Our recent inaugural UKWIR annual conference was a chance to bring together different stakeholders from the water sector and hear from water companies, academics, the supply chain, government, regulators and other industrial sectors. Of course, it was a virtual event and while it concluded a challenging year it strikes me that, in 2020, we too have had to adapt and innovate more than ever to keep UKWIR’s important work at the forefront of the water sector.
I am also of the view that the recent publication of the Water Sector Innovation Strategy, the announcement of the Ofwat Innovation Fund and the creation of a new Centre of Excellence have also been catalysts for change too, including culturally and philosophically. Why? They have encouraged greater collaboration in the sector as a whole.
It is also fair to say these innovations have helped UKWIR reshape and realign moving forward. So, what does that mean for our organisation? Well, we will continue with the great work we are doing on our Big Questions but recognise there is now an opportunity to also do more applied research. This will help to support the Centre of Excellence deliver transformational innovation to the water industry.
With this comes further opportunities to build strategic bridges with academia and the supply chain and increase the amount of external funding available to us, so we can deliver UKWIR’s research in the most effective way. The Big Questions remain the key drivers for our research and they are a key component of the Water Sector Innovation Strategy. However, the goals embedded in these Big Questions, and indeed the Big Questions themselves, will inevitably change over time and so we will be constantly reviewing them and looking to articulate what the “new” big challenges are in the future, to ensure we stay as relevant as we have always been.
There are 88 projects currently live across the Big Question programme, and a further 14 projects were agreed towards the end of 2020. The latter are currently out for expressions of interest and you can find out more information here.
As we move forward there is a real opportunity to increase the level of collaboration on projects, working with the likes of universities, regulators, and other funding bodies such as research councils and European funds. We want to hear from you so if there are any areas of interest where you can offer support or want to work with us, please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org . Hopefully for our 2021 annual conference we can meet in person, once again, thanks to the extraordinary perseverance and innovation we have witnessed in the medical and scientific sectors.