Utility Week

UTILITY Week 13th November 2015

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24 | 13TH - 19TH NOVEMBER 2015 | UTILITY WEEK Operations & Assets Seminar and workshop Technology and innovation, 29 October 2015 O n 29 October the second meeting of the Utility Week-Wipro Technology and Innovation Council took place at the Manufacturing Technology Cen- tre, near Coventry. The council was created earlier this year as a joint venture by Utility Week and Wipro, a global technology and consultancy firm, to help utility com- panies develop stronger innovation cultures and strategies as their landscape continues to transform. A strong appetite had been expressed by council members, who are drawn from across the UK water and energy industries, to learn how other sectors are squaring up to their technology and innovation challenges, hence the decision to host this meeting at the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), a well-known innovation hub for high value manufacturing. The location proved a hit with attendees, who were thrilled by a tour of the facilities which showcased cutting edge "additive manufacturing technologies" (also known as 3D printing), automation and one-of-a-kind friction welding equipment. Of particular interest to the group was a three-fold process for part reconditioning, which can rebuild parts such as turbine blades to "good as new" at a third of the replacement cost. Meanwhile, a virtual reality "cave" pro- viding an "immersive" experience set minds racing about the possibilities this technol- ogy might hold for modelling infrastructure investments, reducing risk, communicat- ing complex ideas to stakeholders, training, improving health and safety and much more. It wasn't only the manufacturing technol- ogies that were of interest, however, but also the processes involved in bringing them to market and developing accompanying busi- ness models and services. The MTC is part of a group of innovation centres collectively known as the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, which was estab- lished in 2010 specifically to accelerate the commercialisation of innovative technolo- gies in areas where the UK has an opportu- nity to derive significant economic value. The catapult centres are funded by the government, industry and the EU. They play a crucial role in supporting the commer- cialisation of ideas and technologies that can be transformative but are too expensive "We believe the council will help build a coherent and robust ecosystem to help resolve the challenges we see utilities grappling with." Arun Krishnamurthi, vice president and global head of utilities, Wipro or labour-intensive for a single organisation to support. The catapult centres also exist beyond the world of manufacturing and, as of this year, include the Energy Systems Catapult. Several attendees were much struck by this concept of collective responsibility for bridging the difficult transition of technolo- gies from low technology readiness levels, through to market. However, they were also eager to gain new perspectives on the chal- lenges organisations face in embedding innovation in day-to-day operations. A presentation by Dr Hamid Mughal, director of manufacturing at Rolls-Royce, on this very topic was therefore warmly received. Mughal's presentation detailed the methodical approach Rolls-Royce has taken to creating a structure and culture for inno- vation. He explained how standardisation of processes can become the bedrock of innova- tion, providing a clear understanding of the status quo from which companies can move forward. He also emphasised how in innova- tive companies, managers and directors must embrace roles as innovation coaches, rather than being interventionist or dictatorial. Insights, comment and interests from this meeting will be taken forward to the next meeting of the Technology and Innovation Council in January 2016. Making technology work Technology and innovation leaders square up to the challenges of the future and draw lessons from manufacturing on how to face them.

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