After a successful debut in 2021, the Sydney Water Innovation Festival made a triumphant return at the end of 2022. The event provided an environment for connection, collaboration and innovation to solve some of the greatest challenges facing the water industry and broader society.
The festival delivered live presentations from the Australian Maritime Museum in Sydney, which were also broadcast online to provide a multi day celebration. The series of keynote presentations, panel sessions, fireside chats, ‘tech tanks’ and design sprints challenged and inspired audiences.
Chris Gould, General Manager of Business Development at Sydney Water said, “Our Innovation Festival has once again delivered with both ideas and inspiration. We are so grateful to our many sponsors who helped to make it such a success.”
Technology opportunities – ‘tech tanks’
Dr Michael Storey, Managing Director at Isle Utilities, the delivery partner for the festival, said there was a real focus on the importance of innovation in driving both technological and behavioural change.
“Isle Utilities’ global innovation ecosystem was able to identify and source 27 innovative technologies which were pitched at six ‘Tech Tanks’,” Dr Storey said. Standout technologies that secured the Judges’ Choice or People’s Choice Awards included:
- Organica Water has developed a cost and space efficient, botanical garden-like solution for biological wastewater treatment
- Daupler has developed intelligent incident response management software for water and wastewater utilities
- Overlay brings stability and accuracy to augmented reality in the field. It combines data from a precision GPS device and a smartphone to build a geodetic model of the world and is primarily used for GIS data collection, visualisation of buried assets, 3D models, and associating events to failed assets
- Typhon Treatment Systems has a UVC-LED Treatment System which allows for high flow rate, energy-efficient, disinfection and Advanced Oxidation Processes
- Sedron Technologies is a US-based company that has developed the Varcor System. This technology combines sludge dewatering, drying, and nutrient removal in a single system which provides clean, pathogen-free water, class AA biosolids and a concentrated solution of low boiling point constituents
- Sulfilogger is a Danish company that developed a sensor that continuously measures H2S directly in the wastewater and air. It provides reliable insights in rough environments for data-driven and proactive odour and corrosion control in wastewater
Design Sprint teams examined current challenges in the local water sector and then generated and tested new solutions. The Diversity and Inclusion design sprint built two prototypes – Language Hub and Water Stream Ambassadors. These aim to increase trust by building better ways to communicate with and engage culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) customers.
The Virtual Emergency Control Centre (ECC) design sprint built an operating centre prototype that aims to create (and further enhance) existing emergency management capability, where staff and other stakeholders can operate as part of an effective team in a virtual environment.
The Superior Environmental Performance design sprint built an integrated data platform, which with continuous feedback eliminates sewer overflows under wet and dry conditions through intelligent monitoring and a risk-based approach. The Urban Greening and Cooling design sprint determined that engaging indigenous communities is critical to embedding green infrastructure in policy and design as ‘Business as Usual’.
The solution concept Demonstrating Value for Change is a program for collaborative partnerships taking a landscape-first approach to water industry-owned land. The Liveability (Water Balance) sprint built a ‘River Custodian’ protype that takes a more holistic and whole-of-river approach to management and governance of the Hawkesbury-Nepean River system in Sydney to deliver better environmental outcomes.
The Customer Experience (CX) data sprint (hackathon) generated water use behavioural insights on seasonal, demographic and other factors contributing to water consumption that can be used to better target water efficiency campaigns.
In-depth discussions and call to action
There were four panel sessions at the event, looking at why we need to work in networks, planning for a Circular Economy, achieving resilience in water supply, and a CEO panel about making innovation real.
Why we need to work in networks
Our society is facing some major challenges and the way we plan, design and deliver our cities will require new ways of thinking.
Innovation is key, but meaningful change will require individuals and groups to work together in networks to achieve a successful transformation at scale.
Planning for a Circular Economy
How we might build assets to create broader community value and future-proof the city with a focus on resilience and sustainable approaches to resources management. Also, how we get organisations working more collaboratively to minimise community impacts from development, and to build assets that are resilient to changing conditions and expectations.
Achieving resilience in water supply
An opportunity to share global and local experiences where purified recycled water has been adopted as part of creating a resilient water supply, and to learn about how innovation and other aspects of the journeys of others contributed to implementing purified recycled water.
CEO panel – making innovation real
An insightful panel session led by Adam Lovell, Executive Director of the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA), on how each organisation is harnessing innovation, fostering open innovation and making innovation real.
When it came to keynote speakers, Stan Grant provided an inspiring call to action for the water sector to draw on First Nations’ deep connections to land and waters as we move towards innovative approaches to water management for a sustainable future.
Todd Sampson provided a gripping presentation on improving brain plasticity to be open to innovation, and Naomi Simson from the Big Red Group spoke on the importance of listening to customers to achieve and maintain business success in an increasingly market competitive world.
First Nations’ innovations and perspectives were weaved throughout the festival, with Brett Leavy’s digital song lines and immersive technologies which aim to preserve culture, and Shirley Chowdhary’s talk on diversity and inclusion, and how it leads to innovation.
The urban plunge summit, the splashes and education sector engagement
Sydney Water Innovation Festival 2022 had a key focus on reconnecting people with urban waterways, with the opening of swim sites as part of Sydney Water’s Summer of Swimming, in conjunction with the Urban Plunge Initiative. The Urban Plunge Tech Summit held on the first day of the festival, showcased techniques and innovations that can make swimming and aquatic recreation in our waterways easier, cheaper and safer to deliver.
One of the lighter highlights of the festival was the debate between Australia and the UK – ‘The Splashes’, which was hosted by leading Australian comedian Claire Hooper. The teams debated the topic: ‘Are British bathing pools or Aussie swimming holes better?’ Team Australia was victorious, taking home the coveted miniature toilet trophy.
The festival also played host to an amazing presentation from the students at St Aloysius Catholic Primary School, Cronulla, who have developed an app that will alert the Sutherland Shire Council when the salinity level of the irrigation water, collected in pipes at Gunnamatta Bay and affected by high tides, is too high.
“The Innovation Festival is an opportunity to enhance water sector innovation and to celebrate the fantastic and diverse ideas that can come to life when we are pushed outside our comfort zone,” Mr Gould said. “While the festival may be over, the new ideas don’t stop here. Innovation is a big part of our corporate culture that is encouraged all year. The future is bright!”