Collaboration Collaboration Collaboration

Collaboration Collaboration Collaboration

Published On 15/11/2021

On 28 October we were joined by more than 100 colleagues from water companies, regulators, our supply chain and academia for our second annual conference. Our theme was collaboration, which ran throughout all our fantastic speakers’ presentations and panels. 

We started the day with introductions from our conference chair, Niki Roach of Axia Origin,  and from our CEO, Steve Kaye.

Niki put the day in the context of COP26, as well as the passionate public debates about combined sewer overflows, reminding participants “we need to listen to the perspectives of so many new voices who are now engaged and work out how to convert their energy into action”.

Steve gave an update on UKWIR’s work over the last year, including delivering on our big questions which he described as “aspirational goals that are driving innovative thinking”, and linking it to government’s priorities for innovation.

Harry Armstrong, Director of Regulatory Policy at Ofwat, spoke about the “catalyst” that is their innovation fund. He 
explained the rationale behind the fund and stressed the sector “needs new approaches and new ideas, and innovation is crucial to achieving this”. He said one of the ideas behind the fund is to help enable innovation, including by providing extra support and clarity on intellectual property rights. 

Our Keynote speaker was Kara Cartwright from Innovate UK. Kara spoke about how Innovate UK and their Knowledge 
Transfer Network (KTN) can support the water sector by strengthening the “healthy, thriving innovation ecosystem” 
we already have. 

She stressed how important it is to learn from other sectors – especially sectors like transport or energy which are having to totally “reimagine” how they operate. She asked if we could reimagine the sector, would we design the same system we’ve got now.

In the afternoon, we were joined by George Ponton from Scottish Water who updated the conference on the work he’s 
involved with for UKWIR on helping the sector transition to a circular economy. He also gave insights into Scottish Water’s circular economy journey and progress.

We were also joined by Denise Massey from the Energy Innovation Centre, who compared the progress in the energy 
sector to the steps being taken in water. She highlighted one of the biggest challenges in the energy sector is taking a 
“whole systems approach” where companies have to balance competition with collaboration.

Our last speaker was Andy Blackhall from the Water Research Centre who shared his insights into the positive impacts 
research and innovation can have on company operations. He emphasised how “collaboration is vital for driving innovation”. 

Andy said it was important the sector remembers “CO2 isn’t the only reason to innovate”.

Wrapping up the day, Steve Kaye said the day had been inspiring and had generated a number of questions including 
“how do we make sure to involve customers in the work we do?” and “how do we do things at pace?”.

To see highlights of the day, please visit our website.