Water & Wastewater Treatment

WWT August 2017

Water & Wastewater Treatment Magazine

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12 | august 2017 | WWt | www.wwtonline.co.uk Innovation: the new rock and roll? I f any more proof was required that water industry innovation is the new rock n' roll, it was forthcoming in mid-July when more than 1000 people took part in Northumbrian Water's Innovation Festival. The five-day event, held in a series of large marquees at Newcastle Racecourse with around 400 people attending each day, saw participants take part in innovation 'sprints' around themes of water, work and the environment. The Glastonbury-like surroundings, with music and comedy entertainment in the evenings and sideshows offering Indian head massages, yoga and mindfulness meditation, meant that the atmosphere was about as far from an average day at the office as it is possible to get. But talking to Nigel Watson, Northumbrian's Group Information Services Director and the man who originally came up with the idea, it becomes clear that this was very much the intention of the exercise. "The feedback from the week has been outstanding – people have never seen The Talk: interview anything like it," says Watson, speaking to WWT on the fourth day of the five-day festival. "Like other innovation events we hold, it's all based on solving problems and collaboration, but giving it the feel of a summer festival was a little bit different. We wanted to get people to be innovative by moving people away from their typical work environment, putting them in different clothes and breaking their daily routines." The oŽeat entertainment, which also included talks from inspiring innovators in other fields, all helped to feed the creative minds, he adds. But amid all the fun and games, thinking was going on about some serious water sector and environmental challenges. The six themes, each with their own dedicated tent, were flooding; leakage; how to integrate future network infrastructure; the challenges of a mobile workforce; how to bring about greener cities; and what the workplace will be like in 2030. Participants were a mixture of Northumbrian's own staff, the supply chain, innovative SMEs and individuals, academics and students, and those from other utilities and sectors. Innovation sprints The activity under each theme follows the format of a "design sprint", a concept which was originally popularised by US tech firms in Silicon Valley and is particu- larly associated with Google. This five-day this month we talk to Nigel Watson, group Information services Director at Northumbrian Water, about the water company's recent Innovation Festival Interview by James Brockett Nigel Watson, group Information services Director at Northumbrian Water, on stage at the festival in Newcastle

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