We’ve used processes known as ‘sprints’ and ‘hacks’ for years to generate ideas to better our business but we took this to a whole new level with our Innovation Festival!

When we launched our inaugural Innovation Festival in the summer of 2017 we knew we were embarking on a journey into the unknown.

We wanted to bring together a diverse group of people in the hope of generating some exciting ideas but we could not have predicted just how much collaboration and creativity we would spark.

More than 1,000 people from 140 organisations joined us at Newcastle Race Course over the five-day event to consider ways to address a range of environmental and social problems that affect us all.

Festival-goers came from around the world, representing companies including headline sponsors Microsoft, IBM, Ordnance Survey, BT, CGI Group and Reece Innovation, to work with members of the public and people from business and academia.

They took part in a series of ‘sprints’, a process involving a group of people with different perspectives who gather for a set period of time to find a solution to a problem. Issues tackled included flooding, water leakage, infrastructure, life and work in 2030, green cities, and mobile workforces.

Hundreds of ideas were generated and streamlined to 18 that were presented to guests – industry regulators and partners among them – on the festival’s final day.

Ideas included new ways to work directly with, and support, people who live in areas of flood risk, greater use of mobile apps to help better identify the location of leaks when they are reported, shared infrastructure corridors to reduce roadworks, and special ‘moss trees’ that absorb pollution.

Nigel Watson, our Director of Information Services, said: “The NWG Innovation Festival was certainly a first for the North East and we are really excited to now be getting stuck into developing these ideas and seeing just how far we can take them.

“There is huge potential to improve people’s lives as a result of this festival and the ideas that came about, and we have created some amazing new relationships that will continue to thrive as we keep working together on these projects.”

The success of our first festival convinced us to establish the event as an annual highlight. Planning for the 2018 event is well under way and promises to be even bigger and more ambitious in the diversity of the problems it will solve and the participants it attracts.

The NWG Innovation Festival was also delivered in association with Newcastle University, Durham University, Genesys, Interserve in partnership with Amec Foster Wheeler, Costain Resources, PC1, Tech Mahindra, Mott MacDonald Bentley (MMB), Wipro, Virgin Media Business, Schneider, Wheatley Solutions, Sopra Steria, Accenture, 1Spatial, Infosys, Unify, ITPS, Esh-MWH, and Pen Test Partners.

Festival leads to a scholarship for Jess

One talented student took away a prestigious scholarship from the festival after impressing us with her outstanding potential as an engineer.

Jess Scott received an Arkwright Engineering Scholarship, sponsored by Northumbrian Water Group, after success in a competition to design the teenager’s bedroom of the future.

Arkwright Engineering Scholarships are aimed at the most talented STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) students in UK schools and help to ensure that high potential young people retain an interest in engineering careers.

Sixteen-year-old Jess, from Hexham, is now enjoying the two-year scholarship at Newcastle High School for Girls, where she is studying maths, further maths, physics and politics. As part of the scholarship, Jess is also receiving mentoring from Northumbrian Water's Programme Manager, Carol Cairns.

Teenagers and younger children worked with a range of STEM-related innovation experts during the festival.



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