The UK water sector should give more focus to the themes of delivering resilient infrastructure systems and protecting and enhancing natural systems, according to a survey about the UK 2050 Water Innovation Strategy.

Spring, the water innovation centre of excellence, launched the sector-wide survey in July 2023. The aim was to seek views to inform the future direction of the Water Innovation Strategy, which was published in 2020 by all UK water and wastewater companies and contains seven key themes.

A total of 109 participants responded to the survey, giving their views on the effectiveness and relevance of the current themes, what areas they see as working well, and where adjustments could be made.

For the question, ‘Which innovation strategy themes do you feel the water sector needs to focus more on?’, 55 respondents answered ‘Delivering resilient infrastructure systems’, with 52 answering ‘Protecting and enhancing natural systems’.

All responses will be set out in an insert to the main strategy document, which will be redistributed to stakeholders.

The feedback will be considered during a refresh of the strategy, which will ensure it remains relevant and valuable to today’s water sector. Spring, which was launched in 2021 to support the sector in delivering the strategy’s ambitions, will work with water company partners and wider sector stakeholders to plan the next steps.

The UK 2050 Water Innovation Strategy was created with the common purpose of providing transparency on water sector innovation ambitions. It was the first time the sector had outlined its vision for collectively delivering transformative innovation, and more than 250 people from both inside and outside the sector were consulted as part of its development.

Spring’s managing director, Carly Perry said, “I’d like to thank all those who took the time to complete our survey to help shape the future direction of the UK 2050 Water Innovation Strategy. The document is under continuous monitoring and evaluation to ensure the innovation themes are still relevant and the sector is focusing on the right areas.

“In the three years since the strategy was published, the needs of the sector have changed. That is why Spring, as custodians of the strategy, felt it was important to seek current views. Your responses will help inform an updated strategy, ensuring all partners are aligned as we move forward as a sector.”

To further support the delivery of the strategy, Spring has launched a new Affiliate Model to connect existing excellence from water professionals and avoid project duplication.

Perry explains, “There is an ecosystem of organisations and initiatives delivering specific ambitions within the Water Innovation Strategy and with 200-plus ambitions to work towards, collaboration is required to avoid duplication of efforts.

“The purpose of the Spring Affiliate Model is to connect the existing initiatives, making sure Spring doesn’t focus on the same problem areas as others. Aligning in this way will unlock value, increase the speed at which we as a sector address our ambitions and fulfil one of the founding principles of Spring – connecting existing excellence.”

Spring is kicking off the Model with 12 affiliates including British Water, Future Water Association, Ofwat, Water Industry Forum, Water Research Centre (WRc) and Water Services Association of Australia.

Lila Thompson, chief executive, British Water, said “British Water is proud to be working in affiliation with the innovation platform, Spring. Collaborative working across the sector and supply chain helps remove barriers and delivers innovation at pace. Only by working together can we create a more sustainable water sector, for now and in the future.”

James Gardener, environment and technology manager, Water Services Association of Australia, said: “The Water Services Association of Australia is delighted to form an affiliation with Spring, marking the commencement of a collaborative partnership aimed at advancing water innovation strategies through a shared commitment to learning and growth.”

Explore the Spring website and social media channels for more on the UK 2050 Water Innovation Strategy, survey responses and Affiliate Model.