Back in December 2017, when Ofwat released the final methodology for its 2019 price review, the regulator made it clear that water companies would have to put some effort into innovation if they wish to meet its expectations. Now, two years later, new research shows that industry leaders were paying close attention to that requirement.
Water & Wastewater Treatment (WWT) partnered up with the UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR) to hear what chief executives, directors, heads of department and managers from water and water & sewerage companies think about innovation.
According to the report, 100% of the respondents find it either important or extremely important to increase innovation activities and ambition over the next five years.
Collaboration is key
The report looked into what are the preferred organisations to work with in order to bring fresh ideas into water and sewerage companies. The chief partners are academic institutions and SME technology providers — and the survey also found that the industry recognises a need for more open data initiatives.
Most of the interviewees stated that their companies generally focus on incremental innovation rather than disruptive approaches. However, all directors surveyed said that they believe the opposite is true and that their organisations focus on generating disruptive, step-change innovation.
“Re-engineering processes, harnessing new technology and looking at ways to promote collaboration have been getting a foothold, and the sector is not short of initiatives or people with innovative ideas,” the WWT observes.
Overall, the senior executives and managers interviewed by WWT believe that there are two great barriers to innovation in the sector: one is the lack of infrastructure to fast-track ideas from inception to implementation. The other is the lack of internal funding.
“It’s widely acknowledged that water organisations have yet to embed a strong innovation culture,” says the WWT. “It’s also clear that innovation needs to be much higher on their agenda if they’re to meet the requirements imposed by Ofwat in terms of reduced leakage, lower individual consumption, fewer supply interruptions and greater sustainability.”