United Utilities launches global hunt for game-changing tech

United Utilities has launched its third Innovation Lab - the successful accelerator programme which helps innovative businesses grow and develop.

Since 2018, United Utilities’ Innovation Lab has collaborated with 15 companies, bringing new entrants to the sector and jobs to the North West.

New tech to emerge from previous Innovation Labs includes Cumbrian firm Typhon, who developed the use of UV LEDs to disinfect drinking water, and Datatecnics, based in Manchester, who have pioneered predictive modelling of pipe deterioration using AI to monitor the real-time condition of in-service water mains.

Applications for the third cohort will open next week (w/c July 13). United Utilities’ Innovation Lab gives innovative businesses a unique opportunity to collaborate with the water company to tackle key business challenges. Once again the programme is being run in collaboration with corporate innovation specialist, L Marks.

Places on the programme are very coveted, as successful applicants will be co-located and work hand-in-glove with United Utilities to test, develop, improve and demonstrate their product/service offering in a live customer environment over a 12-week period.

As well as getting the chance to test their ideas, participants get unprecedented access to subject matter experts and senior leaders. In previous labs, success in the programme has led to long-term commercial partnerships.

This year each category is focussed on how innovative companies can help United Utilities serve its customers better and help improve performance addressing the following challenges:

Systems Thinking: As equipment and systems get ever more interconnected, United Utilities is looking for innovative companies to help reach the highest levels of capability in each of these focus areas within five years; Asset lifecycle management, Operational Monitoring, Operational Control, Production Planning & Optimisation, Customer Experience, Work Scheduling and Data & Information

Circular Economy & Natural Systems: The water industry relies on the water cycle which is by its nature a circular economy. United Utilities wants to go further and is looking for solutions that make use of the natural system and processes to solve traditional problems across water, wastewater and bio-resources

Future of Water – ODIs and More: Outcome Delivery Incentives (ODIs) are how our regulators and customers measure our performance. We are looking for technologies that can help meet these metrics and provide sustainable, cost effective and relevant services for our customers and help UU meet the challenges of the future

Wildcard: This new category, is open to any new company whose technology could transform any aspect of United Utilities business.

United Utilities chief executive Steve Mogford said:  “Our Innovation Lab programme has already delivered staggering results – not just for us, but for the water sector and for the incredible and exciting companies who’ve taken part. We think it’s a differentiator in the sector and is now firmly part of the way we do business as a company. Thanks to previous labs, we have brought some of the best ideas into our operations, established relationships with suppliers that might never otherwise come our way and are delivering better and lower cost service to our customers.
We’re always astonished at the ingenuity of applicants in improving our business in ways we would not have believed. That’s why we have introduced a new ‘wildcard’ category. We are giving companies an open playing field to tell us what they think we need and I am looking forward to seeing what this year’s cohort brings.”

Daniel Saunders, L Marks Chief Executive, said: “We are delighted to once again to partner with United Utilities in delivering the Innovation Lab. Year-on-year we have witnessed impressive results from the collaboration that takes place during the programme . As we continue to improve and enhance the Lab, I am confident that this year’s challenges will uncover some truly innovative and disruptive solutions and I am excited to see what this third cohort will deliver for United Utilities.”

Applications are open until midday August 9, 2020. For more information about the programme and the four challenge areas, please visit the Innovation Lab website at https://www.unitedutilities.com/innovation