The Water Sector Innovation Centre of Excellence Springs to Life

After months of extensive stakeholder engagement, the water sector’s innovation centre of excellence is moving to its next stage of development.

Today Spring launches its website: www.spring-innovation.co.uk sharing initial details of how it will accelerate water sector transformation through innovation and collaboration.

The idea sprang from the water sector’s innovation strategy – Water Innovation 2050, published in 2020. Since then, it successfully bid for £250,000 from Ofwat’s first Innovation in Water Competition in May which was matched by water companies through UKWIR. Since July, the team behind Spring, Carly Perry and Shaunna Berendsen, have worked with water companies, academia and the supply chain to understand what the first version of Spring should look like.

When it launches in December, Spring will provide a range of functions and services for innovators, through two parallel routes.

The first, the Ideation and Collaboration incubator, will bolster and streamline how ideas are formed and how different stakeholders will be brought together. The second, the Innovation Adoption route, is focussed on how “the best can help the rest”. Simply, it is designed to help get innovations into the hands of those who can use them.

Fundamental to both is Spring’s emphasis on addressing the skills gap the sector faces, while creating innovation champions and supporting the sector’s open data ambitions.

What people will see and start to use in December will not be our finished product. The first version of Spring will be our “MVP” – our minimum viable product. This means it’s essential its stakeholders engage with it to help shape its evolution throughout 2022. Launching the website is just the first stage of this engagement. Throughout the rest of 2021, Spring will continue to develop and engage with its users to ensure it meets the sector’s needs and can support the game-changing innovation needed.

The next step in Spring’s creation will be establishing it as a subsidiary of UKWIR. This will allow it to maintain an independent brand and develop its own sustainable funding programme, while sharing resources and maintaining strong strategic links with UKWIR, the industry’s research organisation.

John Russell, Senior Director of Strategy and Planning at Ofwat, said

“We’re very pleased to see that the water sector’s innovation centre of excellence – Spring – is moving to its next stage. Alongside Ofwat’s innovation fund, Spring will have a key role to play transforming the sector for the benefit of customers, the environment and wider society. I’m looking forward to seeing some of the game-changing innovations Spring can encourage and the sector needs”

Shaunna Berendsen, Client Programme Director for Spring, said

“We’re incredibly grateful for all the time our stakeholders have given to help us shape Spring and we’re confident our full launch in December will start to really accelerate the innovation transformation the sector needs. It’s really crucial all our users and stakeholders keep talking to us to make sure Spring delivers on their expectations and help utility companies deliver better value and outcomes for their customers and stakeholders”.

Carly Perry, Consultant Executive Lead for Spring, said

“It’s been a great effort to get Spring this far – but we’ve still got a little further to go. We’re really excited to share more over the next few months and get our users interacting with our services, sharing feedback and delivering value across the sector”.

Steve Kaye, UKWIR CEO, said

“I’m really excited we’re able to share this first look at Spring and I’m equally grateful for the team for their hard work in getting it this far. By creating Spring as a subsidiary of UKWIR, it can operate independently and create its own new opportunities while tapping into the networks, experience, and expertise UKWIR has and can also build on Big Questions programme to address the key challenges facing the industry, now and in the future”.

Spring’s website is now live – www.spring-innovation.co.uk ahead of the minimum viable product launch in December 2021.

More information: Shaunna Berensden – sberendsen@ukwir.org.uk, Charlie Palmer – charlie@create51.com

Notes to editors

Carly Perry and Shaunna Berendsen were appointed to Spring (formerly the Centre of Excellence) in July 2021.

UKWIR leads high-quality, collaborative research for the water industry with the aim of improving services for customers, protecting, and enhancing the environment and innovating to meet future challenges. It is a not-for-profit organisation set up in 1993 and is owned and funded by the 19 water companies in the UK and Ireland. It invests around £3 million in independent research each year – ranging from eliminating water poverty to planning for climate change to reducing leakage – all designed to help tackle the short, medium, and long-term challenges faced by the water sector.