Sparking change: Don't wait, innovate!


The final blog in the series of John Russell’s reflections on Ofwat’s digital campaign —Spark!

In a week that has seen freezing temperatures across Britain, the final week of our campaign focuses on the need to turn up the thermostat on innovation.

The world is changing and the pace of change is increasing. This creates uncertainty around what the future might hold; it also puts innovation more closely at the heart of responding to these challenges; and it brings opportunities. That is the focus of this episode.

Mike Barry’s (Marks & Spencer) categorisation of future challenges into three ‘buckets’ – economic, environmental and social – highlights the breadth of what the sector will need to respond to. Simultaneously, the economy will be becoming more digitised, climate change will result in more extreme weather events and the ageing population will continue to grow. Mike’s comment on how social challenges could “utterly disrupt the old way of doing things” seems particularly poignant at the moment and re-emphasises why we can’t think about innovation – or increasingly anything – in isolation.

Our Chief Executive Rachel Fletcher pointed out in the periscope live-stream last week that to capitalise on the opportunities that the future brings, the water sector will have to work together and with other sectors. This is going to be especially key when it comes to tackling the really big challenges such as high population growth, flooding and vulnerability – Zoe McLeod at Sustainability First talks about some really interesting examples around support for customers in vulnerable circumstances in her interview.

There’s also a strong link this week back to our first episode where we talked about how innovation can take lots of different forms (i.e. not just an iPhone). As the Minister – Dr Thérèse Coffey MP – highlights, it’s important for companies, and regulators, to use all of the levers at their disposal in an innovative way to respond to the challenges we face as a sector. Innovative approaches to capital projects, data and collaboration will all play a role in delivering outcomes for customers and the environment now and in the future.

Having said that this is the end of Spark!, that’s not entirely true. We’ve decided to release a special bonus feature of Spark! ‘Keeping the Spark: Reflections on Innovation’ at 11am on Tuesday 6 March 2018. So stayed tuned one last time for that!

We hope you enjoy the bonus feature and that you’ve found the whole campaign thought-provoking and inspiring. I’d also like to add my personal thanks to everyone who contributed to the campaign for offering their insights and helping to Spark! conversations.

Please continue to get involved with the discussion around innovation using #SparkInnovation on Twitter, YouTube, Linkedin, Facebook and Instagram. Also, feel free to follow me on Twitter: @John59131249

This is the fourth of four weekly blogs with my reflections on Ofwat’s digital campaign —Spark! Click to see blogs from
week one, week two and week three.