A strategy for change through innovation

A strategy for change through innovation

Published On 14/09/2020

July saw the ‘virtual’ launch of the draft Water Sector Innovation Strategy which sets out the water sector’s vision to ‘create open collaboration opportunities across the water sector to drive transformational change through innovation that delivers greater value for customers and the environment'.

The draft Strategy has been developed by representatives from across the nineteen UK water companies, with input from Ofwat and other stakeholders, facilitated by UKWIR and Arup on behalf of the wider water sector.

Ann Cousins, from ARUP, chaired the launch, introducing key players in the sector to expand on the Strategy’s vision and main themes.

Stuart Colville Director of Strategy at Water UK, highlighted the importance of the Strategy, particularly in helping water companies meet their Public Interest Commitments, especially those on leakage and carbon emission reductions.

Most importantly, the Strategy has the backing of the CEO's of all the UK water companies.

Steve Kaye, UKWIR's CEO, said the Strategy can help access funding such as the UK Research and Innovation Hub including the research councils and Innovate UK, as well as being well aligned with OFWAT’s £200m Innovation Fund.

He added that key stakeholders now have the opportunity to collaborate at a national level with a clear point of access all resulting in ‘more pace and reduced duplication’.

The launch was attended by nearly 300 ‘virtual’ participants and received positive contributions from representatives. Other presenters included Selwyn Rose - Strategy Manager at United Utilities, Jez Heath - Innovation Manager at SES, John Brigg - Manager of Innovation at Yorkshire Water and Elin Williamson - Innovation Manager at Southern Water.

The recorded event can be viewed at

The Strategy is focused on the societal challenges that innovation in the water sector can help to solve, through providing short, medium and long-term outcomes for the sector.

It is set out on four principles (see the figure below) with a common purpose of driving transformational change in the sector through collaborative innovation.

Centre of Excellence

Alongside the Strategy, sits the Enabling Innovation document. This describes what is required to implement the strategy and is framed around a proposal for a Centre of Excellence.

A ‘virtually integrated’ innovation centre is proposed to best serve the needs of the sector while providing a vehicle for delivering the Strategy and with the power to connect, integrate and enhance existing innovation activity and facilities across the sector.

It will facilitate innovation activity while focusing on accelerating innovation around the industry’s grand challenges, such as UKWIR’s Big Questions.

The Centre of Excellence is built upon the Strategy’s four principles and aims to provide access to skills and capability, promote collaboration and knowledge sharing, provide access to data and promoting a culture of innovation.

Looking ahead, the centre will develop strategic partnerships for cross sector collaboration while focusing on medium and long-term challenges that go beyond the regulatory cycle.

Continuous improvement

Following the launch, a series of workshops were held in August where valuable insight, stretch and challenge from stakeholders was obtained. This, combined other consultation responses, is being used to develop the final version of the strategy.

This Water Innovation Strategy is due to be published by the end of September and will be available via the website

It is the intention to review the Strategy on a regular basis. If you have any questions or comments on the Strategy, please email them to