Pioneering ideas emerge from innovation summit
PUBLISHED: 13:30 17 September 2019
Steve Adams 2019 07398 238853
The three-day brainstorming event Innovate East produces a host of potential business and environmental solutions.
Enabling farmers to better share water resources between farms and training homeless people in digital skills are just a few of a number of ground-breaking ideas to emerge from a radical three-day environmental event held in East Anglia last week.
Called Innovate East, the event, which took place at Trinity Park in Ipswich was organised by water companies Anglian Water and Essex & Suffolk Water, and attracted utility experts, academics, scientists, engineers and students.
Over the course of the three days, more than 1,800 delegates took part in a series of 'sprints' and 'hackathons' - fast-paced discussions and computing sessions designed to work through ideas and test their viability in the real world. Participants were challenged to find new and improved ways of tackling leakage in water pipes, protecting the environment and using the growing amount of data that is now available through modern technology.
The brainstorming sessions took place in a series of futuristic inflated dome structures, designed to create a setting conducive to people working together.
Key organiser of the event, Shauna Cubberley, who is head of innovation and engagement at Anglian Water, said there had been "a real camaraderie in each of the individual domes".
She added: "The facilitators put in hundreds of hours of work up-front before the event and it showed. People instantly felt like they were part of a team."
Ms Cubberlery said the non-hierarchical nature of the event, where everyone's opinion had equal weighting, helped produce a variety of exciting ideas, some of which, it is hoped, will be developed into a viable business proposition or be used to improve ways of working.
"All our senior managers and directors were at the event but they were dressed in normal clothes, so any barriers that might exist in an office environment were removed," she said. "It helps to drive a better output because of the diversity of the teams."
At the stat of the event it was announced that the two water companies had made a £100,000 fund available to develop the best ideas. Ms Cubberley said four ideas have initially been selected to receive further investment, but she stressed that more are likely to follow.
"There are no winners and losers," she said.
"The ideas we have chosen so far are those that the teams really nailed over the three days and are most ready for instant investment.
"Not every business case is fully formed and some require more consultancy and software development. It could be that out of this event we end up with up to nine or 10 ideas that we take forward."
Among the ideas set to receive funding is a concept called 'DMA DNA' which seeks to makes use of data analysis to find patterns of water usage within a district metered area (DMA) - a water network in a region - to help identify where leakages might exist or where high levels of water usage might be reduced.
Another brain wave being taken forward is an idea of setting up a programme for people struggling with homelessness where they can be taught life skills as well as digital skills to give them a potential career and help plug the digital skills gap.
Other ideas to receive funding include a model for enabling farmers to improve the way they store water and engage with other farmers, so they can transfer water between farms during dry periods, and Twinder - the working title for an application which enables data sets, known as digital twins, to be shared across sectors with a simple swipe of a mobile phone, similar to dating app Tinder.
Other ideas to emerge include a concept of wearable tech to help with the health and safety of workers out in the field and an app to inform consumers how much water was used to in the making of a product, designed to reduce water usage on production processes.