Innovation Forum
Event Digital Solutions Europe

It’s time to celebrate the changemakers! Innovation Forum to focus on culture change

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Keynote avocado queen Shawn Harris

The Aquatech Innovation Forum is back!

With the tagline 'Celebrating Water's Changemakers', the event will bring start-ups, investors, utilities and others together in a vibrant atmosphere full of meaningful exchanges.

Taking place on November 1st to kickstart Aquatech Amsterdam activities, the Forum is centred around a Roman Colosseum to drive free-flowing conversations.

Serial entrepreneur Shawn Harris will deliver the opening keynote address.

As well as founding produce wholesaler Nature’s Pride and start-up accelerator, Orange Wings, she also features on the Dragons' Den television show in the Netherlands.

She will discuss why she invested €5 million into PureTerra Ventures, an investment fund that focuses solely on companies that want to solve global water challenges.

Known as the “avocado queen”, the investor will speak on the urgency in which we need to solve water challenges and the need for investors to step up when it comes to water.

Water F**K Up night

Kickstarting the event the evening beforehand, Sunday, October 31st, Aquatech will host a F** Up Night, part of the global movement and event series that shares stories of professional failure.

Aquatech has partnered with the global franchise to bring this exciting event to be a part of the Innovation Forum.

The invitation-only evening is not designed to point the finger at public sector mistakes that could endanger public health. Far from it!

Instead, we want to highlight where f**k ups have occurred in the wider water ecosystem: scaling start-ups or companies, in R&D departments or in partnerships or acquisitions and investments that didn’t work out, for example.

“There’s no better education than creative failure.”

We are taking what has historically been conference side-line, conference hushed discussions about failure, and making them mainstage discussions!

An entrepreneur, leading consultant and multinational water technology company, will share stories of when things didn't work out but how they learned from the experience.

Speakers will include:

  • Victoria Edwards, CEO & Co-Founder, Fido Tech
  • HP Nanda, Global vice president and General Manager, DuPont Water Solutions
  • Dr Piers Clark, Chairman, Isle Utilities.

“I've had a varied career from running a jazz café to running a tech business,” Edwards told Aquatech Online.

“Sometimes it's the things that go horribly wrong that are the richest seam of good ideas. There's no better education than creative failure, and I'm looking forward to celebrating it as it deserves to be.”

Four sessions on culture change in water

The Innovation Forum will feature four discussions on culture change in water, covering the areas: utility culture change, mergers & acquisitions (M&A), AI integration & ageing workforces, and investor diversification in water.

Louise Østergaard Vinther, Lab Agent, Innovation Lab Denmark, will lead the "Utility Culture Change" session and share her experience of "culture mapping" water companies in Denmark.

“Generally, people agree to the fact that culture is one of the most important factors at the workplace. But if you ask what their strategy is when it comes to culture, they seldom have an answer. Culture seems to be a magical thing that just happens to be. But it is not,” said Vinther.

Speaking to Aquatech Online, she said: “You can work systematically with changing and adjusting the culture. How? We often start by taking the pulse of the culture - a “Culture Map” - a survey of the organisation's culture to examine what kind of support the culture might need and where it has its strongest aspects. Why? Because you need to have a clear vision of your culture before you can make a strategy for it and eventually make the changes needed.”

“Culture seems to be a magical thing that happens to be. But it is not.”

"In Innovation Lab, we have experience in working with culture change and culture mapping in different industries and organisations, including the water industry. I'm looking forward to sharing our experience in the Innovation Forum discussion."

Joining her will in the discussion will be Angela MacOscar, Head of Innovation, Northumbrian Water Group, Jan Goossens, CEO, Aquafin N.V., Fionn Boyle, Shop Window Manager, Anglian Water and Gigi Karmous Edwards, President, Karmous Edwards Consulting.

A radical change in mindset

Discussing culture change – how AI and digital tools are helping to overcome the challenge of soon-to-be retiring workforces, Professor Dragan Savic, CEO of KWR Water Research Institute, will lead a separate panel featuring: Jesper Kjelds, Chief Digital Information Officer, Aarhus Vand, Denmark, Pablo Alcoriza, CTO of Idrica and Marinette Hagman, Head of Department, Water Resources & Marine Environment, DHI who is also a project leader for the Future City Flow project.

Other sessions will include a Fireside Chat on culture change after merger & acquisitions – how do you ensure start-ups retain hunger and agility after being incorporated into multinationals with added bureaucracy?

“There needs to be a radical change in mindset and approach to what is new. The time is now!”

Colby Manwaring, CEO of Innovyse, an Autodesk company, will speak on both perspectives – acquiring Canadian AI company, emagin, and his company being acquired by Autodesk for a record $1 billion.

He will be joined by Paolo Zacchi Cossetti, Director, Open Innovation at Xylem, who said: “After years of relative calm, especially compared to other sectors, I see an increased focus in the water sector, with more and more start-ups emerging with innovative solutions and approaches. It is our job to make sure that these innovations catch up with the market and help solve the problems of today and those to come.”

He added: “It is time to stop evaluating new solutions based on what might not work and instead start with the opportunities, what might work, and the impact these solutions might have. There needs to be a radical change in mindset and approach to what is new. Time is now!"

Circular business models, investors & serious gaming

Other notable sessions include a discussion on “Circular Business Models”, featuring Olaf van der Kolk, CEO of AquaMinerals, Peter Vale, Carbon & Circular Economy Architect at Severn Trent and Paul O’Callaghan, Founder & CEO, BlueTech Research.

An all-star, female panel of investors will also share insights on accelerating start-ups and where they see market opportunities to invest in circular solutions.

Moderated by Illana Adamson, Founder & CEO, Be Better, speakers will include Gaetane Suzenet, Managing Partner, International Impact Partners, Anke Verhagen, Business Developer – Sustainability and Circular Economy – Real Estate Finance, Rabobank and Patricia Pastor, Managing Director, GoHub.

Dr Mehdi Khoury, a senior research fellow at the University of Exeter, will run a serious gaming workshop.

Water companies are increasingly using Serious Games to help in their strategic future planning and strategies, helping to link decision support systems, interactive visualisations and data science.

Visitors can actively participate in “Aquatech Town”, a virtual community comprising 300,000 inhabitants. Through a series of correct decisions on the water cycle, players can help the town overcome water stress by implementing circular, energy-efficient solutions.

Introducing the “Digital Derby”

One of the main afternoon sessions will see a series of digital start-ups pitching to an experienced panel to be crowned the Aquatech Innovation Forum Digital Champion.

Chaired by John Robinson, partner of Mazarine Ventures, judges will include Emma Weisbord, Software Innovation Lead, Royal HaskoningDHV Digital, Siven (Cohen) Zamir, Senior Director, Xylem Innovation Labs and Lauren Knight, Digital Partner, Anglian Water.

The digital companies will pitch on their solutions and business models, with the panel and audience interactively voting in real-time for who they think will be crowned the winner.

The four digital start-ups include Amanda Siqueira, CEO, VAPAR, Matt Rolls, VP, Business Development, EMEA, Specific Energy, Adam Tank, Director of Software Solutions, Transcend and Claire Fenwick, Managing Director, nuron.

“The Innovation Forum has brought together some of the leading changemakers.”

Matt Rolls said that innovation in water should not just be limited only to technology innovation but “applied across the framework in which we operate”.

This includes our “appetite for new ideas and ways of working, the way we use our resources and ultimately challenging the status quo”.

He added: “The Aquatech Innovation Forum has brought together some of the leading changemakers in the sector to drive this movement forward, share ideas and foster collaboration, and I'm truly excited to be a part of it.”

For more information and to sign up for the Innovation Forum taking place on November 1st, as part of Aquatech Amsterdam, please visit:

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