Innovation Lacking in UK Water Sector, Study Finds

The UK Water Company Performance Survey published annually by British Water has recently revealed that there has been a slower uptake of innovative technologies in the water sector. The low rate of improvement causes issues on the entire supply chain.


According to the survey, innovation takes the lowest scoring item among eleven areas considered, which include contractual approach, communication, and professionalism.


Failing to meet expectations


Industry regulator Ofwat has recently challenged water companies to seek better ways of addressing key issues like rising consumer bills. The recent survey results show an unfortunate tumble in the sector’s innovation area at a time where there should have been an increase in new technologies.


The water sector is met with unprecedented challenges, such as climate change, higher customer expectations, and population growth. Experts are saying that radical change needs to be implemented to achieve the Ofwat AMP7 targets that benefit consumers and the environment.


The UK Water Company Performance Survey involves contractors, suppliers, and consultants who rated their client firms’ performance in eleven key areas.


British Water’s UK Forum incoming chairman Shaun Stevens stated that the low scores in innovation expose the weakness of the sector. It also explains why the supply chain has grown frustrated with the current situation. Much of the industry feel that there is a slow rate of innovation adoption on the part of the water firms and their delivery partners.

Stevens added that innovation remains a core focus in several dialogues by water companies, which concerns outdated technical standards, adversarial commercial models, and underfunding that prevent the uptake of new and emerging technologies.


Stevens is currently the EPS Water general manager.


Pockets of innovation


Based on the 2020-2025 business plans submitted by various water companies, Ofwat has seen some innovative ideas, which show promise regarding the sector’s digital transformation. However, Stevens maintained that there has to be a cultural shift that prompts the entire water industry to answer key challenges to drive transformational innovation.


Lila Thompson, British Water CEO, said that every level of the supply chain is embedded with the expertise and skills needed to fulfil the AMP7’s targets to improve consumer welfare and environmental benefits. She further urged water firms to look into the valuable feedback as they plan their next steps.


This year’s survey revealed drops on scores across all eleven areas, but experts reckon it is likely due to the previous transition to AMP7 from AMP6. During this period, key teams were focused on regulatory submissions, which could have affected the management of the supply chain and sector perceptions.


Thompson thanked all participants of the recently concluded survey, which garnered 256 responses. The trade association took it as a great show of engagement, considering the recent COVID-19 pandemic that has left an impact on the different industries, including water.

Quick rundown of the survey results


In terms of innovation, this year’s survey showed a score of 6.7, four points lower than the average 7.1 rates given by respondents last year.


In the area of contractual approaches, such as terms and conditions, and fair treatment, the industry average for 2020 received a score of 7.6, which is four counts lower than 2019’s 8.0.


Most areas docked only a point from the 2019 survey, which could indicate more or less a steady performance from stakeholders in the water sector.


Stevens reflected on the industry’s overall improvement, lauding water companies for improving management practices and supply chain management. However, he also acknowledged the need for more work.


Northumbrian Water was recognised in the CEO’s press release for claiming the top spot in the survey and consistently ranking high in recent years. The company is said to have successfully integrated digital initiatives and closely collaborated with partners to secure its stellar performance.


Other companies that were specially mentioned are United Utilities and Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, which Stevens identified as the firms that made significant improvements in 2020. The said companies were able to target changes to relieve their supplier’s pain points.






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