Recently, the Anglian Water team headed down to Westminster as sponsors of the All Party Parliamentary Water Group’s Annual Innovation Reception. The reception is the highlight of the parliamentary calendar for the water industry, where it shows its best and brightest projects to parliamentarians and government officials, among other senior stakeholders.
Nestled in between Water Minister Therese Coffey and her Labour Counterpart Holly Lynch on the agenda, our CEO Peter Simpson delivered a keynote address highlighting the importance of innovation. He commented that: “Innovation and collaboration are at the heart of everything we do at Anglian Water. They are the core pillars of our business culture. And when we talk about innovation, we mean much more than just applied innovation; we also mean innovation through thought leadership, behaviour change and collaboration.”
It is only through open innovation that we can meet the challenges facing the water sector: population growth, climate change, and increasing customer expectations. In order to meet these challenges, and the opportunities they bring, we must work together, and this was exactly what we showcased in the room.
Therese Coffey used her speech to praise the work of the Water Innovation Network (WIN), a partnership project aiming to find new technologies to help make our business greener and more efficient. Hundreds of SMEs have been connected through the project and have been given the chance to develop and launch their products after successful trials at Anglian Water. One such example is Pontoonworks, who specialise in floating pontoon work platforms over water, reducing the need for scaffolding. It is 75% cheaper than scaffolding and can be assembled in a fraction of the time – three days, rather than three weeks. Innovation here is just common sense.
Working in parallel to WIN is the Anglian Centre for Water studies, based at the University of East Anglia. The Centre is an exemplar academic-private sector partnership, focussing on how the water industry can become more resilient, engage with society, and inform environmental sustainability and policy. It is driving a step change in research and innovation to ensure we have the approach and resources needed to drive sustainable economic growth.
Perhaps the most visual of our exhibits came from the Innovation Shop Window team, who brought a drone which searches for leakage in the water supply network using an infrared camera from above. With a widescreen television streaming straight from the infrared camera in the room, it sparked conversation and intrigue amongst guests of the industry-leading work being done in Newmarket.
With our region being one of the fastest growing in the UK, and being largely low lying and vulnerable to the effects of climate change, it is critical that we must be at our innovative best. While the reception represented a microcosm of possible solutions to these challenges, it goes to show how collaboration and innovation are critical to transforming our response, and delivering prosperity and growth for the whole country.
By Jacob Walllace, Public Affairs Officer