Welcome to the 2018 NWG Innovation Festival

The Festival in its second year is a truly unique event, taking 12 problems societal and environmental problems and applying design thinking techniques to try to solve them in five action packed days. Once again the focus on innovation will be mashed up with the feeling of a summer festival featuring a Marquee village and fun events every evening to engage various groups in the North East of England.

The aim of adding an innovation festival to this flow of new ideas what six months of hacks and meetups achieve
— Nigel Watson - NWG CIO

We are thrilled to be hosting this event for the second year in the beautiful natural surroundings of Newcastle Racecourse. Our aim is to create the feel of a British Summer Festival to free our minds and inspire the creation of even more innovative ideas.

NWG are really excited to be creating another fantastic showcase of innovative thinking and new technology in Newcastle from Monday 9th to the Friday 13th July 2018
— Nigel Watson CIO - NWG

Listen to Nigel talk about last year's Festival

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I thought the event was a triumph because there was tangible output. It has set out to be the starting place for projects not just a talking shop so I am very excited to see how these projects progress and to be part of them.
— Laura White - https://supernetwork.org.uk/


2018 sees the Innovation Festival doubled in size compared to 2017 and it’s hoped that the festival will lead to some real-world innovative solutions and changes that can be brought to life – like the Newcastle Moss Tree, the water Refill campaign and the artificial intelligence projects – all of which are projects that came out of IF17 and that are making a real difference to the world right now.

Here are the 13 questions that the crack teams of experts will be getting stuck into during the festival...


1. Starting from scratch - How do you create the ‘perfect' water company?

Sponsored and led by IBM, the sprint team will explore what the ideal water company would look like if you could create it from scratch today? How digital could it be? What are the possibilities if there are no limits?



2. Going deeper underground - Can we build an underground map of the UK?

Geospatial data and mapping experts Ordnance Survey will lead a sprint team in exploring the possibility and benefits of creating an underground dataset and map of the UK. What will they find? And how will this help infrastructure companies going forward?



3. Smart Objectives - Smart devices are filling up our homes. How can we improve customers' lives by making the most of Smart technology?

Global IT and business process services firm CGI will lead this sprint looking at how we can maximise the customer benefits that smart technology can bring.



4. Fans for life - How to build advocacy with our communities and customers

Market research experts Explain Market Research will be heading up the sprint team looking at how companies and business from across the world build fan bases and what they can do to turn customers into fans. How do you change ‘likes' into loyalty and turn sales into supporters, Explain will lead the way.



5. ‘Testing the water' - How can the use of Digital Twins improve our future?

Newcastle University will lead the discussions into Digital twins - a cutting-edge approach that allows companies like NASA to test out and try their builds before sending them into space. How can this tech help other companies, organisations and communities in the future?



6. Moving on - What will the future of transport look like?

Self-driving cars. Hyperloops. Space travel. Just how will future generations get around? Northern Gas Networks and VLS will lead the sprint that explores what the future of transport looks like for business and commuters.



7. Green planet - How can we become a carbon positive company?

Comms giants BT will lead the way when exploring how large companies can use innovation to become carbon neutral and carbon positive companies. Big shoes to fill following the creation of England's first moss tree in Newcastle on the back of IF17.



8. Smiling happy people power - How can we create a happier more productive workforce?

O2 are leading the sprint exploring what employers can do to make sure their employees are happy, healthy and safe while at work. People are the most important thing in any organisation, let's see how innovation can help make their lives better!


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9. Building blocks - How can innovation and tech improve Design, Construction Operation and Maintenance?

Construction company Interserve will look at how innovation can improve major construction projects. Delving into how modern technology like 3D printing, VR and Augmented Reality can improve build times, quality and also help save money in the industry.



10. Vision of the future - How can we improve the lives of people who are visually impaired?

One in five people will live with sight loss in their lifetime and every day around 250 people in the UK start to lose their sight. In this sprint, we will team up to explore what can be done through innovation and tech to help those with a visual impairment at home and at work.


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11. Every drop counts - How and why do we need to save water?

The average person in the UK currently uses around 140 litres water each day in their homes. However there is no such thing as the ‘average’ person, because we all value and use water differently. So engaging everybody in saving water is a huge challenge. The team at The Big Bang Partnership together with Waterwise will lead the discussion on how we can deliver behaviour change at scale, be ambitious about achieving reductions in water use, create a catalyst for change and really make sure that Every Drop Counts.



12. Blue Planet: Teenager sprint - How can we reduce the impact of single-useplastics?

The Blue Planet TV Series highlighted the impact of plastics on marine life and has started a cultural shift towards single-use plastics. This sprint, headed up by Isle Utilities, will mix industry experts with teenagers from across the North East to come up with ideas on how to reduce our dependency on plastics.



13. 2019 Year of Green Action:  What Can Nature do for You and Your Business? 

This year, the UK government launched their 25 Year Plan for the Environment, pledging that we would be the first generation to leave our environment in a better state than we found it and announcing that 2019 will be the Year of Green Action. But why should businesses, people and communities care? The Water Hub at Durham University will lead this sprint to explore opportunities for green growth to deliver for businesses and communities. 



Flooding Data Hack

Flooding from the sewer network is a terrible experience for our customers, and one we are committed to eliminating. Our Flooding Data Hackathon will bring together a range of innovative thinkers including Data Scientists and wastewater networks specialists to tackle this challenge. Using a variety of infrastructure, environmental and open-source data sets, we aim to gain a greater insight into the causes of flooding allowing us to predict escapes and reduce the impact on our customers.  



Leakage Hack & Share

Building on the success of last year’s data hack, we are inviting the water industry to learn from our experiences of leakage management and share theirs. Reducing leakage to an acceptable level in the UK will require the water industry to work collaboratively, and our aim at this year’s Leakage Hack & Share is to explore the best analytical techniques, leakage models and data-led insight to establish a ‘best practice’ method for leak reduction that everyone can apply.


9th to the 13th July 2018

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Address: Newcastle Racecourse, High Gosforth Park, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE3 5HP


We want you to have a great experience of the festival and feel happy and good about yourself while you are there, so we are placing health and wellbeing at the heart of everything we are doing.  Find out more




Northumbrian Water's Clive Surman-Wells talks about England's first Moss Tree. What is it? How does it work? https://innovationfestival.org/mosstree
England's first pollution-busting "moss tree" has been installed in Newcastle, where it will purify air in the city centre and create opportunities for research into the benefits of the plants' natural filtering abilities.
What does innovation mean to me?
As part of Ofwat's Innovation Month, our Group Information Services Director Nigel Watson tells us what innovation means to him. www.nwl.co.uk
As part of Ofwat's #SparkInnovation month, our Chief Executive, Heidi Mottram tells us what innovation means to her.
As part of Ofwat's #SparkInnovation month, our innovation facilitator Eddie Wrigley explains what innovation means to him.
As part of Ofwat's #SparkInnovation month, we are asking key people around our business what innovation means to them. Today it's the turn of our Research and Development Manager, Chris Jones. Chris talks about the need to work with the right partners.
As part of Ofwat's #SparkInnovation month, our Customer Director, Claire Sharp, explains why innovation is important for our customers.
As a sector we are endemically shy and we wanted to shout for the region in the North East and wanted to raise the digital acumen of our employees.
— Nigel Watson - NWG - CIO
The event was a bit of a shout out for the water industry. We collaborate with the whole water industry and we invited the whole industry to this festival and we regularly work with them.
— Nigel Watson - NWG CIO