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Innovation key for Scotland's ‘Hydro Nation’ vision

Customer service and innovation in water technology will be two central planks of Scotland's future as a ‘Hydro Nation’, WWT’s Water Scotland conference heard yesterday (October 7).

Addressing the conference in Glasgow, Douglas Millican, Scottish Water’s chief executive, said that Scottish Water has customer satisfaction scores of over 90% and that it was the most trusted UK utility; but this still left room for improvement and the company was now applying different standards to its customer service.

“Which of our customers, apart perhaps from large businesses, actually compare our service with other water companies?,” asked Millican. “Customer expectations are determined by the standards of companies in other sectors that they do business with. That’s why we’ve set a goal to match the performance of not of other water companies, but of leading customer service organisations across the country.”

Sustaining this high performance while cutting costs would entail ‘doing more with less’ and improving the company’s understanding and management of risks, he added.

Keith Brown, Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, told the conference that public appreciation for its water, together with technical innovation, were both crucial for the Scottish Government’s vision of Scotland as a ‘Hydro Nation’.

“Being a Hydro Nation means recognising the importance and value of our water resources, managing the water environment to best advantage and developing and promoting more efficient use of resources. It means being a nation which uses its knowledge and expertise to contribute to a flourishing low-carbon economy. We want to develop a vibrant water economy which supports sustainable economic growth by growing our international reputation, developing continued research excellence, and encouraging sustainable development across the sector.  We must also deliver the highest quality services possible for customers.”

The Hydro Nation Innovation Service, set up by the Scottish Government, is supporting this vision by allowing innovators access to Scottish Water testing facilities and accelerating the progress of new technologies to market, he added.

Terry A’Hearn, chief executive of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) said that regulators could also play their part in the vision by adopting a less risk averse, partnership-based approach. He pointed out that SEPA has a specific mandate not just to protect the environment, but to do so in a way that facilitates economic growth.

“As a regulator how do you support innovation? You need to break down something that is in the DNA of any regulator, which is to avoid risk. It’s a question of balance. We think we’ve worked out how we can take some regulatory risks in a way that supports innovation,” said A’Hearn.

Author: James Brockett,
Topic: Innovation
Tags: Innovation , Scotland , customer service

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