Open innovation in the water sector
Professor Carolyn Roberts, Director of the Environmental Sustainability Knowledge Transfer Network, calls for major shifts in the way we think about water and wastewater. She writes about open innovation and the principles of collaboration for water management in the Water and Sewerage Journal.
Roberts notes that a recent surge of interest in innovation in the water sector is an encouraging sign. The impetus for change comes from emerging pressures such as the Water Framework Directive, carbon reduction targets and growing concerns about sustainability. Water companies are starting to rethink their approaches but Roberts suggests that a fundamental paradigm shift may be needed.
“Government backing and open innovation principles of collaboration and partnerships have underpinned the changes in the waste sector, but despite the rhetoric, a steer clear for water management is yet to emerge” she writes.
Progress is being seen in some areas, such as leakage control and anaerobic digestion for treating waste. But imagination is limited, says Roberts, and planning for cities where water, energy and waste sytems are monitored and managed together is far from the norm.
According to Roberts, the solution must be like an orchestra creating great music. The various and overlapping sectors, such as water, energy and land management, along with the cross-cutting themes of resource efficiency and carbon management, need to be managed collaboratively and creatively to produce a harmonious whole.