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Innovation Festival 2023 a huge success

Innovation Festival site

Northumbrian Water’s Innovation Festival took place from the 10th to the 13th of July 2023.

Here, the company’s Head of Innovation Angela MacOscar discusses the festival’s seventh edition, and the 40,000 new connections that were made because of the workshops, presentations and networking sessions that took place. 

Angela MacOscar

What an incredible week we have just had at the amazing Newcastle Racecourse. Innovation Festival 2023 surpassed all expectations on so many fronts!

Tackling challenges together   

Our seventh Innovation Festival attracted over 2,500 people from 33 counties across the UK to work on 40 tough challenges that impact the water sector, the environment and society. It is the people that make the event a success, bringing their whole selves along willing to learn, understand, be creative and sometimes be pushed out of their comfort zone in the quest to make things better. All the challenges uncovered new ways of doing things that at minimum will change things incrementally, while some will shoot like rockets and really make a meaningful difference.  

One thing is for sure, everyone will be changed for the better by the experience. We had many inspirational speakers sharing their thoughts and experiences who helped us to think differently. Over 40,000 connections were made over the week and many of these will lead to a new project or collaboration. 

Innovation Festival session

Supply chain and ecosystem  

We run the festival to make a difference and to improve the products and services we give to our customers. We do not have all the answers and we very much need the expertise and partnership with the supply chain and academia to find groundbreaking solutions. At Northumbrian Water we embrace the open innovation model, and the Innovation Festival is testament to that.  

We were delighted to welcome over 650 organisations and 21 universities to work with us to tackle these tough challenges. As a result of these 40 activities there will be solutions that we can embed immediately, some that are achievable but will need more time to bring to life and some that are so ambitious that a lot more time and funding will be required to make them a reality. 

Innovation Festival session

Innovation culture  

The festival is different each year and Newcastle Racecourse provides an ideal backdrop to the hard work that is needed. The summertime festival vibe democratises innovation, everyone is in casual clothing and the name badges only show somebody’s organisation. Everyone’s ideas are heard and valued – irrespective of rank in an organisation.  

Diversity is key and this has been steadily building over time and felt amazing this year. It genuinely felt like a truly inclusive event. This diversity enables us to produce more creative solutions that can originate in a variety of places including in similar sectors, un-related sectors, and simply because of individual life experiences.  

Northumbrian Water Group’s innovation culture is enriched as more than 700 employees were actively involved in the festival this year. This enables our employees to share thoughts and ideas, specific pinch points that need solutions, create valuable new connections, and get much needed inspiration from others. This will all continue to shape our company culture and desire to change and make the future better. 

Innovation Festival presentation

Open to change  

A key part of the festival is the openness to change and a desire to improve our operations and services for now and for the future. This comes with the need for hard work, perseverance, the ability to draw on a network with broad skills and openness to failure. All this is part of innovation, and it is not easy. By mixing in the lighter aspects of the festival, this numbs some of that pain, imparts the skills to be able to navigate these challenges and offers a chance to collaborate with the most amazing people.

The future certainly feels bright after having spent a week with the thousands of like-minded souls that make up our innovation community. Watch this space for our 2024 edition!

To find out more about Northumbrian Water’s Innovation Festival visit: 


VIDEO: Ideas to watch from Innovation Festival 2023

VIDEO: Highlights of Innovation Festival 2023