W-Lab Summit 2022 Livescribe
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Together with the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) and ThinkPlace, Isle Utilities has established a world-leading technology and innovation program, W-Lab. Since 2020, the W-Lab program has achieved incredible advances for the water industry, engaging over 300 utility staff members to bring a Technology Roadmap to life. 

From a pipeline of 322 technology solutions identified and assessed, the W-Lab process has delivered:  

W Lab achievements

A recent three-day virtual and in-person Ideation Summit invited members together in an interactive environment to review the roadmap, following the experience of its first two years. The summit explored how the program could be adapted to further support the Australian and New Zealand water industries in meeting their goals. This included reframing problems into opportunities for innovation. 

The new Roadmap will be released in August, and will continue to be a blueprint for the Australian and New Zealand water industries, which they can use as a resource to drive important discussions on how the water industry needs to innovate internally, in the boardroom and with their key stakeholders. 

Dr Alex Cech, Chief Technology Officer at Isle Utilities (Asia-Pacific), said the Roadmap, initially created in 2020, identified the key challenges to the industry across four defined innovation frames:

  • Flows (circular economy)
  • Nature (extraction of water from nature)
  • Enterprise (optimising utilities’ internal processes such as asset management and work-flow management)
  • Customer

“Isle was then able to use our global reach to match those challenges with technologies and solutions from around the world to create bespoke solutions for the water sector,” Mr Cech said. 

“The 2022 Ideation Summit provided a chance for WSAA members to review, renew and refresh the W-Lab Roadmap co-created by the members in 2020 and to further guide principles for industry collaboration.”

Review

In the lead up to the Summit, the W-Lab team interviewed members and conducted research to define key priority areas for the Australian and New Zealand water sectors. These priority areas provided the framework to review existing opportunities, and consider new avenues for the second phase of the program:  

  • Customer Centricity
  • Workforce Health and Safety
  • Liveability and Environmental Health
  • Workforce Capability Development
  • Climate Change Response
  • Service Delivery Resilience
  • Transitioning to a Circular Economy
  • Supply Optimisation

In reviewing the 2020 Roadmap, the members examined current opportunity areas, identified gaps and proposed new opportunity areas to be included in the updated Roadmap. 

Following the identification of new opportunity areas within each of the innovation frames, discussions turned to how the priority opportunities might be implemented across the industry. 

To review the industry capability transparently at organisation level and to enable a refresh of the W-Lab cycle and technology panel make-up, members were asked to nominate their organisations (or individuals within), as either experts or interested parties for each of the synthesised areas as follows: 

Renew

Executives from across the W-Lab membership were invited to share their strategic direction and provide their perspective on renewing their organisation’s involvement in W-Lab. The engagement ensured the team understood the role and value of W-Lab in exploring innovative technologies to help meet strategic priorities in organisations and gather organisational buy-in. 

Key themes were put forward on how W-Lab can structure its program for success over the next two years, including to:

  • Link innovative and emerging technologies across the globe to strategic business outcomes in Australia and New Zealand 
  • Bring leading technology and innovation practices from other industries to the water sector 
  • Provide information to enable executives to make appropriate decisions 
  • Align the Roadmap to achieve customer-centric outcomes 
  • Consider the role that W-Lab could play in developing emerging technology, including incubation of start-ups 
  • Greater integration of W-Lab within the organisations 
  • Understand the risk tolerance from the business and how they apply across the opportunity areas 
  • Address business risks by converting them into strategic opportunities for innovation

Refresh

The Manager Environment and Technology Research for WSAA, Jason Mingo, said, “W-Lab is more than just the technologies. We really want W-Lab to be about how best to support members in collaborating around shared challenges and opportunities.

“We are always listening to members and examining what it is about the W-Lab process that we can change, update or provide more focus on. This summit provided us the chance to assess and refresh our process accordingly.”

The Summit examined real-life examples of how innovation could be applied within the sector and within the community, providing guidance to develop industry collaboration, to share knowledge and solve problems more efficiently and holistically. 

Discussion also took place around some of the trends for future-focused thinking, building high performing teams and how to manage discomfort through change. 

Dr Cech added, “The overriding take-away from the Ideation Summit was that maximum success can be achieved through strong collaboration between industry members, the community and innovators outside the water industry. 

“Thank you to our W-Lab members who have provided invaluable input into the refreshed Roadmap, which will be published in the very near future.”

For more detail of the Ideation Summit and how the outcomes are being implemented by W-Lab with the water industry, keep an eye out for the upcoming Roadmap (soon to be released). For more information, or to join W-Lab, please contact Dr Kelly Hill, Isle Utilities [email protected].

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