Ahead of her participation at the World Water-Tech Innovation Summit next month, we spoke to British Water CEO, Lila Thompson to find out more about the barriers members of British Water are facing in scaling up proven digital innovations and the strategies and technologies need to adopt to convert digital into real value

Can you tell us more about your role at British Water and why it is important for you to be a part of the water-tech ecosystem at World Water-Tech Innovation Summit?

I have been a proactive supportive of the World Water-Tech Innovation Summit from its start – initially whilst in the role of International Director and now as the Chief Executive of British Water. British Water represents a supply community of water companies, consultants, contractors, manufacturers, suppliers, academic institutions and key stakeholders which works globally to deliver sustainable and practical solutions to solve tomorrow’s water challenges. The community part is key because we can only deliver effective projects by listening and being willing to work in partnership.

The World Water-Tech Innovation Summit therefore provides our members with a platform to share their best practice and expertise and learn from other leaders in the field. This is therefore a key event in the calendar for British Water as a significant proportion of our members are SMEs and it is widely acknowledged that innovation comes from the bottom-up (the SMEs) and not top-down. The more British Water and the World Water-Tech Innovation Summit can do therefore to connect innovative ideas and solutions to potential adopters of innovation the better.

What barriers are your members facing in scaling up proven digital innovations? What strategies and technologies do we, in your opinion, need to adopt to convert digital into real value?

Members face several challenges in scaling up proven digital innovations including access to finance, commitment to risk-sharing, opportunities for partnering and identifying the right personnel in client companies with whom to engage in discussions. The profile on how to scale up proven innovations should be easier for companies to navigate with a one-stop shop where companies can get the information they need when they need it. In order to convert digital into real value the key however lies in having people who are willing and empowered to be agile to adopt innovations and having buy-in across an organization so that all personnel are part of a digital journey.

What impact do you see through British Water’s Better Information Management approach to digital transformation and how does an approach like this help overcome these barriers?

Our running of the secretariat for BIM4Water and our Data & Analytics Focus Group enable us to have a clear view of the challenges facing the water industry in its digital transformation and also gives us sight of how other industry sectors are performing. The large number of companies that are involved in both initiatives enables water companies and the supply chain to collaborate on developing the frameworks and standards needed for BIM adoption and digitalization of the water industry. This collaboration also enables sharing what works and what does not work and what still needs to be done. All of those involved are keen to see best practice improved in the UK for the benefit of customers and those constructing and maintaining assets.

Which key discussion point/s are you most looking forward to in your panel session? Why are these a particular focus for you?

As chair of the panel Digital Integration into Real Value I am really looking forward to hearing live examples where organisations are trying to capture the value of digital integration. I am also particularly interested in exploring how culture prevents integration and what can be done to bring about change through inspiration whilst at the same time acknowledge the differing pace of individual and corporate journeys. Learning how utilities can scale innovations into their day-to-day operations will really enable the audience to better understand how best to serve utilities with the right solutions.

Lila will chair the panel, Converting Digital Integration into Real Value, where she will be joined by:
Frédéric Renaut, Director of Digital Innovation, SAUR
Matt Crabtree, Director of Engineering, SOUTH WEST WATER
Nigel Watson, Chief Innovation Officer, NORTHUMBRIAN WATER
Marie-Pierre Whaley