skip to Main Content

Water organizations release manual to guide innovation by utilities

InnovatioNews Post from May 9, 2017

DENVER — The Water Research Foundation and Water Environment & Reuse Foundation — in partnership with Birmingham Water Works Board and utilities from North America, Europe, Asia and Australia — have published a guidance manual for innovation based on successful programs in the utility and commercial sectors.water-research-foundation-logo

The guidance manual, Fostering Innovation Within Water Utilities, shows how utilities transform into idea factories, enabled by a sustainable culture of innovation, broad engagement of stakeholders, and effective leveraging of external resources.

The organizations said the manual presents a simple framework geared specifically toward utilities to foster a culture that encourages creativity and facilitates implementation of new ideas.

“Utility structure and processes are built for reliability and repeatability, which can breed a culture averse to trying new and relatively untried ideas,” said Rob Renner, CEO of the Water Research Foundation.

“Our hope is that water utilities will use this guidance manual to assess their innovation environment, which can foster new ideas and allow implementation of new approaches that will transform their organizations and enhance their ability to meet future challenges.”

“Consistent with our experiences through the Leaders Innovation Forum for Technology, known as LIFT, this research team found that utilities recognize that to thrive they must provide a culture that supports innovation and manages new ideas as valuable resources,” said Melissa Meeker, WE&RF CEO.water-reuse-logo

“We are excited to share this guidance manual with the broader water community to foster our emerging culture of innovation.”

Using published literature, global surveys and lessons learned from current programs, the research team facilitated a series of workshops with water utility professionals from around the world to develop the framework.

In total, project partners from 50 utilities, professional associations and the commercial sector worked together to develop a knowledge base from over 30 innovation programs, including 14 detailed case studies.

The organizations said the case studies provide an overview of the selected operations and innovation storyline, and detail how the organizations engage each of the eight innovation disciplines.

Eleven case studies representing informal, formal, large and medium innovation programs for water utilities were developed. In addition, three case studies of innovation in private sector companies were developed based on publicly available information and interviews with staff.

A Webcast was held May 2 previewing the results of the project. The archived version of the webcast is available for viewing.

The principal investigator for the project was Jason Carter, Delivery and Innovation Lead, North America, ARCADIS.