An updated innovation accelerator has been launched by Spring as part of a multi-year effort to remove the barriers to mobilising trials at pace within the water sector.

The new Spring Accelerator calls for implementable innovations for water companies to trial, progress and adopt in collaboration, working to deliver ambitions set out in the 2050 Water Innovation Strategy.

Building on Spring’s original accelerator model, the new four-step, end-to-end process has been created to ensure greater cross-sector alignment and reduce trial duplication, with the ultimate aim of delivering innovation at pace.

Spring Accelerator 3, the first accelerator using the new process, begins in January 2024, focusing on theme three of the 2050 Water Innovation Strategy – Protecting and Enhancing Natural Systems.

Spring brings stakeholders together from across academia, the supply chain and water companies, to deliver better outcomes for customers, society and the environment while enabling a more sustainable sector.

Senior innovation manager Thomas Walker explained the background to the new accelerator process during a sector update webinar on 19 October 2023.

He said, “To date, Spring has carried out two accelerator programmes with some noteworthy successes – we had all UK and Ireland water companies engaged in the process, we have supported our 10 portfolio companies in either securing a multi-partner trial or creating meaningful relationships with individual water companies.

“Lessons from the programmes show there are still barriers to mobilising trials at pace, which is why the new model is working towards an end goal of six-months-to-mobilisation.

“Since Spring’s conception, the landscape has changed, the needs of water companies and innovators has changed, but the need for pace has remained the same. By taking time to update the process to better reflect the needs of the sector today, we can ensure Spring is able to deliver on its commitment to accelerate innovation in water.

“To get to this stage has taken many months of collaboration and engagement with stakeholders. The co-design process has included a sprint at the Northumbrian Innovation Festival in July 2023, which allowed us to present and thoroughly test the new model with a cross-section of stakeholders, including water companies, suppliers and adjacent industries.

“We are now excited to be able to share the result of this extensive engagement.”

The four steps of the new accelerator process are:

The Ambition Surgery – A challenge-setting mechanism for the industry to connect, articulate the problem and define a specific challenge, aligned with an ambition from the Water Innovation Strategy 2050. Conference-style events will bring water companies, suppliers, academia and experts from other sectors together.

The Innovation Marketplace – A directory for innovators to submit their solutions against the call for innovation. The application has been designed to provide a quick but thorough assessment of prospective solutions. For innovators, this means just one application is required, which will be seen by the right people from all participating water companies, with guaranteed detailed feedback. For water companies, suppliers will be screened and engagement will be concentrated, meaning access to the best opportunities at a fraction of the time.

The Innovation Exchange – Sessions to bring together water companies and selected innovators to co-design the beginning of their relationship by exploring solutions and business models in detail and scoping trials together. Successful exchange events will end with commitment from multiple water companies to trial a solution.

Mobilisation – A facilitation service to mobilise trials with multiple water companies. Trials will be designed to resolve sector priorities, expedite the adoption of successful solutions, and ultimately accelerate the transformation of the UK & Ireland water sector. Having multiple water companies involved means only one trial will be required, splitting the resource requirement and saving time.

Walker said, “The new accelerator model is part of a wider project to break down barriers to mobilisation and effectively deliver innovation at the right pace. Spring would like to thank all stakeholders who are helping to create what will be a more efficient process for water companies and innovators.”

Spring was launched in 2021 to accelerate UK & Ireland water sector transformation and support delivery of the water sector’s 2050 Water Innovation Strategy. It is backed by all UK and Irish water and wastewater companies which are committed to removing duplication of innovation efforts.

Spring’s first Ambition Surgery, the starting point of its next accelerator programme, will take place in late January 2024, focusing on a specific challenge inside the theme of Protecting and Enhancing Natural Systems. For more details sign up for the Spring newsletter.