Northumbrian region in Britain leads in British Water survey

“It is important that we build on the innovation portals available across the sector to a culture of innovation across the industry” – Mar Batista, head of programmes of British Water

British Water’s annual UK Water Company Performance Survey has put Northumbrian Water at the top, with health and safety, quality assurance and environmental policies at the highest scoring areas.

The survey reflects a variety of opinions across the supply chain at every level of business. This range of views provides insights for the industry into how water companies interact with their supply chain, how the supply chain feels about this, and the progress water utilities have made over the years.

Compared to last year’s survey, this year has seen a number of changes to the ranking, with Northumbrian jumping up from fifth, and with Anglian Water in second.

Mar Batista, British Water’s head of programmes, commented that both organisations appear to have worked hard to embrace innovation across the business and strive to “get people in a room” through their innovation offerings such as the Northumbrian Innovation Festival and Anglian Water’s Innovation Network.

“It is important that we build on the innovation portals available across the sector to a culture of innovation across the industry,” said Batista.

“Innovation needs time commitment, people to be onboard and trust to be developed and that is easier to achieve when people and companies get to know each other and how they work.”

Meanwhile, Wessex Water saw the biggest fall, moving from first to eighth position. Northern Ireland dropped to the eleventh position from third last year, with Southern Water dropping from eighth to joint eleventh. Scottish Water and United Utilities remained stable in third and fifth positions respectively.

Innovation scores continue to be low across the sector, despite increased investment.

Innovation can sometimes be adopted in a transactional way with water company representatives using the solutions that they may be more comfortable with or because something is needed urgently.

This can create a narrow route and specific outcomes with regards to innovation.

“Supply chain companies will tend to want to work with businesses that are welcoming and with capacity for innovation, so innovation is more likely to happen when businesses and people are aligned,” Batista added. 

Delivery of projects whether standard or innovative is difficult to achieve if the involved parties are rigid or work in isolation, explained Batista.

Bringing together all parties is more likely to result in a good outcome for everyone – as they can all benefit from success or equally share the risk proportionally.

Long-term collaboration beyond a project or five-year regulatory asset management period (AMP) can also produce more capacity as it takes effort and resource to get new relationships and collaborations off the ground.

Looking towards AMP8, which runs from 2025-2030, water companies are aware of the expectations coming through from Ofwat and the public with regard to affordability, environmental pollution and climate change. This will have an impact of the volume of work required in the sector which will grow.