Sydney Water’s Innovation Festival will be beginning in just over a week, on the 18-20 October, 2021.

Nicola Nelson, Manager, Research and Innovation at Sydney Water said, “If you are in any way connected to the water industry and haven’t done so, you should register now, because the Festival is not to be missed. Over 600 have currently registered.

“You can register at

“The Innovation Festival is not a conference, it’s about bringing together many different voices in a safe environment, designed to be more interactive and engaging – opening up the challenge of innovation.

“We want to tackle some of the toughest societal and environmental problems using the best of digital platforms and tools, to inspire fresh ideas and to create tangible outputs. We are going to showcase and develop innovative solutions towards some of our biggest problems and challenges around water security and resilience.

“We’re partnering with Northumbrian Water in the UK for what’s going to be a truly global event.

“Importantly, in the current times of COVID, the Festival will be lots of fun.”

The Sydney Water Innovation Festival program is focused around six themes: Amplifying the Voices of Aboriginal Peoples, Circular Economy, Water Security, Smart Cities, Liveability and Customer Experience.

Keynote Speakers

A stellar line-up of speakers has been locked in – Craig Reucassel, the star of “War on Waste” and “Fight for Planet A” on ABC TV will talk on circular economy and its connection to innovation and water. Catherine Caruana-McManus, Co-Founder of Meshed, will discuss Smart Cities innovation and some exciting developments about how we use data and IoT to shape our cities, and Dr Karl Kruszelnicki will present on the many issues associated with sustainable water management.

A highlight will include the Winang-Ali indigenous panel which will explore how water connects us.

Design Sprints 

Design Sprints form the core of the Festival – ‘the engine room for tangible outcomes’. 

Each Design Sprint will target one of the key innovation themes. 

Aboriginal Voice

Veronica Murphy, First Nation’s Inclusion Specialist at Sydney Water, said that we acknowledge the role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first engineers in this Country. 

“The Festival will foster opportunities for deep listening with the aim of learning from and amplifying the voices of Aboriginal peoples,” Ms Murphy said. 

Dr Alex Cech, Chief Technology Officer at Isle Utilities Asia Pacific, the Delivery Partner of the Festival, further stated that there is an incredible opportunity to blend Aboriginal traditional knowledge with western science to find innovative ways to better manage our waterways and protect the environment. 

“Time and again in western civilisation we see that the answers we are seeking are already there, we just haven’t been observant or listened well enough,” Ms Cech said. 

Circular Economy 

The water sector is committed to closing the loop on waste to sustain a true circular economy where biosolids, nutrients, water and energy are maintained in their highest value form for the benefit of the immediate community. Our Design Sprint will look at how the water sector can contribute to new value-add products to create a circular economy and what the benefits will be to water utilities and their customers.

Water Security

Australian water utilities are progressing in purifying recycled water for drinking. To enable this, there is a requirement to improve wastewater source control, so what are the ways we can ensure consistency of wastewater quality as a source of purified recycled water for drinking?

Smart Cities 

The Smart Cities datahack will bring together the brightest data scientists from Sydney Water and their key delivery partners in what is shaping up as one of the highlights of the Festival.  

The “hack” will be supported by NSW Chief Data Scientist and UTS Industry Professor, Ian Oppermann, as well as Distinguished Professor, Fang Chen, and her team of leading analysts at UTS. The Smart Cities hackathon will tackle the issue of how to better understand Sydney’s wastewater networks and sewer overflows to deliver a better customer experience.


Providing water for blue-green spaces, urban amenity and urban cooling will require the provision of water at its highest value, that is fit-for-purpose, cost effective and in a way that increases the waterway health and natural capital of these assets. How can we all be a part of the solution?

Customer Experience

All water utilities aim to provide a world-class customer experience, shaped by the needs and lifestyles of their customers and partners. How can we create a sense of safety, belonging and connection for people when they interact with our products and services? 

Technology Shark Tanks 

New, fresh and novel technologies from start-up to scaled-up and commercially ready will be presented in a Shark Tank format across the six key themes. 

Ms Cech said, “The Festival has leveraged Isle Utilities’ global innovation ecosystem to identify and source innovative technologies to be presented at the Shark Tank. The event will provide an opportunity for start-ups and technology companies to pitch their innovative products, services or processes to a panel of Sydney Water and sponsor senior managers, with winners being announced at the Festival Closing Event on 20 October. 

“Winners will receive support from the sponsors and Sydney Water in taking the next steps towards developing their concept further.”

Fireside Chat 

A Fireside Chat will explore the challenges and opportunities to drive innovation in the water sector, including risk appetite and tolerance of failure, along with the role of regulators in not only driving innovation but also promoting greater innovation in the sector, through regulatory incentives.  

This session will be hosted by Adam Lovell, CEO at Water Services Association of Australia and the panel will include Roch Cheroux, MD at Sydney Water Corporation, Heidi Mottram, MD of Northumbrian Water Group, Tracy Mackey, NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) CEO, Sandra Gamble IPART Tribunal Member & UK Environmental and Economic regulators.

In addition, a Board Members Panel will investigate how to better drive a culture of innovation in the water industry and a CEO Innovation Chat will examine technology that is needed but doesn’t exist yet.

The Brilliant Debate

One of the lighter highlights of the Festival will be The Brilliant Debate – ‘The Splashes’, which is the equivalent of the Ashes in cricket for the water sector. The Australian and UK Brilliant Debate teams will be competing on “who is better at innovation – Australia or the UK?” 

Ms Cech concluded, “It’s wonderful to have the support of Utility Magazine as a Bronze Sponsor to spread the word to its subscribers and readers.

“We look forward to welcoming as many as possible to the Festival”.

Register now at:

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