Fresh thinking

Welcome to our Innovation Lab

Applications now closed. If you applied you will hear back from us in the near future if you have made it to the next stage of the process.

About Innovation Lab

United Utilities Innovation Lab is breaking new ground in the water sector by creating a window for innovative businesses to partner with one of the biggest water companies in the UK. We want to tackle our key business challenges so we can provide better, more cost effective services for our 7 million customers. That means building relationships with businesses who share our vision, ambition and appetite for innovation - with the potential to lead to longer term commercial partnerships.

The 10-week programme will be run in collaboration with corporate innovation specialist L Marks. Successful candidates will be co-located and mentored by senior United Utilities business leaders and get access to test, improve and demonstrate their product/service in live customer environments to key experts and decision makers.

United Utilities and L Marks will also provide potential investment opportunities, if the 10-week programme is a success.

Connected water and customer

Smart homes and connected devices are a growing trend. We want to know how sensors and the Internet of Things  can work together to make life easier for our 7 million customers, some of whom are vulnerable or have particular needs. How can we catch water issues early, and help customers manage their water bills better. We’re constantly collecting and sharing information; with your help, could we be even more efficient and offer a different customer service? 

Proactive customer actions

United Utilities is always striving to be more and more efficient so we can do more for our customers at no extra cost. Many of our customer interactions are about something going wrong. How can new technology, particularly predictive or monitoring solutions enable us to resolve issues before a customer even notices? How can we make our work processes  seamless and transparent to customers? Can our customer interactions be more positive? Can you help us educate customers on the actions they can take themselves to conserve water? 

Safe & healthy worker

With over 5,000 employees across the business in offices, on sites and field-based – undertaking tasks including asset repair, maintenance, visiting customers and moving from job to job sometimes as lone workers – how can United Utilities better support the workforce and know they are safe? We want to get better at collecting, understanding and distributing knowledge, helping ensure team safety in the field while continuing to prioritise workloads in real-time. 

Predictive asset maintenance

United Utilities has an extensive water and wastewater network – enough pipes to stretch round the world several times. Every day our teams are reacting to maintenance issues which could have saved disruption, time or money  if we had predicted them sooner. Can you help to pull together data sources (e.g. network knowledge, traits of certain geographies and pipeline materials) to detect where or when leaks, bursts or floods are going to happen – to help us manage our networks more proactively? 

Future of water

How can United Utilities stay ahead of the curve and work with future technologies especially in the fields of energy management, artificial intelligence or robotics?  We want to get smarter to maintain the highest levels of customer service, reduce costs for our customers via greater automation and reduce energy consumption at the same time. 

What's on offer?

Mentorship from United Utilities senior leadership

Product validation from United Utilities stakeholders and customers

Co-location and testing in a live United Utilities centre environment

A network of external mentors with diverse market expertise

Opportunity to gain investment

Timeline of events

Innovation lab illustrative guide to key dates

Application process

Innovation lab programme

  • Is my business right for United Utilities Innovation Labs?

    If your business is focused on providing solutions in the categories listed above then United Utilities Innovation Lab is perfect for you, no matter what stage your business is at or where you're based.

  • What is the process for applying to United Utilities Innovation Lab?

    Applications to the lab have now closed. If you submitted a response and are eligible for the lab then you will be invited to complete a more detailed application. You will receive notification of this by 2 October 2017 and the deadline to complete this final application is 30 October 2017 at midday.

  • How will I know if United Utilities has received my application?

    Once you’ve completed all the questions, pressed submit and entered your username and password, a green box will appear at the top of the portal showing you that United Utilities have received your application.

  • What information do I need to provide in my application?

    We ask you for information about you, your idea, your team and your company. Don’t hold back, let us know how great you are.

  • Is there a minimum age?

    You must be at least 18 years old to enter United Utilities Innovation Lab. 

  • I don’t live in the UK, can I apply?

    Of course, the best innovations can come from anywhere. Bear in mind that you may need a visa to participate in the innovation lab.

  • Is United Utilities Innovation Lab like other partnership programmes?

    We believe we are different. United Utilities Innovation Lab is a programme of development that focuses on building a strong relationship between you and United Utilities as well as helping your business get to the next stage. The Lab will offer you access to investment, internal mentors at United Utilities locations around the UK and external mentors.

  • How many stages is the programme?

    The programme has 4 stages: 1. Apply; 2. Pitch; 3. The Lab; 4. Demonstrate. See our programme timeline for more information.

  • What are the terms of entry into United Utilities Innovation Lab?

    Participation in the Lab is subject to the terms of the participation agreement, which will be made available on 21st August 2017.

  • When is United Utilities Innovation Lab?

    The Innovation Lab starts on 05/02/18 and finishes on 04/05/18. Demo Day will be taking place on 12th April 2018.

  • Where is United Utilities Innovation Lab?

    Businesses will have access to the United Utilities network and space will be provided per business as required in their head offices in Warrington.

  • Do I need to work from United Utilities office space during the Innovation lab?

    We would encourage businesses to work as much as possible throughout the United Utilities network, however it is not compulsory to work in United Utilities offices all the time. 

  • I don’t live in the UK, do I need to find my own accommodation?

    L Marks have got a great team on hand who can support you in finding accommodation during the programme.

  • Where will the mentors come from?

    The United Utilities Innovation Lab mentors will be key decision makers within United Utilities. You will also have access to external mentors specific to your category.

  • What does the day to day look like at United Utilities Innovation Lab?

    United Utilities Innovation Lab is designed to help businesses progress rapidly with a mutually agreed use case. To help you achieve your goals, each team is assigned a category sponsor from the United Utilities senior leadership. Support from the category sponsors and L Marks will help navigate the business quickly and progress with their use cases. We tailor each businesses’ experience based on their needs and can offer additional external education programmes and support where requested. 

  • Will every company receive investment?

    Not necessarily. United Utilities and L Marks will explore the future engagement opportunities with each business before the Lab starts. This will be continually reviewed throughout the Lab and any decisions regarding future investment or other engagement opportunities will be confirmed at the end of the programme. Businesses are not required to take investment from United Utilities in order to participate: there are other options for businesses that would prefer something different, such as an opportunity for United Utilities to share the idea itself.

About the partners


United Utilities is the UK’s largest listed water company and manages the regulated water and wastewater systems in North West England - which includes Cumbria, Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside with a combined population of nearly seven million. United Utilities' headquarters are in Warrington. Its shares are listed on the London Stock Exchange and the FTSE 100 Index.


L Marks is a corporate innovation specialist and early-stage investor. They build bridges between large corporates seeking to innovate more quickly with companies with disruptive technologies, products and services. Founded in 2012 by serial entrepreneur Stuart Marks, they run bespoke partnership programmes across industry sectors, supporting rapid innovation and connecting them with the best businesses.

They work with clients such as John Lewis, BMW and International Airlines Group (IAG) to identify where they believe the challenges are in their businesses and then turn these into opportunities for improvement and innovation. Each programme is tailored to deliver real solutions to the corporate partners and create real opportunities for businesses to test and grow their product with a major partner.