w-lab Roadmap to guide water innovations
Utilities Digital Solutions Australasia and Pacific

W-Lab innovation roadmap centres on “humans, not technology”

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Connecting tech developers to utilities

Over 100 water utilities across Australia and New Zealand have united to help create a Technology Roadmap that places humans, not technology, at the centre.

Called W-Lab, the initiative is led by the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA), together with consultancies Isle Utilities and ThinkPlace.

Designed for both water utilities and technology companies, the Roadmap is intended to help the former explore innovations and the latter to put ideas into practice.

How did W-Lab start?

An “Ideation Summit” was hosted online in June, including a variety of water stakeholders, from senior executives to frontline workers, designers to entrepreneurs.

The three-day event was based around four innovation “frames”: Customer, Nature, Enterprise and Flows. 

Opportunity areas were unpacked during four separate Launch Pad events, one for each frame. Members finally converged at a point where they could clearly articulate and prioritise areas that were urgent or would have a significant impact, according to WSAA.

The first Technology Showcase, hosted on 11 November, investigated a shortlist of technologies on high priority areas, including recovering value from waste.

How W-Lab works

W-Lab will scout for technologies and solutions, acting as the ‘point of entry’ into the Australian and New Zealand water industry. An evaluation process will then align with water utilities, to help to collaborate in evaluating and trialling solutions. 

'Call to market' documents will be used to help vendors to navigate the market entry with technologies selected to present at one of three showcase events, hosted annually.

All reviewed technologies will have a profile created on a ‘Technology Portal’.

The WSAA summarises the process down to four stages: ideate, incubate, accelerate and communicate. Year one showcase areas include:

  • Explore new markets and recover value from waste (November 2020)
  • Limit extraction of fresh water from the natural environment (March 2021)
  • Create insights from data to inform decisions and share with others (June 2021)
  • Understand and support the diverse needs of our customers (September 2021).

Placing humans, not technology at the centre

"Through W-Lab, local water utilities have collaborated successfully, and there has been a sharing of collective knowledge,” said Tracey Slatter, managing director of Barwon Water.

Sarah Patterson, general Manager, Victoria at ThinkPlace, added: “The water industry has shown us they are willing to step up with optimism, accountability and responsibility for the future we create. What is unique about this Roadmap, is that it places humans, not technology, at the centre."

Adam Lovell, executive director of WSAA, said the "Technology Roadmap depicts a new water future vision co-created by the water-industry in Australia and New Zealand,”

Dr Nicola Nelson, manager, science, research and innovation at Sydney Water, added: "We have never had this approach before and it gives us the ability as an industry to look at bespoke technologies which will provide maximum benefit to the whole industry and individual utilities."

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