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Water firms urged to speed up progress on innovation

The rate of uptake of new technologies by water companies is causing ongoing frustration within the supply chain, results from a new British Water survey reveal.

The trade association’s annual UK Water Company Performance Survey asks contractors, consultants and suppliers to rate their clients’ performance in 11 areas, including professionalism, contractual approach and communication. Innovation was the lowest scoring area in 2020 – at a time when regulator Ofwat is expecting water companies to find new ways of working to address key issues, without increasing customer bills.

The sector is facing unprecedented challenges – from climate change, population growth and rising customer expectations – radical change is needed if Ofwat’s stretching AMP7 targets are to deliver for customers and the environment.

Shaun Stevens, incoming chair of British Water’s UK Forum, and general manager at EPS Water – a supplier committed to digital transformation and innovation – said the low innovation scores are “symptomatic of the ongoing frustration felt in the supply chain with regard to innovation uptake by the water companies and their delivery partners”.

“While innovation has been a core theme in water companies’ dialogue for many years, issues including underfunding, adversarial commercial models and out-of-date technical standards can be blockers to the adoption of new technologies,” he added. “Following submission of water companies’ 2020-2025 business plans, Ofwat said they have seen some good pockets of innovation, which is encouraging. We now need to see a cultural shift to drive truly transformational innovation and address key challenges at sector level.”

Overall, this year saw a small drop in score across all areas, although this is likely to be attributable to the transition from AMP6 to AMP7, when key teams would have been engaged in regulatory submissions, which can directly impact on supply chain engagement and perceptions.

British Water chief executive Lila Thompson said: “I’d like to thank all those who took the time to complete the 2020 survey. We had 256 responses – a great level of engagement, especially considering the upheaval we have all faced during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Embedded within all levels of the supply chain are the skills and expertise to deliver tangible improvements for customers and the environment in AMP7. I urge water companies to take their valuable feedback on board.”

The 2020 survey results, and those from previous years, can be seen here:  https://www.britishwater.co.uk/uk-forum/water-company-performance.aspx

Topic: Innovation
Tags: water companies , supply chain , Innovation , British Water


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