UK water companies kick off innovation challenges to address crucial issues

UK water companies have this week unveiled measures to boost innovation. The moves follow close on the heels of Ofwat’s launch of its Spark Programme to highlight the emphasis on innovation in PR19.

United Utilities, Scottish Water and Northumbrian Water have variously harnessed digital technology and other means to bring on inventive ways to address crucial issues.

Northumbrian Water

In preparation for its second Innovation Festival in July the year, Northumbrian Water has been highlighting some the product of its first such event last summer. They include a pollution-absorbing moss hedge and a partnership of Northumbrian subsidiary, Essex & Suffolk Water, with PA Consulting and 1Spatial that deploys data analysis to curb leakage. It is anticipating an annual reduction of almost 4.75 bn litres a year.

United Utilities,

The North West company is collaborating with seven businesses in its “Innovation Lab” which it set up “in pursuit of better and more cost-effective services for its 7m customers.”

The seven partners are Enging, Hydrao, Typhon Treatment Systems, Datatecnics, EMAGIN, Enzen and Environsuite drawn from a competitive process which drew international list of participants.

Head of Innovation at United Utilities, Kieran Brocklebank, said: “The Innovation Lab offers suppliers an invaluable opportunity to get up-close with data and customer environments that aren’t usually accessible. Our workshops will help each supplier to develop some core business ideas, such as their sales and recruitment strategies, along with the ability to test and build their products.

“For us, this is all about breaking down the barriers to innovation, so we can work together to create the technologies that will be essential for a resilient and efficient water service in the future.”

The workshops will be run in collaboration with corporate innovation specialist L Marks.

Scottish Water

In a search for new ways of treating water at point-of-use, Scottish Water has challenged innovators to come forward with proposals that could win unto five of them a share of £450,000 to fund a feasibility study of their proposal. The application must focus on treating water containing a high level of organic material. The challenge, which is one of the first under the Scotland Can Do Innovation Challenge Fund is to find new cost effective ways of treating water to provide safe drinking water for rural households. Scotland, the company explained, has more than 10,000 water supplies that serve only one household, while another 20,000 supplies serve a population of fewer than 50 people. Most of these supplies are served by surface waters that are high in organic matter which proves challenging for existing technologies to treat reliably. Senior Project Manager and Sustainable Communities Programme Lead at Scottish Water, Allan Mason, said: “Our aim is to create a water and wastewater service that is truly affordable, resilient and sustainable to even the most remote of our communities - the Can Do Innovation Challenge Fund is a fantastic opportunity for innovators and entrepreneurs to help us to achieve that and create new ways of treating water in a ‘decentralised’ way.” He said that while promising market ready and conceptual technologies are available, “What's missing is the R&D around them to draw out synergies between technologies and processes."