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£100K fund made available to grow big ideas generated by innovation conference

PUBLISHED: 09:16 11 September 2019 | UPDATED: 09:17 11 September 2019

Kate Housley of @One Alliance does some colouring in the Wellbeing Zone at the Innovate East conference event by Anglian Water and Essex & Suffolk Water. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Kate Housley of @One Alliance does some colouring in the Wellbeing Zone at the Innovate East conference event by Anglian Water and Essex & Suffolk Water. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

A radical three-day environmental event kicked off at Trinity Park in Ipswich yesterday with the aim of finding solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing society and the business world.

Carol Cairns, left, of Essex & Suffolk Water, and Ann Cousins of Arup consultants, discuss topics over an ice cream at the Innovate East conference event by Anglian Water and Essex & Suffolk Water. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYCarol Cairns, left, of Essex & Suffolk Water, and Ann Cousins of Arup consultants, discuss topics over an ice cream at the Innovate East conference event by Anglian Water and Essex & Suffolk Water. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Called Innovate East, the event, organised by water companies Anglian Water and Essex & Suffolk Water, attracted utility experts, academics, scientists, engineers, commercial businesses, students and customers.

Delegates were there to take 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. They have been challenged to find new and improved ways of tackling leakage in water pipes, protecting the environment and using the growing amount of data available through modern technology.

People discuss various topics at the Innovate East conference. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYPeople discuss various topics at the Innovate East conference. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The brainstorming sessions took place in a series of futuristic inflated dome structures, designed to create a setting conducive to people working together.

Trying out virtual reality.  Picture: DENISE BRADLEYTrying out virtual reality. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

MORE: East Anglia on the 'front line' of managing the impact of climate change, says Environment Agency director

A 3D printer stand at the Innovate East. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYA 3D printer stand at the Innovate East. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Key note speakers on the first day included presenter of the BBC Click technology show Kate Russell and media personality Carol Vorderman, who has championed the teaching of mathematics and science.

The event was launched by chief executive of Anglian Water Peter Simpson and chief executive officer of Essex & Suffolk Water Heidi Mottram who both took to the stage and hailed the collaboration between the two companies as an "industry first".

The inflatable pods housing different challenges, innovations and discussion groups. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe inflatable pods housing different challenges, innovations and discussion groups. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Mr Simpson announced they have made a £100,000 fund available to invest in the best ideas to emerge from the event.

He said all water companies have committed to tripling the rate of leakage reduction and becoming a net zero industry by 2030.

Topics of discussion are posted outside the pods at the Innovate East conference event. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYTopics of discussion are posted outside the pods at the Innovate East conference event. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

"We are not going to do this as a single company," he said. "Let's start innovating, let's collaborate and open this up to the entire sector and its partner chain."

Many of the issues being debated this week are particularly relevant to East Anglia, which is the driest region in the UK with the least amount of rainfall. The region is also facing up to difficult decisions about how to balance the need for economic growth and the preservation of the natural beauty and wildlife of the area.

People discuss various topics at the Innovate East conference event by Anglian Water and Essex & Suffolk Water. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYPeople discuss various topics at the Innovate East conference event by Anglian Water and Essex & Suffolk Water. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Ms Mottram told the audience: "We can only do these things if we come together and use the power of partnership".

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