Pollution-absorbing ‘moss trees’ could be installed to help make towns and cities healthier places to live and work.

Following Northumbrian Water Group’s NWG Innovation Festival, a week-long event that brought together a range of individuals, academics and companies from around the world, new ideas about how businesses can help improve the environment have been presented to water industry leaders.

The proposals will now be worked on by Northumbrian Water Group and partners from business and academia that took part in the festival, including one of the event’s headline sponsors, Ordnance Survey, which helped lead the search for ideas.

The installation of ‘moss trees’, as well as extracting pollution from the air, would also collect rain water that will be recycled as it feeds the plants, rather than running back into the sewer network or local watercourse.

Work is now underway between Northumbrian Water and a group of partners to identify a suitable location and establish a moss tree in the North East. This will allow Northumbrian Water and other organisations to learn more and to understand how further trees can be used elsewhere.

Northumbrian Water Group will also be working to put in place a new text messaging or mobile app system that encourages car sharing and working from home or alternative locations, to help save time and money, while also making carbon savings and reduce traffic.

These are just some of the ideas that came out of Northumbrian Water Group’s NWG Innovation Festival, a week-long event that attracted people from as far as Hong Kong and America to tackle a series of problems that face us all. At the end of the festival, ideas that can be developed for future use were presented to an audience of water industry leaders and other guests.

During the week, a five-day “sprint” saw around 50 people focussing on the issue of green cities, taking it from an outline of the problem to ideas that can be developed. Sprints apply leading design thinking techniques to real world issues.

The sprint, entitled ‘How Green is Your City?’: What can businesses do to improve the environment in the North East? was one of six such activities carried out at the same time at the NWG Innovation Festival, which took place at Newcastle Racecourse.

Clive Surman-Wells, Operational Solutions Manager at Northumbrian Water Group, said: “We really wanted to look for ideas that are not only deliverable by ourselves, in partnership with the many other organisations that got involved with the NWG Innovation Festival, but which would inspire others to play a role in improving the environment.

“We think, with the proposal to install moss trees and the text messaging and app system to encourage more thoughtful travel planning, that we have come up with ideas that can be making a real difference within months.”

The NWG Innovation Festival was supported by IBM, Microsoft, Ordnance Survey, BT, CGI Group and Reece Innovation.

It was also delivered in association with Newcastle University, Durham University, Genesys, Interserve in partnership with Amec Foster Wheeler, Costain Resources, PC1, Tech Mahindra, Mott MacDonald Bentley (MMB), Wipro, Virgin Media Business, Schneider, Wheatley Solutions, Sopra Steria, Accenture, 1Spatial, Infosys, Unify, ITPS, Esh-MWH, and Pen Test Partners.