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Anglian and ESW join forces on Innovate East

Essex & Suffolk Water and Anglian Water came together to stage a three-day innovation event in September, producing a raft of new ideas

Carol Vorderman appeared at the three-day event as a celebrity guestCarol Vorderman appeared at the three-day event as a celebrity guest


Social purpose: Exploring how companies can make a real impact in their communities, raising the level of digital skills among young people and addressing how to create a more sustainable society

Natural capital: Exploring how the relationship between agriculture, water and energy can facilitate biodiversity against the backdrop of climate change

Digital Twins: A digital twin is a digital replica of a physical entity. There will be billions of things represented by digital twins over the next five years, so Innovate East looked at how the water industry can evolve further to sit at the forefront of the transformation

Leakage: Water companies are already using innovative technology to reduce leaks, but how can they take bigger steps to cut waste further? Sprints and hacks looked at what significant steps can be taken in the war on leakage, and how inspiration can be drawn from other sectors

Over the course of three days in mid-September, Anglian Water and Essex & Suffolk Water staged Innovate East, one of the biggest innovation events the eastern region has ever seen, with more than 1,800 people representing 400 different organisations descending on Trinity Park Showground in Ipswich.

The aim of the event was to bring together some of the most creative and progressive minds from across the globe, and encourage them to create new ways of thinking in a unique and exciting environment.

Utility experts were joined by academics, engineers, scientists, students and customers to focus on developing solutions around four key themes: social purpose, natural capital, digital twins and leakage.

As well as the sprints and hackathons, there were complementary activities, including a live climate change-based STEM challenge involving 60 pupils, livestreamed to another 600 pupils around the region.

The event also featured live music, yoga and mindfulness activities, tech demonstrations, a quiz night and even musical bingo, while a number of celebrity guests dropped in over the three days, including TV legend Carol Vorderman, technology reporter Kate Russell, writer and broadcaster Simon Fanshawe and Jo Fairley, co-founder of Green & Blacks.

“Innovate East was a fantastic event, and it was truly inspiring to see some of the world’s leading innovative minds descend on Trinity Park to take a fresh look at the some of the key challenges we are currently facing as an industry and beyond,” Heidi Mottram, chief executive of Essex & Suffolk Water, said.

“We saw an incredible amount of creative and inspiring ideas coming out of the event, and now we turn our attention to testing, modifying and finalising these ideas to the point where they can hopefully make a real difference to our industry, customers and wider society.

“Collaboration is key to delivering innovative solutions for our customers, and we saw that in abundance at Innovate East, with 14,000 individual connections made and a number of new relationships and partnerships formed that will be essential to achieving our goals going forward. Innovate East 2019 was just the beginning of this journey, and we have some very exciting times ahead.

“We would like to thank all of our sponsors, partners and guests, who all played their part in making this event such a success.”

Peter Simpson, Anglian Water chief executive, added: “Innovate East clearly demonstrated the pinnacle in a new way of collaborative working. I’m proud of the partnership between Anglian and Essex & Suffolk Water, which has really set the benchmark for truly open innovation across the water industry.

“It was amazing to see the amount of energy and new ideas that were generated simply by giving people the freedom to think outside of their usual silos. This way of working is part of our DNA, now more than ever, and this is just the beginning for some of these solutions, which will hopefully go on to make a real difference to the water industry and beyond.”


The final day of Innovate East saw each sprint and hack report back to attendees on the big ideas they had developed and worked on during the event.

Leakage hack: The winning idea is about creating a ‘DMA DNA’ profile, where domestic water consumption can be combined with other data sets such as weather and temperature to create an average domestic water use profile for any given day (including bank holidays and religious holidays). The current model is static throughout the year, so a model that differentiates between leakage and usage across seasons would be vital in increasing our confidence in what we are classifying as leakage.

Beast from the East hack/sprint: This idea involved using data analytics to understand the water networks in terms of travel time. The big idea is to optimise planning to reduce travel time, increase worker safety and increase productive time by placing temporary stores at sites for DMO and DTs. The plan is in place for a field trial for Essex & Suffolk Water.

Leakage sprint – Millipede: Recognising that every joint or pipe connection is a potential weak spot in the network, the idea is to use fewer joints during manufacture, i.e creating sections of pipe with the join pre-welded into the pipe.

Community Matters sprint – Noah’s Arc: Driving resilience to climate change through local action. A physical and virtual space for communities.

Digital skills: Create a platform or app that can provide information to the local community, including schools, about works going on near to them. For example, you could scan a QR code and find out about the types of workers on site, their route to the job, qualifications, information about the job, cost and other career-related items that would boost awareness and interest of jobs in the water sector.

AI & people sprint: The winning idea had biometrics and wearable and most importantly people at the heart. The idea is to use these to reduce accident frequency and to help the workforce stay fit and healthy.

Modern life: ‘Life Mark’ is a clear labelling that describes impact on the planet for an item of choice, for example food, clothing or consumer goods, so customers are made more aware and can make better informed purchase decisions. A start could be a ‘water mark’ to share ‘water footprint’ of items.

Energy/water and agriculture – Water farming: To create a water management catchment plan that will capture water in times of plenty, ready for times of drought. It would also provide some extra income for farmers and be based on the water trading platform explored by Wheatley in a daily dash.

Asset investment decisions: Creation of a model that would take into account climate change predictions so that better asset investment decisions can be made.

Water quality digital twins sprint: Create a digital twin model that will look at asset health to model deterioration and help make better decisions that affect water quality. This would move companies from a set model for service to a proactive data-based approach.

Acceleration of digital twins sprint: Creation of a timeline that will guide what is needed to accelerate the adoption of digital twins across the water sector and twins that will be linked together for maximum effectiveness.

Cross-sector digital twins sprint – Twiinder: This idea will connect the raw materials of digital twins with the people that need them to spur innovation. The seed funding awarded will build a platform and a framework agreement.

Mapping daily dash: OS/Mobileye will have a 10-vehicle trial in the Essex & Suffolk Water and Anglian Water area. This is a joint venture of the two water companies’ areas made possible with the seed funding. This builds on from the trial in the North East with Mobileye’s unique above-ground mapping technology.

This article originally appeared in the September issue of WWT

Topic: Innovation
Tags: Innovation , Anglian Water , Essex & Suffolk Water


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