North East Connected

Reece Innovation Leads The Search For Infrastructure Answers At NWG Innovation Festival

Engineering experts Reece Innovation will be leading a group comprising businesses, academics, schools and members of the public in a week-long search for new ideas on the way infrastructure is upgraded.

The focus on delivering affordable and effective infrastructure upgrades comes as part of Northumbrian Water Group’s (NWG) Innovation Festival, which is bringing together some of the world’s leading businesses to tackle major social and environmental challenges.

The festival aims to bring together the best innovative minds, using design ‘sprint’ thinking to explore and create new solutions to some of the biggest social and environmental challenges we face. ‘Sprints’ apply leading design thinking techniques to problem solving.

Tyneside-based specialists in innovation in engineering, Reece Innovation will lead a sprint aimed at finding ways to upgrade infrastructure for the 21st Century at the festival, which takes place at Newcastle Racecourse from July 10 to July 14, with 400 people expected to attend each of the five days.

The challenge set is to find ways to support the development and evolution of neighbourhoods and communities, through affordable infrastructure upgrades.

Chris Pywell, Reece Innovation Director, said: “We want communities to be healthier, safer, more connected, more energy efficient and more attractive places to live, work and study. To achieve these objectives, new and improved infrastructure that is smarter, more sustainable, more efficient and more effective, is needed.

“While it is vital that individual people, businesses and organisations play their part, upgrades to infrastructure such as water, energy, communications and transport networks is key. Investment in ‘softer’ networks, such as health, safety, education, wellbeing and the natural environment are also very important. Further, our future will need many of these networks to be integrated, often by new digital technologies.

“The wholesale replacement of existing infrastructure is simply not feasible, as it would be unaffordable, extremely disruptive and a waste of existing resources. The sprint team will be asked to identify a number of linked innovations that will enable our infrastructure to evolve, looking at different types of community; urban residential, mixed commercial and rural.”

‘Preparing for the Future’: How do we upgrade our infrastructure for the 21st Century, effectively and affordably? will start on the Monday, when the gathered delegates will scope the nature of the problem, and work through the week to develop key ideas that will be subjected to scrutiny from members of the public. At the end of the week, the sprint’s findings will be presented to a gathering of industry experts and regulators.

The Innovation Festival is supported by headline sponsors IBM, Microsoft, Reece Innovation, CGI, Ordnance Survey and BT, who will be leading the search for answers to other big social and environmental questions.

Nigel Watson, Northumbrian Water Group Information Services Director, said: “Infrastructure upgrades are vital but the way they are done can often be a bone of contention that sees people torn between necessity and disruption. Cost is also at the heart of many arguments over such upgrades, so the sprint that Reece Group is leading has real value that everyone can appreciate and, potentially, benefit from in the future.”

The work to tackle six key problems will take place in a true festival environment that will also feature live comedy and music, as well as inspirational talks.

The big questions under consideration during the week are:

• ‘Rain, Hail or Shine’: How can we reduce flooding? Led by headline sponsor IBM

• ‘Keep It Flowing’: What do we know about leakage from water pipes and how can we fix it? Led by NWG and headline sponsor Microsoft, alongside a Microsoft-led Hackathon of data relating to leakage.

• ‘Preparing for the Future’: How do we upgrade our infrastructure for the 21st Century effectively and affordably? Led by headline sponsor Reece Innovation

• ‘Tomorrow’s World’: What will living and working look like in 2030? Led by headline sponsor CGI

• ‘How Green is Your City?’: What can businesses do to improve the environment in the North East? Led by headline sponsor Ordnance Survey

• ‘21st Century Reach’: How can we optimise a mobile workforce for a complex network business? Led by headline sponsor BT

The NWG Innovation Festival is also being delivered in association with Newcastle University, Genesys, Interserve, Costain Resources, PC1, Tech Mahindra, Mott MacDonald Bentley (MMB), Wipro, Virgin Media Business, Schneider, Wheatley Solutions, Sopra Steria, Accenture, 1Spatial, Infosys, Unify and Esh-MWH.

Young people will be welcomed into the Festival with the opportunity for five lucky sixth formers to join each sprint group. There will also be a separate schools challenge, facilitated by Reece Innovation, to design the teenager’s bedroom of the future. Younger children will have the opportunity to join in the fun in a ‘mini maker fayre’, hosted by the Centre for Life in Newcastle.

People can find out more about what’s taking place at the NWG Innovation Festival, and how they can get involved at

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