LITSoN Review of innovation in UK water utilities

The need for innovation in the water sector to meet societal needs is widely accepted. The recent UK Water Partnership LITSoN pilot (Linking Innovation To Societal Needs) provides an overview of innovation in UK water utilities, demonstrating benefits in terms of increased innovation alignment, better market information and opportunities for capability development, ultimately contributing to economic growth.

Building on previous work, this pilot led by Mott MacDonald during Q1 2017, involved 22 organisations from across Government, academia, non-profits and businesses – including water utilities representing over 70% of the regulated market. Participants completed a brief survey to provide an overview of their research and innovation programme. Projects were self-assessed for their impact on 11 societal needs, their current stage of development, timescales for progress and the business demand for commercialisation. In total almost 400 projects were included, with data shared amongst all participants.

The results identify ‘Zero leakage’ and ‘Zero water poverty’ as areas of relative weakness, as well as identifying ‘innovation hotspots’ with opportunity for further collaboration and efficiency in smart infrastructure, leakage detection, energy recovery and metaldehyde – amongst others. The data collected also provide market information on high priorities and unmet needs, to support SMEs and the supply chain in identifying partners for their innovations.

Work is ongoing to collect further data and provide a comprehensive review of UK water utilities innovation, with potential to extend the pilot to include the wider water industry and assess UK performance on a global scale.

LITSoN Proof of Concept – Report

LITSoN – Linking Innovation to Societal Needs Pilot

HR Wallingford Fast Flow Facility

UK Water Partnership launches facilities register to accelerate innovation

The UK Water Partnership is pleased to announce the launch of a new publicly available and searchable register of testing and demonstration facilities, which will benefit water technology developers and researchers.

The Tapping the Potential report identified a clear need for researchers and developers to test new water technologies and processes in facilities that represent realistic deployment situations. There is already a wealth of research and testing facilities spread across the UK, yet it has been difficult to locate information about such facilities.

Funded by Scottish Government’s Hydro Nation Water Innovation Service and the Natural Environment Research Council, this facilities register allows technology developers and researchers to easily search and identify facilities that best meet their needs and to contact the owners and operators for access.  This will accelerate the route to market and abort unnecessary expenditure in replicating test facilities that already exist.

If your organisation has research and testing facilities and would like to add them to the Register, please fill in this short questionnaire and contact WRc: FacilitiesRegister@wrcplc.co.uk .

 

For further information about the UK Water Partnership, please contact:

Alexa Bruce, Secretariat, The UK Water partnership

Email: alexa.bruce@www.theukwaterpartnership.org

Business and Economy

tapping_the_potential_report_coverAn UKWRIP task force led by Mark Lane of Pinsent Masons produced the report Tapping the Potential: a fresh view of UK water technology. This led to the development of the UK Water Partnership, launched in February 2015.

Infrastructure

A task force led by Tony Rachwal (independent, ex Thames Water) with Hans Jensen of UKWIR ran a workshop on infrastructure water needs. The report is available here: Water Infrastructure Innovation Workshop May 2012 Final Report (pdf)

The task force identified key areas for research and innovation – some of which are being addressed in EPSRC’s Assessing the Underworld programme and others through UKWIR/water utilities reviews and trials to manage water demand through smart metering and water reuse. A further workshop was run on Aquifer Storage and Recharge – see report here: Radical groundwater recharge workshop 4th Dec 2013 DRAFT REPORT (pdf)

This subject is being further explored both by the water and cities and water and farming task forces.

Domestic Water Use

A task force led by Jacob Tomkins of Waterwise led to a workshop and report on domestic water use. The aim of this ‘House of the Future’ project was to examine the social, financial and cultural barriers to the uptake of water efficient technology in homes. The workshop report is available here.

International Conference

A task force has been set up led by Mark Smith of WRc to plan an international water conference in 2017. This activity is being led by members of the Commercialisation and Economic Growth delivery group.

Facilities and Capabilities

At present there is no single portal bringing together water expertise and capability across the private and public sector focused on global market needs. The UK Water Partnership would ultimately like to provide this, so that expertise and capabilities can be easily searched under the UK Trade and Investment categories.

A cross-stakeholder task force led by Peter Drake of UK Water Industry Forum has been developing a specification for a capability directory and leading discussions with trade associations and others.

WRc has developed a pilot register of demonstration sites and testing facilities funded by NERC. This will be developed further in association with the Scottish Government

Farming and Water: Facing the Future Together

Water and Farming

In a world where there is increasing demand for food and water, and environmental change is impacting on weather and the availability of land and water, there are significant and intensifying challenges for both the agri-food and water sectors. These include:

  1. Agriculture’s impacts on water quality – Agriculture is one of the main sources of pollution (particularly nitrates and phosphorous) of water bodies. Is it possible to balance high aspirations for environmental water quality with significant growth in agricultural production to meet food security objectives and provide viable livelihoods for farmers?
  2. Water availability and efficiency in agriculture –in the UK the pressure on water supply is increasing due to expanding population and climate change, and extreme floods and droughts events are increasing too. There are challenges around i) competing users of water (agriculture, industry, domestic) ii) water efficiency especially in times of scarcity, iii) catchment management to enable coping with too little and too much water; adaptation and trade-offs in response to extreme events.
  3. Water use in our food imports – what are the risks in our supply chains and how can we best assess and manage them alongside possible risks producers may face overseas?

The Director of the Global Food Security programme, Professor Tim Benton, led a multi-stakeholder task force looking at different aspects of water and farming, covering its impact on water quality, water availability and water in imported food. See reports here.

These reports made a number of recommendations which the partnership is currently reviewing and planning how to implement, led by members of the Research and Innovation delivery group.

The Sustainable Food, Farming and Water workshop will explore new ways of working across sustainable food, farming and water; to showcase good practice with selected case studies, and to identify remaining barriers to action and how to overcome these.

Droughts and Floods

The potential consequences of extreme weather events to society and the economy are of great concern as scientists grapple with the unpredictable nature of climate patterns and change in our environment. Recent events have demonstrated the UK’s exposure to environmental extremes with significant loss to the economy.

Human activities contribute to these hydrological shifts, such as the upstream deforestation and the drainage of wetlands for agriculture and development. There is increasing recognition that efficient and effective management of ecosystems can sustain the provision of vital services such as water supply, recreation and leisure, and flood alleviation.

This task force, led by Jim Wharfe (independent; formerly Head of Research at the Environment Agency) aims to evaluate the drivers, challenges and innovation opportunities from current and planned UK research investment in droughts and floods to inform ways to improve integration in developing a whole systems approach to deliver multiple benefits (economic, societal and environment) and to identify the potential (barriers and enablers) for market exploitation. The report and accompanying blog from the first phase of this work are available here.

A plan for the second phase of this work is here: DFPhase2ActionPlan515 (pdf)

Water and Cities

Where water provision and use are concerned, cities of the future face a whole range of major challenges- not only to meet fundamental needs in terms of water supply, wastewater treatment and drainage services, but also to safeguard water’s many indirect benefits in spheres such as health, wellbeing and biodiversity. Moreover, these goals need to be achieved while protecting the wider environment and ensuring cities’ resilience against extreme events such as flooding.

This task force, led by Graham Leeks of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, aims 1) to promote water security and water management as a critical consideration in urban development and cities of the future 2) to identify the needs for research and innovation in ‘water and cities’ and 3) to influence and enable existing or new initiatives on water and cities – e.g. Innovate UK’s Cities Catapult and RCUK/Innovate UK’s Urban Living partnership.

The task force has members from industry e.g. ARUP, Atkins and CIRIA; academia from across engineering, social and environmental science disciplines, policy and regulation (local authorities, EA and Defra), and the government’s Foresight Future of Cities team.

A thoughtpiece commissioned by Foresight from this task force is available here

Details of the RCUK water and cities showcase organised by this task force is available here