Thought piece on innovation – Alastair Moseley – Innovation Lead for Future Water Association

Alastair Moseley Alastair Moseley – Innovation Group Lead for FWA

Heading the Innovation Group at the Future Water Association has been an enriching journey, witnessing a spectrum of water-related innovations that range from transformative breakthroughs to incremental improvements. The diverse nature of innovation, whether in introducing new products, technologies, or optimizing delivery processes, underscores its multifaceted impact within the water sector.

A pivotal question surfaced during our recent Innovation event on January 30th, hosted by Clarivate: when does innovation become a viable business proposition worthy of investment? Over the past two years, our collaboration with Clarivate has been dedicated to unravelling the dynamics of stimulating and safeguarding innovation in the UK water sector, aiming to catalyze economic growth. This involves viewing innovation through the Intellectual Property (IP) lens, a perspective that has brought to light the untapped opportunities within the UK water sector.

Clarivate’s extensive research, leveraging their vast database and search engines, has shed light on the comparative innovation landscape of UK water businesses globally. Alarming findings indicate that less than 1% of patents filed worldwide in 2022/23 originated from the UK, contrasting sharply with China’s dominance, surpassing 80%. Strikingly, many innovations patented globally trace their roots back to the UK, highlighting a tendency to undervalue and give away intellectual property, often without charge. Moreover, of the £40 billion invested in R&D in the UK in 2022/23, a mere 0.47% is allocated to the water sector.

The real currency for investors, as emphasized by Clarivate’s Arun Hill and Schneider’s Wez Little during our innovation session, lies in patents. Patents serve as a confidence-building measure for investors, crucial for securing funds for product development and unlocking vast commercial opportunities. While not a direct metric for R&D, patents indicate a business or country’s commitment to thrive and grow.

The imperative conclusion drawn from this analysis is the need for heightened efforts to fuel curiosity, research, innovation, and technology implementation in the water sector. Concurrently, there’s a pressing need to safeguard intellectual property through patents to create a compelling proposition for investors. Without investor confidence, growth remains elusive, hindering our ability to meet the escalating demands on the UK’s water asset base. Wez rightly emphasises the fusion of creativity with measurable and commercial value-add to drive innovation.

While the UK water sector excels in creativity, the recurring failure lies in protecting the intellectual property arising from this creativity and establishing strong links between innovation and business opportunities. Patenting IP, informed by thorough research into existing patents, instills confidence in investors, facilitating the funds required to validate and scale innovations to meet market demands.
Looking ahead to 2024, Future Water, in collaboration with Clarivate, is set to showcase the power of IP and patents. Our mission is to encourage UK water businesses to recognize their global significance, protecting their IP through patents to stimulate investment and underpin future growth. If you share our enthusiasm for this groundbreaking work, we invite you to join us on this exciting journey. An exhilarating year lies ahead, filled with promise and the potential for transformative strides in the UK water sector.

If you would like to be part of this work, we will be pleased to include you in this ground breaking work. Contact us at