Planning is well underway for our fifth Innovation Festival!  

And I am thrilled that we are once again rewriting the rules and creating a totally different festival format for the event.  


Well, it wouldn’t be innovative if we stuck with the same formula every year!  


This, for the organising team, is both exciting and terrifying in equal measures as we head into uncharted waters.  


As I pen this, I am taking stock of some of the element that make a brilliant festival and shared some of my thoughts.


1. Fun! 

This is the element that makes our festival different from conferences. Even though people work really hard there is a strong thread of fun running through the entire event from kick off, through the sprint tents, right through the grand finale. All sprinkled with celebrities, bands, comedians and the totally unexpected. It is a welcome break from regular work styles. Laughter seems to dislodge all the brilliant ideas and enables the brain to function differently which makes people more creative, confident and brings to the surface new ideas and connections.

2. Focus 

Having a week dedicated to cracking some of our toughest challenges really helps us make progress that would not normally be possible. Let’s face it, we all have so many competing things going on during a week, having this time to immerse yourself on one problem is really golden time, and we have demonstrated that this approach generates fantastic results.

3. Failure

This is a key part of innovation and when creating the festival we know some things will go better than others. And we are brave enough to accept this and give all sorts of things a try. As Elon Musk said  “If things are not failing you are not innovating." This is definitely the culture we are wanting to create within the business and indeed at the festival, a safe place to try new things and learn free from the fear of failure.

4. Funding

Having funds for innovation is critical in any business, continuing to do the same thing will not deliver long term success especially when the enabling technologies are moving at pace.  We always put in place funding for the strongest ideas emerging from the festival. And this year is even more exciting as Ofwat’s innovation fund competitions are now underway, so projects from the festival may well end up through that route

5. Food for thought

The diverse nature of the festival participants is a huge enabler for the creation of brilliant solutions.  This is the vital oxygen the organisation needs to look beyond our sector and into other sectors for solutions that can be readily re-applied. Invention is not always needed, the solutions are out there, we just need to create the right conditions and open to finding them. I love the buzz of the festival, all those conversations I did not plan to have but inspired me and led to solving problem.


I am going to end on fantastic! We've heard from many of our festival friends that the Innovation Festival is their favourite working week in their entire working career! The combination of fun, hard work and tangible results is an irresistible formula that we will continue to develop to keep the festival fresh and fruitful 😊