Wageningen, where I initiated a dedicated water program in 2020.