Northumbrian's sprints for innovation could save "tens of millions"

Measures that promise to stem leakage from water company networks to save “tens of millions of pounds” annually and reduce flooding incidents were among the outcomes of a series of week-long projects – “sprints” – organised by Northumbrian Water.

Each sprint brought together experts and other stakeholders in issues including flooding, infrastructure, environmental stewardship as well as leakage. Global technology firms including Microsoft, IBM and CGI were among the sponsors and participants.

The projects made up Northumbrian’s Innovation Festival held in Newcastle. Attendees included other water companies, water consumers and supply chain companies.

Northumbrian chief executive Heidi Mottram said the leakage sprint had the potential to save “tens of millions of pounds by curbing the increase in water lost from the network. “Let’s make sure we deliver these changes when we get together next year,” she said. Some of the sprint outcomes will begin implementation shortly she said.

Head of group information systems for Northumbrian’s owner, CKI Holdings, Peter Bourke looked forward to next year’s Innovation Festival saying he anticipated greater input from consumers. Northumbrian’s chief information officer, Nigel Watson (pictured), who devised the event, said the project had been fundamentally cost neutral.

Ofwat’s recently appointed director of strategy and policy at water industry regulator Ofwat, Carl Pheasey, said the event was timely in coinciding with Ofwat’s publication of its draft price control methodology which “puts a lot of emphasis on innovation.” He said the event was something Ofwat “would probably expect to see a lot more of.

“There is definitely something about collaboration that is very important in innovation,” he added. He emphasised that Ofwat did not envisage a role in incentivising innovation under PR19: “Cathryn Ross at the City Conference said we’re not going to be doing things like an innovation prize. The emphasis in the [PR19] consultation is very much about companies taking the initiative to adopt innovative ideas.”

The questions considered by the sprints were:

• ‘Rain, Hail or Shine’: How can we reduce flooding? Led by headline sponsor IBM

• ‘Keep It Flowing’: What do we know about leakage from water pipes and how can we fix it? Led by NWG, alongside a Microsoft-led Hackathon of data relating to leakage.

• ‘Preparing for the Future’: How do we upgrade our infrastructure for the 21st Century effectively and affordably? Led by headline sponsor Reece Innovation

• ‘Tomorrow’s World’: What will living and working look like in 2030? Led by headline sponsor CGI

• ‘How Green is Your City?’: What can businesses do to improve the environment in the North East? Led by headline sponsor Ordnance Survey

• ‘21st Century Reach’: How can we optimise a mobile workforce for a complex network business? Led by headline sponsor BT

  • NI Water, in partnership with Invest NI and key supply chain companies is holding a water sector innovation event on Wednesday 27th September for customers and stakeholders. The water firm said increasing pressure on water systems means current products, services and methods will not be sufficient in the future which will have a significant impact on the economy. t said along with key supply chain companies it was interested in new and innovative technology, product or service solutions that the event will promote.