Let's innovate together

Smart innovation that truly delivers effective results that benefit those customers cannot be found without understanding their experiences and listening to their views, says Northumbrian Water director of innovation Nigel Watson.

Innovation isn’t the sole preserve of shiny tech companies developing gadgets to make our homes, social connectivity or cars that little bit more “now”.

Whatever sector you’re in, there is room for innovation and the water industry is no exception.

We must be constantly learning from our own experiences, as well as those of our competitors, partners, other sectors and, importantly, our customers.

Innovation isn’t always about creating brand new things. Sometimes it is about looking at the way we do things, or the tools we use, and making changes that help us to operate better, be more efficient, or simply ensure a customer receives an answer to a query more quickly.

These changes can range from the very subtle to significant disruptive activity.

For example, one customer may feel significant benefit from a slight change in the way their billing query is processed. Others may find peace of mind from the way an innovative sustainable drainage scheme has been delivered in their area, reducing the likelihood that they will be flooded.

But one thing is for certain. Smart innovation that truly delivers effective results that benefit those customers cannot be found without understanding their experiences and listening to their views.

At Northumbrian Water Group’s Innovation Festival, we’re bringing together a wide range of companies and individuals for a week of ‘sprints’ that will tackle industry, social and environmental issues, such as flooding, leakage, mobile working and green cities.

‘Sprints’ apply leading design thinking techniques to problem solving. Participants with various areas of expertise, experience and knowledge, are gathered, for a set period of time, and take the subject from challenge to deliverable ideas. Over the course of the week, we will be running six of these, simultaneously, with businesses, academics and customers all getting involved.

Customers with experience of the issues will be getting involved and we will also be taking ideas out onto the streets to get further customer input and feedback.

The plan is that we will come out of the festival, which runs from 10-14 July at Newcastle Racecourse, with ideas that will one day become an everyday part of improved services and products.

The water industry is home to some fantastic examples of innovation, from the use of advanced anaerobic digestion to create “power from poo”, to harnessing hydro power at reservoirs, and much more.

Many of the things we take as standard in our industry started out as innovation, so why not make a real effort now to begin creating tomorrow’s “normal”?

Author: Nigel Watson, director of innovation, Northumbrian Water,
Channel: Operations & Assets
Tags: Northumbrian Water , UK , Domestic Water and Wastewater Retail , Business Water and Wastewater Retail

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