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.