I have worked at Anglian Water for almost 25 years, with 15 of those in my current role as Head of Innovation. In the last five years in particular, I feel we have been much more successful in finding innovative solutions. We have seen that there are transferable solutions across sectors and we wanted to increase the momentum of change by hosting a series of events across five key themes. You may have read a blog from my colleague Matt, talking about our water and energy event, and here I’m going to look ahead to our smart technologies seminar next week. But we’ve also got more to come: one focusing on how food, water and agriculture are inter-dependent; one bringing together colleagues from across the supply chain; and our innovation summit in the winter, the culmination of this particular series and hopefully the start of a sustainable, regional hub of innovation.
These events aim to build on the work we’ve already done with over 500 external companies as part of the Water Innovation Network – but to also broaden that approach. There used to be a school of thought that defined ‘innovation’ as the work of one particular team who had that word in their title. But we know that true innovation – the best solution and the most sustainable way of working – comes only from involving everyone in the wider business, as well as our counterparts in other sectors. Our overarching aim is to provide leadership that will facilitate innovation within our region, whatever form that may take – whether it is meeting to discuss best practice, providing a location to trial ideas, or a laboratory to look at results.
One good example of innovation in practice is our work with Royal Haskoning DHV. We used Distributed Temperature Sensing technology by feeding fibre optic cables through sewers to identify any changes in temperature caused by rain water entering the drains during storms. This provided unprecedented information from our sewer network in the trial area and gave us significant detail, allowing for a tailored response and considerable cost saving. This trial was really successful and proved the value of applying technologies across sectors to solve problems.
Our series of innovation seminars are designed to do just that – to reveal how different sectors connect together, and to shift our focus from the reactive to the proactive. We want to work in collaboration with utilities and other industrial sectors, and next week’s smart technology event will focus on how we can all use information and data in real time to make decisions as things happen. This philosophy is already at work in the development of smart cities – Bristol is just one good example – where the use of real time information enables people to make more informed choices, such as looking at how busy public transport is or how many spaces are available in particular car parks. It’s this kind of approach that we want to embed within Anglian Water – what opportunities are there for measuring and managing water use? How can we use technology to operate our assets better and further improve customer service?
Next Wednesday’s event at the iCon Centre in Daventry will bring together colleagues from a wide range of sectors as we host speakers from IBM, Schneider Electric, CapGemini and nPower. We’ll be discussing the challenges and opportunities in the use of technology, with the aim of delivering some real solutions that we can take back to our day jobs to stimulate change. My career started in the manufacturing industry, researching, designing and manufacturing new technology – and I’ve never lost that passion for improving service, assets and data through innovation. As Matt discussed in his blog, it’s important that we view these events as the starting point for an ongoing discussion, that we maintain ideas networks and develop a hub of innovation that becomes an established way of working collaboratively between sectors – for me, that’s what the future looks like.