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 societal and environmental questions that the crack teams of experts will be getting stuck into during the festival...

IBM is a global cloud platform and cognitive solutions company, which has continually evolved over the past century to remain at the forefront of technological innovation.

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?



Three ideas to take forward to support a perfect company – A self-sustaining home water works called reservoir which will collect and re-use water in the home all supported with a service to give back and reward customers. We’ll build smarter skills with the community so we grow together.

Ordnance Survey is a national mapping agency in the United Kingdom which covers the island of Great Britain. It is one of the world's largest producers of maps.

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?


Water, Gas, Electricity and Telecom utilities and local authorities have worked with Ordnance Survey to develop the region’s first digital map of what’s under the ground. This makes digging holes safer and more efficient.


CGI Group Inc., more commonly known as CGI, is a Canadian global information technology consulting, systems integration, outsourcing, and solutions company

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.


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

Introducing Project Barnacle - an easy smart installation device that provides background monitoring of key water quality parameters in the customer’s home. This will allow NWG to identify issues in both the network and home so they can solve them before the customer becomes aware of them. 





Explain have been providing market research across three decades to customers with whom we have longstanding relationships, demonstrates our expertise and the excellent quality service that we provide.

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.


This Sprint looked at how to build advocacy with our communities and customers

Six concepts to build customers into fan: 
1. An engagement model based on the shared values that customers have with NWG. 
2. A reward App that incentivises individuals and/or groups to engage meaningfully with NWG
3. Time trading – where NWG share their experience and knowledge with organisations in exchange for access to engage with their employees
4. Updates to the NWG online community, Have your say, include adding house moving packs, links to the Refill app and Keep Britain Tidy
5. A customer service app linked to customer’s accounts to support them to manage their account and make communication with NWG easy
6. Geo-fencing is a way of engaging with customers in specific locations to get location based, in the moment feedback. 

Newcastle University is a modern civic university with a proud tradition, committed to world-class academic excellence.

‘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?


  • How can the use of digital twins improve our future?
  • Twincident: Real-time integrated operational response decision support
  • CARL and DRIPAdvisor: Catchment optimisation for all 
  • Silo Buster: one family; one view of the world; open to all
  • Completing the circle: Augmented reality for asset and data management
  • Magic Matrix: A cultural revolution in transparency and shared insight
  • One twin to rule them all: truth, intelligence and integration.

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 will lead the sprint that explores what the future of transport looks like for business and commuters.



A north Clean Air industry group to enable infrastructure along with transport for north. The Future Fleet Technology Centre of Excellence will be all about vehicles, demos, business planning support and change of culture. 





BT Group plc (trading as BT and formerly British Telecom) is a British multinational telecommunications holding.

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.




Idea 1: Dog Bog, improving our communities and their environment whilst providing increased dried solids to our AD plants. 

Idea 2: Customer Carbon, helping our customers go carbon neutral by changing our business model to become a complete utility.


Telefónica UK Limited (trading as O2 – stylised as O2) is a telecommunications services provider

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!



We’ve created a digital employee experience through a suite of apps that support people to improve their physical, mental and social wellbeing. Recognising different triggers and life events we’ll be showcasing our menopause and happiness box apps as well as our bereavement support, peer to peer support and wellbeing apps. 

Attendees at the 2017 NWG Innovation Festival


Interserve plc is a multinational support services and construction company

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.



Building blocks - how can innovation and tech improve design, construction operation and maintenance?
•    Enabling modular design and build, delivered using a national database accessed via an app
•    Savings delivered on health and safety audits using live remotely captured data and video analytics
•    Revolutionising problem definition putting operations teams and data at the forefront
•    Using the digital twin to scenario test solution development to transform decision making and construction.
Vision of the future - how can we improve the lives of people who are visually impaired?

The NWG Innovation Festival is in its second year is a truly unique event, taking 13 societal and environmental problems and applying design thinking techniques to try to solve them in five action packed days.

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, Northumbrian Water customer service experts 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.



Travel Buddy – Creating independent travel with an airport app guiding users to friends, facilities and gate information
•    See Me – Delivering travel independence with e-hailer bus stop system
•    InSight – Building confidence and independence by sharing experience and mentoring
•    Smidge – Making life easier by creating “smart-fridges” using sensors and virtual assistant
•    iSupport – Providing emotional and practical support by building an online community.


The Big Bang Partnership's goal is to help you and your business grow, develop and evolve, now and in the future.

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.


  • Drop swap – a trading scheme for customers to save money when they save water.
  • Leaky lou – campaigns partnership working to solve the issue with leaking toilets
  • Splash heroes - an interactive experience and game to reach out to primary school students.

Isle Utilities is a technology and innovation consultancy specialising in cleantech.

Blue Planet: Teenager sprint - How can we reduce the impact of single-use plastics?

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.


They welcomed young people from all over the north east and created an army of plastic warriors - ambassadors of for the legacy output #PlasticPledge! They’ve investigated the best innovations in plastic alternatives and created plastic artwork to highlight the plight of plastic on our sea life.


Last year, our group of teenagers takled the challenge of "What does the bedroom of the future look like?"


Durham University is distinctive - a residential collegiate university with long traditions and modern values

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. 


Small business will be involved in partnership working to build green partnerships and a green procurement portal


More meaningful encounters with employers for young people

Meaningful encounters with employers during a young person’s education have been shown to have a major impact on whether they are likely to find employment.  It makes sense.  How can young people even begin to imagine what the world of work is like, and what they might want to do, without being able to see and talk about some of it?   How can employers and education create many more opportunities to give real and valuable insight into career options?


A collaboration of educators (higher, further, secondary and primary), employers, policy implementers and students (primary, secondary and further education) developing a digital solution to provide accessible employment information and create links between students, employers, education and parents to make it easier to learn about potential careers, skills required, how to get there and to gain experience of work.

Explore the feasibility of trialling an innovative careers fair for school and college students linked to the 2019 Innovation Festival.


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.



1. Getting the right information to the right people at the right time, involving clever aggregation of data using a number of APIs which is then provided to leakage technicians before they begin their survey. It even includes the optimum place to park their van in order to maximise the efficiency of their leakage surveys! 

2. Predictive modelling - using AI and machine learning, this tool helps to predict where and when bursts will happen. A good tool for short term forecasting and resource allocation.

3. Estimation of night use consumption vs actual leakage. A new approach to our traditional model which works round the problem in a different way.

Hitachi brings Information Technology & Operational Technology together to help their clients transform for the IoT era.

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.  


1 - Developing a blockage prediction tool and a full property protection review which includes insight into occupier change leading to debris in sewers causing blockages

2 - ‘Moata’ platform – a data visulisation platform with real-time decision making capabilities





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