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Barriers to innovation revealed in WWT survey

A lack of infrastructure to fast-track ideas from inception to implementation is seen as the most significant barrier to innovation, according to the results of an exclusive WWT survey.

A survey of senior executives and managers from water companies and water & sewerage companies has revealed innovation is seen as the key to tackling the myriad of issues facing the sector. 

Chief executives, board and other directors and heads of department (42 per cent of respondents) and managers (58 per cent) at 13 companies took part in the survey, which was supported by UKWIR (UK Water Industry Research). The results revealed that there are many reasons why innovation is not accelerating but non-supportive internal structures were seen as the prime barrier to implementing new ideas.  

Questioned in the survey on the main barriers to innovation in their companies, the lack of infrastructure to fast-track ideas from inception to implementation was seen as the most significant obstacle. This was felt a little more strongly by the water & sewerage companies than water-only companies. It was also felt slightly more strongly by managers than heads of department and considerably more so than by directors (3.89 out of 5 compared to 1.67) 

Lack of available internal funding was the second biggest impediment to innovation, and this was felt more strongly by water-only companies than water & sewerage operators (4.11 compared to 3.17) and by managers. 

Regulators were also perceived as presenting barriers to innovation. Ofwat was rated 3.34; so was the Environment Agency; and the Drinking Water Inspectorate was rated as 3.31. Heads of department felt this stifling effect slightly more strongly in relation to the Environment Agency than did managers (3.82 compared to 3.17), as did water-only companies (3.11) over water & sewerage ones (3.48). 

Another significant perceived barrier - a lack of business focus on innovation - was rated 3.19 across all respondents. 

Among other perceived barriers were issues such as: lack of investor support, cultural conservatism in the sector, and a lack of the skills required to integrate, operate and maintain innovations. Additionally, respondents also listed many more, including not being allowed to fail - unsurprising given the importance of the sector and how tightly its performance is regulated. 

Earlier this week WWT revealed that Ofwat's proposed innovation fund could prove the catalyst for fundamental change, with almost eight in 10 respondents supporting the regulator’s prospective £200 million innovation fund 

You can download the full report here. 

Author: Alec Peachey,
Topic: Innovation
Tags: water companies , water , Innovation

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