Utilities Digital Solutions Europe Angela Macoscar

Viewpoint: Angela MacOscar on identifying problems that need solving

Angela MacOscar
Tuesday, 14 March 2023

It all starts with a problem

For innovation to succeed in any sector it must start with a clear need - a genuine problem that needs solving - and most importantly someone that wants the problem to be solved. Someone who is committed to supporting and funding the resources to make it happen. 

However, problem solving is a team sport and the path to the solution will be a bumpy ride, so it’s not for the feint hearted. 

All too often a new technology, product or service will come along and we try to make it fit, we want it to be our great ‘solution,’ but usually this doesn’t end well.
Clearly defining the problem is crucial. But it isn’t always easy. 

In the water sector the problems are truly wicked, some of them are so huge they need to be broken down into smaller, more solvable parts. 

It really is worth spending the time to get this right. There are some great design-thinking tools that can be employed to help with this. 

The old adage, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ fits here too, so get a few different perspectives to make sure it is right and clear. 

A badly defined problem will likely not end in success and will waste a lot of time and effort along the way.

Defining the problems we share

We know we need the help of the supply chain, brilliant academics, and budding inventors. 

So, if you are keen to find out if you have a potential solution to one of our many problems, here are a few resources that will shed some light on the challenges we face. 

As a sector we have taken the time to define the problems we share, and these can be found here in our 2050 Strategy. We also regularly run specific challenges through our Centre of Excellence, Spring.
Of course, at Northumbrian Water, we host a huge, real-life, week-long, challenge-sharing event annually…our amazing Innovation Festival

Everyone is invited to join us this year in Newcastle, from 10 to 14 July 2023 to tackle the challenges in our design sprints and data hacks, with funding committed for the brightest solutions. 

You will get to see and understand our challenges, work with Northumbrian Water colleagues from right across the business, and be part of an incredible environment with the best potential for creating a consortia to bid for some of the bigger funding pots, such as the Ofwat Innovation Fund, EPRSC and UKRI.  

Moving at speed

If you want to help solve some real and clearly defined challenges in a sector that is looking for new thinking to crack its wicked problems, there really is no better time to get involved. 

In a sector not renowned for its speed, things are changing for the better, and when there is a genuine, game-changing solution, you would be surprised at what is possible. 

At Northumbrian Water we are working with some brilliant businesses (large and small) on solutions that will tackle some of our toughest challenges and moving at a speed not before possible. 

If you want to be part of this, check out some of the websites below to understand what’s needed and most importantly, get involved at this year’s festival!