Reece Innovation Design the Future at NWG Innovation Festival

15th July 2017

Nigel Watson, Northumbrian Water Group Information Services Director

Reece Innovation was proud to be a headline sponsor of the first Northumbrian Water Group (NWG) Innovation Festival.

The ground-breaking event in Newcastle aimed to bring together the best innovative minds, using design ‘sprint’ thinking to create new solutions to some of the biggest social and environmental challenges we face.

The team from Reece Innovation led a sprint aimed at finding ways to upgrade infrastructure for the 21st Century with a group comprising businesses, academics, schools and members of the public.

Chris Pywell, director, Reece Innovation, said: “The objectives of the festival are very much in line with what we are trying to do as a company at Reece Innovation.

Industry experts join forces with academics and members of the public for just one of the many sprints

“The highlight of the week for me was how it has brought so many industry experts together creating the potential for future exciting collaborations.

“We want communities to be healthier, safer, more connected, more energy efficient and more attractive places to live, work and study.

“To achieve these objectives, new and improved infrastructure that is smarter, more sustainable, more efficient and more effective, is needed.

“While it is vital that individual people, businesses and organisations play their part, upgrades to infrastructure such as water, energy, communications and transport networks is key.

“Investment in ‘softer’ networks, such as health, safety, education, wellbeing and the natural environment are also very important. Further, our future will need many of these networks to be integrated, often by new digital technologies.

“The wholesale replacement of existing infrastructure is simply not feasible, as it would be unaffordable, extremely disruptive and a waste of existing resources. The sprint team were asked to identify linked innovations that will enable our infrastructure to evolve, looking at different types of community; urban residential, mixed commercial and rural.”

The festival, supported by global and regional businesses including IBM, Microsoft, CGI, Ordnance Survey and BT, was also an opportunity to showcase Reece Innovation and Tellus Utilities products Hyrdrapulse and ORCA.

Reece Innovation and Tellus Utilities support the event

Nigel Watson, Northumbrian Water Group Information Services Director, said: “Infrastructure upgrades are vital but the way they are done can often be a bone of contention that sees people torn between necessity and disruption.

“Cost is also at the heart of many arguments over such upgrades, so the Reece Innovation sprint has real value that everyone can appreciate and, potentially, benefit from in the future.”

Read more about our Sprint’s key findings below:

Preparing for the Future: How do we upgrade our infrastructure for the 21st Century effectively and affordably?

• Greater sharing of information between businesses, to ensure that services can be delivered in a way that better suits customers, with a particular focus upon those members of the public who are vulnerable and need additional support.

• Sensor mapping technology that improves knowledge of the various service infrastructure, such as gas, electricity and water, that lies beneath the ground.

• The introduction of a system where communities can tell companies, such as those that deliver services, what is important to them. This would enable businesses to better understand and provide for the needs of those communities.

• The introduction of shared infrastructure corridors, allowing different businesses to use the same pipes for their services, improving information sharing and reducing the impact upon the public of maintenance.

• The use of technology such as fibre optics to improve the data available on utilities networks, particularly focusing on pipes and cables beneath the ground, to allow companies to identify problems more quickly and understand what is going on underground.

Inspiring the Next Generation of Engineers

Students rise to the challenge to design the teenage bedroom of the future

Reece Innovation also supported a series of STEM activities during the week. Through a combination of practical activities, creative challenges and the chance to meet experts from around the world, the festival also aims to enthuse young people with careers involving science, maths, engineering and technology (STEM) skills.

A group of students were tasked with designing the teenage bedroom of the future – coming up with ideas including virtual reality decorating and a self-cleaning floor.

Chris Pywell, added: “As well as dedicating a week to tackling some very serious social and environmental issues, the NWG Innovation Festival aims to inspire young people about the possibilities of careers that involve STEM skills.

“It’s been great to be working with partners such as Northumbrian Water and the Life Science Centre on such an ambitious Innovation Festival that we hope will result in many benefits for people across the North East and beyond.”

Carl Luke, STEM Lead at Hotspur Primary School, Heaton, Newcastle, said: “It was brilliant for our children to meet real industry leaders and see all the different opportunities that are open to them.

“Being part of the NWG Innovation festival will raise aspirations and has really excited them about their future possibilities.”

To find out more about the NWG Innovation Festival visit:

Listen to Chris Pywell talking about why Reece Innovation is proud to sponsor the NWG Innovation Festival (8:10mins)