It's been three months since we held our first digital Innovation Festival, and time flies when you're having fun!

As mentioned in the last blog, ‘now is the really hard bit, turning these seeds of brilliant ideas into business as usual’. But, I also should have said that it is the really exciting bit too!




This strange year sparked our first digital innovation festival and it is fair to say has re-written the formula and taken our open innovation up a gear.  


Due to the digital format we were able to collaborate on 40 different challenges that flow from the stretching business plan.  


One of the great side-benefits of running the festival digitally was the increase in the amount and quality of the output.  


It enabled teams to be more focussed, pull in the right people to give expertise even, if just for a small amount of time, from anywhere in the world. 


The digital door enabled people to join from all over the UK and from far afield (37 different countries!) and including those who may not have been able to join us in Newcastle at a physical event.  


This also encourages diversity of thought and inclusion from many different sectors which is key to successful innovation.


The 40 different activities have given rise to 100 strong project ideas, many of which will be moving forward with the NWG teams as business as usual.  


Given the very ambitions nature of some of the projects, 14 of the ideas applied for innovation seed funding of which eight projects were successful, receiving funds totalling £129K. 


These projects were selected by rigorous progress and included a panel the Innovation Ambassadors.  


These projects cover the breadth of the business’s big challenges, have senior leadership support and have clear deliverables in the next three months.  


In brief, the projects are:

  • an app that will enable customers to better manage their accounts 24/7, reducing worry at a time when it is needed more than ever
  • a new insight uncovered about void properties will be further investigated with data analytic support which will enable better communication with customers
  • ‘Tapp’ on the shoulder is looking into how we can leverage wearable devices to prevent accidents from happening by helping workers to understand more about their physical state
  • a number of innovative device ideas popped out of the digital tent that will reduce the impact of wipes flushed into the network reducing internal and external flooding
  • business model innovation to enable a widespread smart network in the water network increasing water quality
  • a burst prediction model which has come from successful application in the rail sector.  This will help us to reduce leakage
  • a digital twin of our water treatment works that will leverage current asset monitoring data to monitor energy consumption and carbon count that will enable greater energy efficiency and help our journey to carbon neutral, and
  • continuing the zero-carbon theme, we'll continue work on a platform to enable better decision making in the vehicle replacement programme.


We're continuing to grow our innovation capability and continue learning and adapting our internal processes to increase conversion of ideas, like into successful outcomes which make a real difference to the business.  


So, we will support and nurture these projects and give them the space needed to grow.  


Innovation is a risky business so not all will come to fruition but not trying is not an option.  


To follow the progress of these projects do keep an eye out on the festival website and watch this space…


Angela MacOscar, Head of Innovation