There is a lucrative global market for digitalising water, and UK plc must ensure it gets a share – The UK Water Partnership issues a call to action.

The UK Water Partnership (UKWP) is an alliance of UK water industry stakeholders and we have launched a 10-point action plan to help ensure that UK plc wins its share of the estimated $30 billion market created by the digital revolution sweeping through the global water economy.

The UKWP’s recommendations are contained in a draft white paper and call to action, Digital Water – Understanding the Commercial Opportunities for UK plc, published for consultation in December 2019.

The plan includes calls for increased collaboration across the UK water economy, more focused research on the primary areas of commercial opportunity for the UK, and for more proactive marketing of UK digital water expertise.

The UKWP provides a strategic vision for the development of the UK water industry. It brings together diverse water sector and related public and private sector stakeholders in a single alliance, promoting mutual understanding, cooperation and coordination. It encourages the application of world-class research and innovation to address the challenges of global water security and to build resilience in a changing environment.

Says Digital Water’s lead author professor Tony Conway: “We’re looking to achieve engagement and consensus on these recommendations and to secure the stakeholder commitment needed to convert them into action.

“We’re seeking diversity of thought and the widest possible involvement of everyone with a stake in the digital water economy and beyond. We would encourage everyone to provide their feedback to us using the response mechanisms contained in the document and at www.ukwaterpartnership.org”

Consultation on Digital Water ends on 28 February 2020.

The white paper explains how digital will “impact every aspect of water, from management of sources, treatment technology and efficiency, consumption and customer engagement, through to re-use, collection and recovery of economically and environmentally important resources”.

“It has the potential to revolutionise the water sector and its interaction with customers and the supply chain in ways that were previously unimaginable,” says Conway.

While the total global water market is thought to be worth $500 billion, figures in Digital Water suggest that the market for digital technology solutions in the water industry is rising by more than 7 per cent a year, reaching $30 billion by 2020.

It describes “a host of digital opportunities for UK companies to significantly increase their global reach, through collaboration between the water sector and the digital economy where the UK enjoys global prominence, in areas such as virtual reality and computer gaming”.

Digital Water explores digital opportunity across the wide spectrum of the water landscape, extending beyond the remit of municipal water and wastewater organisations, to include agriculture, industry and the economy as a whole.

According to Digital Water, those opportunities include:

• Exploiting vast amounts of real-time data to create enhanced actionable insight, which in turn leads to better decision making. Advances in sensor technology offer the potential for acquisition of data from a more distributed and diverse range of sources.

• Employing digital insight to improve business process performance by making individual steps more efficient, eliminating steps, or reconfiguring a business process as a whole.

• Combining developments in artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics provides the means to reconfigure business processes, increasing efficiency.

• Utilising digital techniques to enable the creation of new markets, and hence the disruption of existing markets. Digital approaches can create new markets by making information visible, doing so in a timely way, and enabling transactions.

• Enabling the creation of entirely new value-adding products and services.

Launching Digital Water, UKWP chairman Richard Benyon said: “Smart technologies, intelligently applied at scale, can transform our ability to make real progress in the years ahead. The UK water industry is respected throughout the world and many of the digital innovations that have changed so much of our personal and working lives have originated here.

For a copy of Digital Water, visit:

www.theukwaterpartnership.org/initiatives/digital-water

UKWP’s 10-point Digital Water action plan:

1. Focus research funding on the primary areas of commercial opportunity for the UK, linked to national economic outcomes.

2. Facilitate collaboration across the UK digital water economy, involving research bodies, innovation agencies, supply chain organisations and customer end-users.

3. Promote the adoption of the National Infrastructure Commission’s report Data for the Public Good and The Gemini Principles from the Centre for Digital Built Britain.

4. Promote a new water sector Data Information Task Force, ensuring a common approach to data capture and management.

5. Establish a central register of UK Digital Water supply chain companies, describing what the UK has to offer.

6. Produce a marketing briefing pack on UK Digital Water capability, for Department of International Trade staff and others to showcase overseas.

7. Develop a Digital Water customer engagement campaign devised and driven by UK water economy stakeholders.

8. Promote collaboration between organisations that have already procured UK Digital Water products and services, to showcase the UK’s capabilities.

9. Adopt a strategic approach to exploiting UK Digital Water capability via an integrated, long-term programme of activities.

10. Track global sales of UK digital products and services to generate actionable insight.

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