UKWIR on the potential of open innovation

Posted on by Steve Whipp

UK Water Industry Research logo

Steve Whipp – Water Innovation Consultant – UK Water Industry Research

As part of its industry-wide research programme undertaken on behalf of the subscribing UK water companies, UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR) has been carrying out a project exploring the potential of open innovation.

Traditionally, the water industry has undertaken R&D in liaison with consultants, universities and suppliers in what has been a fairly defined community. The idea behind open innovation is to set out challenges and to seek ideas from as wide a community as possible.

UKWIR subscribers were keen to explore the potential of this approach and undertook the project to see whether fresh minds could come up with new ideas. The exercise included using social media to get discussion going around a number of selected topics and then to see what ideas people would propose. Small prizes were offered, but evidence showed that people were more motivated by wanting to help and to do good rather than by the offer of prizes.

UKWIR looked at a number of companies that offer facilitation in open innovation and 100%Open was selected as the company who could best run the challenge. A workshop was held with representatives from companies across the UK and this selected the key challenges to be addressed in the project. The challenges were around how could water companies help customers recognise the value of the water they use; what would be meaningful measures of water and how could saving water be made fun. There would also be a challenge around how companies could get the message across that people should not put items down sewers that cause problems.

The website “Water Talkers” was designed and set up by 100%Open who masterminded the challenge and moderated the discussions. A community of 350 people was established, and during the six weeks of the challenge some 366 ideas were put forward. People were encouraged to discuss the ideas and then to vote on those they felt were the best. Over 5000 comments were made about these ideas and over 6000 votes were cast.

The analysis of the great ideas put forward is underway and then the companies will see how they can adopt and exploit them. Once the process has gone further an update report will be provided to Watershed Issues.

For more information, visit the Water Talkers website and get involved!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *