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Laureates 2010

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The Hans-Jürgen-Ewers-Prize 2010 was awarded at the 9th Conference on Applied Infrastructure Research at Berlin University of Technology on October 8, 2010. The Laureates of the Hans-Jürgen-Ewers-Prize 2010 were:

Bart Steverink

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for his master thesis on „Modelling Consumer Behaviour in Airport Selection“.

After obtaining his Bachelor of Engineering degree in Aviation Studies at Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Bart Steverink went to Delft University of Technology. Here he attended the Master programme in Engineering and Policy Analysis. Besides, Mr. Steverink worked as an intern at The Netherlands Institute for Transport Policy Analysis, Den Haag, where he developed a System Dynamics simulation model for his master thesis, finished in August 2010.

In his thesis Bart Steverink presents his research into the influence of the Dutch ticket tax on the number of travellers at various airports in The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. Two years ago the Dutch government introduced a tax on airplane travel to and from Dutch airports. At that time, surrounding countries did not introduce such a tax, and many Dutch passengers went to Belgian and German instead of Dutch airports. The Dutch government then abolished the tax, but the passengers did not return to Dutch airports in the quantities they expected.

Mr. Steverink developed a computer simulation model in order to investigate this issue. In his model the awareness of alternative airports plays an important role. Previously unknown airports have become more generally known as a result of the ticket tax. So after such a tax is abolished a structural effect can be seen. The research shows that it does not make sense to introduce a ticket tax as an individual country, but that if it is introduced, it has to be done at a European level. This research is innovative in the sense that the System Dynamics modeling method was used. This method allows for a combination of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ factors in one model.

Dr. Kristof De Witte

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for his PhD thesis “On Analyzing Drinking Water Monopolies by Robust Non-Parametric Efficiency Estimations”.

Kristof De Witte studied Economics at the Katholieke Universiteit (K.U.) Leuven in Belgium. He gained two Master degrees, for “Economics” and “Secondary Teacher Training”. His PhD thesis, supervised by Prof. Laurens Cherchye and Prof. Wim Moesen of the Working Group for Public Economics, was defended in March 2009. Now he works as Post-Doc at the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration of Maastricht University.

The thesis of Dr. De Witte studies the impact and effectiveness of regulatory incentive schemes on the performance of public utilities in the drinking water sector, using robust non-parametric efficiency estimations. The thesis investigates which (1) regulatory incentives promote best the efficient provision of public services, (2) looks into the optimal scale of public entities and (3) deals with the profit drivers of utilities.

Comparing international drinking water companies, the analysis demonstrates that in absence of clear and structural incentives the average efficiency of the utilities even falls in comparison to utilities which are encouraged by regulatory incentives. The presence of benchmarking is a key element which replaces competition in the market or competition for the market by competition by comparison.

Although Kristof De Witte’s thesis focuses on water utilities, obviously, the procedures and results of this work have a broader application than the drinking water sector. The results could easily be translated to other network sectors (airports, ports, solid waste, etc.) or to sectors which face similar incentive issues (e.g., education, health sector, etc.).

Dr. De Witte follows a very promising, innovative research line. Although based on modern econometric concepts and sometimes sophisticated in technical terms, the thesis is aimed at having impacts at real-world concerns. This can be seen at his concrete proposals for the implementation of regulation mechanisms. The high quality of his work is supported be numerous publications in high-ranking journals like “International Journal of Operational Research”, “Public Choice” and “Journal of Regulatory Economics”.

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