Innovation Lab


About Innovation Lab

Following on from the award winning 2018 United Utilities Innovation Lab, we are pleased to announce the launch of the second Lab programme. The United Utilities Innovation Lab is a unique opportunity for innovative businesses to collaborate with us, helping to tackle key business challenges. 

The 10-week programme provides successful applicants with the opportunity to test their solutions in a live environment, while gaining access to and building relationships with senior United Utilities executives, with the potential to lead to longer-term commercial partnerships.

This year we’re keen to hear from innovative companies with solutions to the categories outlined below. Each category is focused on developing our Systems Thinking plans to better serve customers and ensure our colleagues have everything they need to deliver.

Applications will open 11 March 2019, in the meantime, you can register your interest to hear more about the programme.

Connected customers

Technology and connected devices offer an opportunity for us to make it easier for customers to understand what is going on in their homes and where they can be more in control of what is important to them. 

Register Interest

Empowered, knowledgeable colleagues

Can you help us find new ways to enable our people to share best practice and knowledge across the organisation. Find out more and register your interest. 

Register Interest

Right information, right place, right time

Making sure that data is with the right people at the right time. Find out more and register your interest.

Register Interest

Future of water

Can you help us find solutions to help meet the future challenges faced by a water and wastewater company? Find out more and register your interest.  

Register Interest

Systems Thinking innovative approach 

As part of our long-term strategy, we have adopted a Systems Thinking approach to our operations, this allows us to operate and monitor our assets as one end to end network. Currently, we have vast amounts of data from multiple sources, such as, asset performance and condition, weather, customers and incidents. Sometimes this data can be in multiple areas and not visible. This could mean a colleague may need to access a number of different systems for data. Also we want to make sure we are using our information effectively, making sure all information is accessible to the right people, at the right time, to make the right decisions.

In particular, we are looking for solutions that can address the following areas:

  • Analytic and predictions: Through the use of technology we want to be better at anticipating problems before they occur and predict what actions may be required to avoid incidents. Whether that be better, low cost sensors or edge analytics.

  • Automation: Structuring and automating data and the analysis of this data to present information to the right person at the right time.

  • Contextual information: Ensuring our colleagues are presented with information that is relevant to the job at hand. 
Systems Thinking is used by industries across the globe to describe an innovative way of managing large and complex businesses
What  A new and innovative digital way of understanding the whole end to end system which is broader than the organisation
It examines the links and interactions between the individual and grouped parts of the business and the impact they can have on one another 

It brings together multiple sources of information available to the organisation (internal information it already has as well as other information available to it from external sources). It feeds this information into sophisticated computer models that can predict issues that may affect our customers

It makes use of new digital technology such as sensors and remote monitoring to both collect information and also to analyse it
Benefits It allows the organisation to predict certain issues in advance, meaning it can solve potential service issues before they occur, minimising disruption, improving service and reducing costs


What's on offer?

There are several benefits for successful organisations working on the Lab programme, including:

Leadership Mentorship from United Utilities senior leadership
Product variation Product validation from United Utilities stakeholders and customers
Co-location and testing

Co-location and testing in a live United Utilities centre environment
Networking A network of external mentors with diverse market expertise
Gain investment Opportunity to gain investment



Innovation lab

  • Is my business right for United Utilities Innovation Lab?

    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 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 accelerator.

  • Is United Utilities Innovation Lab like other accelerators?

    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. 

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

    The finalists entering the Lab might have a bespoke investment offer depending on the stage that their business is at. Each team will be eligible to apply for investment from United Utilities and  L Marks and in exchange for a negotiable stake in their company.

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

    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 has 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 each business navigate the business quickly and progress with their use cases. We tailor each business experience based on their needs and can offer additional external education programmes and support where requested. 

Updates from the Innovation Lab

Emagin logo

Making Waves: Meet Emagin and their AI tool, HARVI

Emagin, new to the UK, is a Canadian start-up which has developed an artificial intelligence system that helps facilitate decision-making within the water industry.

Typhon logo

Making Waves: Typhon tech could help slash cost of water treatment

A fledgling Cumbrian company whose bug-busting tech could help slash the cost of water treatment worldwide has won its first major contract - with its local water firm United Utilities

Datatecnics logo

Making Waves: How Datatecnics want to revolutionise the world of water

Datatecnics, a technology company based in Birmingham. “We’re a company who have set out to revolutionise global infrastructure markets” explains Suhayl Zulfiquar, the company’s Chief Operating Officer.

Innovation Centre

Breaking down the barriers to new ideas in the water industry

Our Head of Innovation, Kieran Brocklebank, shares his views on innovation in the water industry and the launch of our Innovation Lab 10 week programme.

About the partners

United Utilities logo

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.

Supply chain excellence award winner, encouraging innovation with colleagues, customers and the supply chain.