On Wednesday 24 November, we were joined by water companies, the supply chain, regulators, government bodies and academia as we shared a first look at the features and functions launching in December.
We also opened up the virtual floor to questions for our panel including Steve Kaye, UKWIR CEO, Harry Armstrong, Director of Regulatory Policy at Ofwat, Paul Horton, CEO of the Future Water Association and Lesley Parker, Innovation Engagement Lead at Severn Trent Water.
We managed to answer some of our users’ questions on the day, but we’ve answered the rest of them here. If you weren’t able to join us, or want to rewatch it, a recording is available here.
It’s really important our users question and challenge us. Without their – your – insight, we can’t evolve to meet your needs.
Some of the answers to your questions will also appear on our FAQ page. But we want to make sure we answer as many questions as we can, when you ask them.
How will Spring interface with UKRI/BEIS funded Innovation bodies (e.g. Innovate UK, Knowledge Transfer Network)?
We have been talking to many parties in this space to build relationships and explore synergies. Once we have more certainty around our initial funding path we will be able to look at how we can all leverage skills, experience and like- minded ambitions across the board.
How do you see Spring increasing UK investment into the sector?
We plan on working with other, international, centres of excellence to see if we can solve their challenges through the UK Supply chain. By providing a central point for utilities to share their challenges, and innovators to share their solutions, we can make it easier for potential investors to access the information they need.
How far does the current funding take you to? What happens if you do not get the next phase of funding from Ofwat?
Spring will still be able to deliver for stakeholders across the water sector, and enable them to improve services for customers and the environment regardless of securing additional funding. Long-term, our ambition to become self-funding – and we’ll set out our strategy in the coming months.
Spring needs to exist to drive maximum benefit for the UK Water Sector, regardless of successful funding. However, if our bid for innovation funding is not successful, it will mean that we will need to review the scope of Spring.
What ambition do you have in engaging across sectors, incorporating trans-disciplinary know-how/technology to support innovation?
How will Spring be developing their networks with the supply chain to identify innovative solutions, and expanding this beyond suppliers who are already working in the water sector?
We have already engaged with other sectors including energy and the airline industry to understand similar initiatives and the journey they have been on. In the future, we will be looking to bring innovators from other sectors in to our challenge cycle and into our governance structure.
Who is looking at this at a global perspective? There has been great research in Australia following the millennium drought that the UK still hasn’t picked up.
We’ve already been working with centres of excellence in other sectors to see what we can learn and have had conversations with similar organisations in other countries to understand their successes and challenges.
We’ll keep this momentum up to build new, and strengthen existing, connections across sectoral geographic boundaries.
To promote the single trial concept, will completed pilots and trials with UK Water companies be included in the Spring network or will these need to be run again to be (re)validated?
Yes, absolutely. Spring hopes to act as project partners and disseminators of project information to ensure it is standardised and more easily rolled out.
What can we learn from existing innovation incubators and how will you differ?
We can, and have, learnt a lot. What we have come to realise is that there is currently no incubator that offers support for end-to-end innovation both from the problem owner and problem solver perspectives. Where companies exist that offer excellent parts of the innovation process, we will be looking to work and partner with them.
Could you say a little more about the non-water company funding partners, and how Spring will enable these to have a greater say in the innovations we pursue as a sector?
Spring has received seed funding support from a group of supply chain partners who will work closely with the team to steer strategy for the future. That will include identifying barriers to innovation and solutions to those barriers.
As a problem owner, what are the expectations from our own internal innovation community/people who engage with supply chain? What would they be required to do to interact with the platform and challenge led process (time/resource etc)?
We have been working closely with water companies to design the process and contribution required. The innovation manager at each water company will own the relationship with Spring and will be connected into our platform alongside SME’s on specific challenge topics. They will work closely with the Spring team to assess ideas and mobilise collaborative projects.
Will you be introducing a standardised case study process rather like Ciria have done for SuDS?
We will have a knowledge transfer template that will be accepted for the industry and will be the backbone for sharing learnings.
Will Spring prioritise innovation challenges to address cost and carbon efficiencies and/or other R&D projects which might cloud innovation in the water sector?
The innovation challenges will be connected closely to the themes within the 2050 Water Innovation Strategy.
How will a problem solver be paid for solving a challenge?
Problem solvers will benefit from reduced costs by avoiding multiple trials and being able to easily share learning with all water companies in the UK and Ireland – opening more opportunities.
Like any successful trial, the problem solver will have the opportunity to be awarded contracts. It also means that by avoiding multiple trials and sharing learning, business development and ‘cost to prove’ resources are reduced.
How does Spring help to make people more altruistic and open so that sharing is successful?
Spring is the platform to achieve the goals of greater collaboration and expertise sharing included in the 2050 Water Innovation Strategy. Centres of Excellence in other sectors have proved it is possible to collaborate on innovation to benefit everyone while competing on how efficiently and effectively solutions are implemented.
The groundwork of this was rooted in the 2050 Water Innovation Strategy. The sector is committed to working together and sharing expertise, Spring will be the platform to assist with this.