Utilities Digital Solutions Europe

VIDEO: Angela MacOscar on putting innovation festival ideas into practice

Tuesday, 15 August 2023

Angela MacOscar, head of innovation at Northumbrian Water Group, sheds light on what happens to the ideas and innovations that emerge from the group’s Innovation Festival and how they are turned into actionable realities.

Promising ideas that make a difference

Innovation festivals are dynamic platforms that foster creativity and collaboration, bringing together bright minds to tackle real-world challenges and create groundbreaking solutions. Much like Aquatech’s own Innovation Forum which ignites fruitful discussions on the future of water and takes place at Aquatech Amsterdam in November

Speaking to Aquatech Online on the sidelines of NWG’s Innovation Festival, Angela MacOscar says: “The Innovation Festival week is an exhilarating journey of exploration, with numerous sprint hacks and dashes addressing various challenges; it is an opportunity for participants to transform their ideas into prototypes and test them in a practical setting. However, the true impact of the festival unfolds after its conclusion.”


NWG takes a proactive approach to evaluate all the outputs generated during the festival. MacOscar emphasizes that the focus is on identifying the most promising ideas that can make a genuine difference in the utility's operations and services. These selected ideas receive essential seed funding, providing them with the initial support to advance their development.

However, seed funding alone is often insufficient to fully realise the potential of these innovations, she adds, highlighting the significance of seeking additional funding opportunities. NWG aims to identify ideas that have the potential to attract other sources of funding beyond the festival. This could involve collaborating with government bodies, investors, or other funding resources.

To achieve this, NWG leverages the power of collaboration by forming consortiums. These strategic partnerships bring together diverse stakeholders, including academia, industry experts, investors, and other relevant players. By fostering these collaborations, NWG aims to provide the necessary resources, expertise, and support for the selected ideas to progress from ideation to implementation.

Innovation teams

Central to this process is the innovation team at NWG. They serve as facilitators, guiding innovators and project teams through the next stages of development. Their mission is to ensure that the projects receive the support required to propel them forward and transform them into actionable solutions.

“By creating consortiums and securing additional funding, NWG extends its innovation capacity. This approach not only benefits the projects at hand but also creates an ecosystem where innovation can flourish, fostering a continuous cycle of creative solutions,” says the head of innovation. 

“The essence of the Innovation Festival lies not in grandiose statements but in the tangible results it produces. The true excitement comes from witnessing these ideas transition into real solutions that address challenges and make a lasting impact,” she adds. 

Driving progress and change 

One of the biggest projects to come out of the Innovation Festival and most well-known, is the National Underground Asset Register (NUAR).
Adopted by the UK Government this single, digital map is helping utility workers to accurately see the complex world of pipes and cables beneath their feet, reducing utility strikes, disruption for customers and ultimately saving lives.

Innovation festivals play a vital role in driving progress and change. The process of turning ideas into action involves careful evaluation, seed funding and collaboration with consortiums and other funding sources.