A water innovation accelerator?

WRc is having an open consultation as a follow-on from their recent innovation day. It’s a proposal they’ve developed with various stakeholders, for a National Innovation Accelerator for Water.

Its press release reads: ‘The water sector has a need to facilitate easier entry for innovative technologies and solutions to meet its future challenges.’ We couldn’t agree more. Here’s hoping Mark Smith and Ian Walker at WRc can get some traction from the UK water sector on this NIAW proposal.

Until mid-October they are looking for input ‘on the concept itself, its operation and different funding mechanisms/models.’ They then promise a full proposal by December – a quick turnaround and hopefully meaning there’ll be some interesting developments for them to report at next year’s ‘innovation day’. It’ll also be fascinating to hear how the sector responds to WRc’s diagnosis of why an ‘innovation accelerator’ is needed in the first place:

‘UK water companies are slow to adopt new products, technologies and processes; it is recognised by all stakeholders that it can take up to 15 years from concept to commercial implementation. This creates a disincentive for the supply chain to invest in innovative offerings and is a major turn-off for investors. It is not that we are short of ideas or concepts and product developers and supply chain companies can respond quickly to market demand with concepts becoming products in as little as 3 years. However, end-users contribute towards a commercial dead-end by requiring extended and duplicated trials and demonstrations before they are prepared to commit. Even where some companies might take a lead and prove the validity of the technology, the next interested end-user still wants further demonstrations in their region. If the risks taken by suppliers are not rewarded quickly enough then concepts die in gestation or the suppliers go elsewhere.’

To address these innovation barriers the NIAW is proposed to be:

‘a virtual hub … [to] co-ordinate and manage the testing and demonstration of technologies, processes and systems for product developers and suppliers … [and to] provide initial support for market evaluation and business case development, communicate end-users’ needs and requirements, develop and define testing and demonstration protocols and oversee the activities of the individual testing and demonstration centres. … The NIAW will work with the end-users … to gain their universal acceptance of the results so that duplication through company specific trials will not be required. … [It will be] initially … targeted at the demonstration of developed, but unproven, innovations seeking market entry; [and] in the longer term … mak[ing] the testing facilities available to companies and universities to support the development of new concepts.’

Proposed governance, operation and funding details are also given in the document. If you’d like to share your views on it, you can download it here.

Duncan Thomas

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