United Utilities, the United Kingdom’s largest listed water company, is collaborating with seven businesses, in pursuit of better and more cost-effective services for their 7 million customers.
The seven lucky partners are Enging, Hydrao, Typhon Treatment Systems, Datatecnics, EMAGIN, Enzen and Environsuite – an international line-up from Penrith in the UK to Brisbane in Australia.
They were handpicked from 1,500 fledgeling, small and large suppliers. Of the 83 ideas that passed the first stage of a rigorous selection process (a third of which came from the Northern Powerhouse region), 19 had to battle it out as part of a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style pitch process. The best seven were chosen and they have joined the Lab programme.
The final seven innovations include a smart surface that predicts when pipes will burst, and a futuristic, colour-changing showerhead which aims to reduce water waste. Other ideas make use of the Internet of Things, machine learning and robotics.
The successful businesses are now on a 10-week programme, which will see them co-located and mentored by senior United Utilities business leaders at its Warrington HQ.
Kieran Brocklebank, Head of Innovation at United Utilities, said: “The Innovation Lab is a really exciting new initiative. It offers suppliers an invaluable opportunity to get up-close with data and customer environments that aren’t usually accessible. Our workshops will help each supplier to develop some core business ideas, such as their sales and recruitment strategies, along with the ability to test and build their products.
For us, this is all about breaking down the barriers to innovation, so we can work together to create the technologies that will be essential for a resilient and efficient water service in the future”
Run in collaboration with corporate innovation specialist L Marks, each business will get the opportunity to test, improve and demonstrate their product/service in live customer environments to key experts and decision makers.
Stuart Marks, CEO of L Marks, said: “Working together over the 10 week programme will produce great learnings and results for both United Utilities and the seven partners taking part. We’ve found some genuinely innovative and exciting solutions that will help United Utilities to future-proof its services.
“L Marks is a long-term promoter of the Norther Powerhouse initiative, so I’m particularly pleased that this programme is taking place in Warrington and is supporting businesses in the North. I’m looking forward to seeing what United Utilities and the seven partners have achieved by the end of the programme.”