PRESS RELEASE – Innovation Fund Needs Major Changes

Future Water’ supports the recent review of the OFWAT Innovation Fund but asks for major changes to be made to the competition. The water sector does not operate in isolation from other sectors and the innovation fund should drive collaboration across the water sector and between the water sector and other industries, leading to a more ‘systems thinking’ approach.

Future Water in particular wants to highlight:

  • Remove IP as a requirement: the discussions linked to it are never going to be resolved satisfactorily and it is hindering involvement of many companies.
  • Have a way to output the results through a ‘single mechanism’ – let’s not trial, trial and trial.
  • The themes are necessarily broad but get us all together to highlight the 10 year old challenges that need to have ideas under development now.
  • Bring the new competition and the catalyst stream together – use the combined competition to act as an engine and drive the lower TRL level ideas.
  • Make things simple – Future Water has been running Water Dragons for over a decade – use our experience to showcase and stimulate innovation.
  • Have a face-to-face judging process (it can be online if necessary) – we do this with water dragons, it makes things better, more interactive, and you also get the right result.
  • Not having water companies leading is fine but as they are the end consumer, they need a role.
  • Barriers – Recognise the time, money, and resource requirements of bidding; streamlining the process of bidding is essential.
  • Decisions on the Innovation Fund in AMP8 need to be made by year four of the current AMP.
  • Tier 1’s are often the gatekeepers to adoption – so give them a greater role in the competition.
  • Visibility is critical – there must be an annual ‘something’ an event or conference etc highlighting the best ideas and those that have been unsuccessful.
  • For the new competition allow blended-funding – some lower level TRL projects may have some research money allocated – this should not be a barrier.
  • There needs to be greater recognition of EDI (Equality, Diversion, Inclusion) across the competition.
  • Allow for failure – an important part of innovation.

Future Waters’ CEO, Paul Horton added:

Across the sector there are many challenges, attracting the right mix of people, managing process emissions, pipe network resilience, storm overflows and it is important that as a sector we explore alternatives to traditional systems and push through real change. The Innovation Fund has set this ‘change’ in motion, it is critical now that the fund is adapted taking account of what Future Water has outlined.

Our members tell us that they have to be creative and resourceful to survive – all they need is some clear direction as to what the challenges are (and not just high level aspirations – specific requirements are good too) and they will always be able to come up with a solution. In essence, the water industry needs to be more specific about what it needs at a micro and not macro level.

For specific questions about this release, please email CEO Paul Horton at: paul@futurewaterassociation.com