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Embedding Innovation at Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water

We created a bespoke programme for Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, looking at ways of embedding innovation to improve efficiency.

With its unique not-for-profit model in the utilities sector Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water provides essential water and wastewater services to over three million people across much of Wales, Herefordshire and Deeside.

Welsh Water is owned by its customers which means that innovation is crucial to lower costs, limit the impact on the environment and reduce risks.

The company aims to generate around 25% of its energy needs by 2020. Key to this is a vast investment in new technology and effective use of near-to-market innovations.

Welsh Water worked with us to develop innovation capacity across the organisation. The result was a ground-breaking programme that has generated both immediate and long-term benefits.

The programme

The Embedding Innovation programme was built around four days, each of which had knowledge transfer and exploration in the morning and a practical innovation work-stream in the afternoon where participants worked on practical company improvements.

A fifth day facilitated the process of embedding tools and methods throughout the whole organisation. In addition, delegates worked with the programme director to produce an in-house innovation toolkit.

The programme had a unique momentum from abstract concepts through conversation, reflection and new experiences to practical outputs. It surprised delegates, however experienced.

One of them described its effects: "I came away thinking differently about myself, my team and the entire organisation. Six months ago, I’d just have done my job, following a process. Now I enjoy change, take time to step back and remember to take people on the journey with me, thinking about how change impacts on them".

Outcomes

The programme allowed managers from across Welsh Water to pool their knowledge, test existing innovation processes and, in the words of a Waste Water manager, "become better at finding, assessing, buying and contracting for innovation."

We have been delighted with the quality and impact of the Cardiff Business School programme. Expert faculty delivered a truly bespoke course with immediate and long term benefits to Welsh Water – motivated staff working on business innovations than can be transferred across our organisation.

Jodie King, Head of Talent

Projects ranged from developing new products and processes for reviewing equipment faults to an examination of the internal innovation culture and triggers for behaviour change. The Embedding Innovation Programme is now an integral part of Welsh Water’s people/innovation strategy.

“The programme has empowered us to make a difference in the organisation. We are developing what our future looks like!” Dominic Scott, tactical sewerage manager.

Sample innovation project

A change in regulation meant Welsh Water had to review the existing maintenance strategy for their water filters. Quality of service moved centre stage where historically age and deterioration had been the main criteria for replacing filters.

One of the programme participants, Geraint Long, developed a new way to use performance data that provides an optimised 20-year rolling maintenance programme. The new approach to quality improvement is now spreading to other areas within Welsh Water.