Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the group held its first ever online-focused festival, with it all taking place around a central theme: ‘Built Back Better’. The event featured several activities and workshops, all of which encouraged participants to find the best ways in which our “world can adapt and recover in response to the virus.”
Angela MacOscar, Northumbrian Water’s Head of Innovation, issued a statement saying: “Given that the need for innovation is even greater now than ever, and that the change brought to all of our lives by COVID-19 could be used as a catalyst to make things happen, we took the brave decision to go digital and hold our first ever, online Innovation Festival.”
As was the case with every other year, the festival tried to bring ideas and push projects that could help solve some of the most pressing environmental and societal issues.
This year the events featured nearly 3 000 attendees from 37 countries. Together, they came up with more than 4 000 ideas from which the event highlighted 100 BIG ideas including: two business models, nine digital solutions, six apps, 10 devices and 11 campaigns.
MacOscar stated: "The sheer volume of work accomplished across the week was absolutely incredible. It just goes to show what’s possible when you put the right people in a virtual ‘tent’ with the time to really think about a challenge."
For the duration of the festival, the events registered 388 training hours, 206 zoom meetings, four and half years worth of work and 22 895 website views. All the work was accomplished through four-day ‘Design Sprints’, Daily Dash (a one day sprint), Data Hacks and Years Worth of Work in a Week (YWIW).
The ‘Design Sprints’ consist of developing a five-stage plan during the course of four to five days. This year these events included projects like Save the World in collaboration with CGI. This event focused on coming up with ways in which to achieve net-zero carbon emissions in the North East.
Additionally, the YWIW focused on “accelerating delivery of an idea or initiative.” This year, in collaboration with Newcastle University and others. The project consists of studying methods of making cleaner alternatives to gas and electricity more accessible to low income households.
A spokesperson from Newcastle University said: "Work is now taking place to take forward some of the ideas that came out of this process. This includes considering how the proposed Customer Energy Village at the InTEGRel site could be used to accelerate the decarbonisation in a way that is fair for all in our society and benefits our climate."
MacOscar told The Courier: “A variety of different ideas stood out to me, for their creativity and resourcefulness. For example, Wipro looked at creating a wearable device to improve safety of our staff who work in remote locations.
“A few teams looked at the impact that COVID-19 is having on employees working from home, and Ntegra are devising a ‘watercooler space’ where colleagues can catch-up. This will be a brilliant way of keeping people connected during these uncertain times.”
MacOscar closed her statement by stating: “I just can’t wait to watch all of the different projects develop and to see how they benefit the sector.”
Feature Image: Northumbrian Water Group