Innovation Festival
Our Innovation festivals are big, loud, exciting and very unique events where we gather some of the greatest and most innovative minds from the worlds of business, science, tech, engineering, utilities and customer services and get them to tackle real world problems together in a series of sprints.

We then throw in guest speakers, live music, comedy, tech demos, hackathons, face painting and much much more.


It’s gigabytes and glitter. Wellies and wastewater management. Like Glastonbury meets Bake off but without the rain and with more engineers!

We ran our first festival in 2017 and we saw 1,000 people from 140 organisations join us at the site village we built at Newcastle racecourse. More than 250 local school pupils came during the week and took part in STEM activities and workshops.


34 innovative ideas and solutions came from the festival and we’ve seen some of these grow into real life projects that are out in the world right now and making a difference to peoples’ lives – like our Moss Tree, the Refill Campaign and using data to tackle leakage.


In 2018 we had 14 sprint tents and teams, 2 data hacks, 2,000 attendees from 510 businesses and 750 school pupils. We had celebrity speakers, lightning talks from innovators from across the world and demonstrations on cutting edge technology including augmented reality and hydrogen powered vehicles.


We had data hacks, poetry, poo shows, yoga sessions, mindfulness seminars and even our own onsite TV channel; that allowed millions of people from all across the globe to see what we were doing at the festival.

And again, the results speak for themselves. World leading innovative projects including Underground mapping, the barnacle and digital twins all came from the 2019 event and all of which are being developed and rolled out right now.


The 2019 festival saw the five day event attract more than 3,000 people to Newcastle Racecourse. This included more than 1800 young people from local schools, colleges and universities. 665 local businesses and organisations and 118 SMEs.


At one point during the week we had 105 PHDs from 9 universities on site and working on solving the big problems and they all played their part in generating more than 7,000 new ideas and solutions that came out of the event.


Big ideas that came out of IF2019 and that are currently being progressed include the underground measuring device

The Power of Z’ and the rural IOT sensor ‘Dragonfly’. 

The highlights
  • 1,800 school children and young people came to be inspired
  • 105 Doctors and Professors!
  • 9 universities joined us – Newcastle, Durham, Northumbria, Sunderland, Loughborough, De Montfort, Exeter and University College London
  • Almost 800 media stories on the festival and ideas since 2017.
  • This coverage has reached more than 127 million people from across the world.
  • Through social media we’ve reached 14.7 million people on festival stories.
  • Our festival videos have been watched more than 1 million times.

The NWG Innovation Festival 2019 - Full week highlights


Constructing Excellence Award win for our BIM Project: Alison Nicholl, Head of Constructing Excellence, said:


"It's fantastic to see one of our members winning this award. Northumbrian Water are a really enlightened client who are pushing the boundaries on data and digital technologies. 


"This award recognises the great work they are doing with their partners to deliver tangible business and whole life performance benefits through the use of BIM."

Large Global Businesses

Dragonfly project: Paul Buxton, Vice President for Utilities and the North at CGI UK said:


"This year's festival was a hugely enjoyable week for the team from CGI. We were delighted by the commitment of attendees to our Sprint and the way in which it developed over the five days. We are excited by the development of Dragonfly and the possibilities it brings".


Plant Buddy sprint: Darren Bentham, Executive Partner, Global Business Services, IBM UK and Ireland, said:


"We want to find ways in which Northumbrian Water can provide a platform for growers to share ideas and create a community beyond the allotment. If we do this, it will work for growers, help Northumbrian Water to support plant lovers and influence the amount of water that gets used."


Partnership with Durham University looking for ways to reduce tree root blockages in pipe: Dr Jennifer Topping, Assistant Professor from the Department of Biosciences at Durham University and academic lead for the project, said:


"Durham University has a long-standing, active research partnership with Northumbrian Water where we are using our research expertise to solve water-related challenges.


"This exciting project combines our own expertise with that of Intelligent Gels so that we can work together with Northumbrian Water to develop a new approach to prevent root growth in wastewater pipes."


Innovate East Partnership: Peter Simpson, CEO at Anglian Water said,


"We believe that to be truly dynamic, we need to encourage people out of their usual office environment and create an environment that stimulates new ways of thinking.


"As leaders in innovation, we're committed to developing solutions borne from this event for the benefit of the entire water industry, in the UK, and beyond.


"With the partnership of our companies, and sponsors, we hope to demonstrate that there really is strength in numbers and that if we want to go far, we must go together."


The Innovation Festival experience

Journalist and Broadcaster Steph McGovern said:


"I'm over the moon to be coming back to the Innovation Festival again this year. It was brilliant last time seeing all of the creative ideas that the teams were coming up with and the passion that everyone showed. The North East is a real hotbed of ideas and talent and it's great to see it in action at the festival."


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Georgie Barrat, technology journalist and The Gadget show host added:


"I'm very excited about the chance to be involved with the Innovation Festival this year. It'll be great to get around the festival site, soak up the atmosphere and meet all of the sprint teams to find out what they've been designing and creating during the week."


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Dick Strawbridge, engineer, television presenter, environmentalist and former army officer said:


"I'm really looking forward to being part of the Northumbrian Water Innovation Festival this year and getting the chance to see some of the innovative projects on show. I'm especially excited to get into the sprint tents and be hands-on with everything that's being designed and made. I can't wait!"


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We’re super excited to announce that our Innovation Festival is happening later this year . . but in a brand new way!

Innovation Festival 2020 is going digital. 

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