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?

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?


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.

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.

The 2018 NWG Innovation Festival will be a ZERO WASTE EVENT


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?

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.


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.

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!

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.

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.


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.

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.

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. 

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.  


Wipro Limited (NYSE: WIT, BSE: 507685, NSE: WIPRO) is a leading global information technology, consulting and business process services company.

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.

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