Innovation in the Water Industry: Challenges and Opportunities from the Water Engineering Perspective
In order to address the apparent lack of innovation in the UK water industry one ought to define this term in the context at hand. A definition that appears relevant to the process of water provision is; ‘Innovation is the multi‐stage process whereby organizations transform ideas into new/improved products, service or processes, in order to advance, compete and differentiate themselves successfully in their marketplace.’ (Balgreh et al. (2009)) What does this mean in a context where there is no market place due to very little scope for competition? In essence a very multi‐layered and integrated innovation covering novel approaches to policy, cost model, regulation, public participation, and technology that brings the UK to the forefront of the global water industry. To assume an innovation leadership role a number of stages will be required, namely; Definition of the key challenges facing the sector in terms of its duties Understanding of the current state‐of‐the‐art – i.e. the baseline across a range of specified indicators across the range of activities that are undertaken Knowledge of best practise in other countries to drive innovation Clarity on roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders in driving innovation How can wholesome water be provided to the public at reasonable cost in the most appropriate, efficient and sustainable way? Answering this question is likely to require a paradigm shift in the way water is currently provided and requires a fresh look at the true value of water and customer expectations. Much of innovation is about the uptake of research, beyond the development that industry generally does reasonably well. The perceived need is to innovate – the actual issue being how to move from acquisition of knowledge to doing something significantly better? This requires in the first instance knowledge of the clear benefits of such innovation to society as a whole.