Spring Accelerator promotes net zero water challenges

(Image: Spring Innovation)

Emission-cutting innovations from three global technology players have been accelerated through the UK water sector with the collaborative platform, Spring. 

Technologies from Siemens, Xylem and Cobalt Water Global have also been mobilised through a collaboration of 10 water companies, as part of the first Spring accelerator challenge. 

Spring is dedicated to water sector transformation through innovation and collaboration. It was launched in 2021 to support the sector in delivering the ambitions of its Water Innovation 2050 joint strategy and is backed by all UK and Irish water and wastewater companies. 

The Spring accelerator sets challenges related to the Water Innovation 2050 themes, facilitating the end-to-end process from ideation and assessment to collaboration and adoption. The initial stages of the first challenge, which asked innovators to find ways to reduce operational emissions, have been completed, with three new innovations on the fast-track to scaling and adoption. 

Siemens demonstrated a white-box digital twin of the wastewater treatment process capable of optimising performance and emissions reduction, while Xylem showcased the Xylem Treatment System Optimisation (TSO) digital twin-based control platform for process optimisation and greenhouse gas reduction in wastewater treatment. Cobalt Water Global presented the N2ORisk decision support system to reduce total greenhouse emissions at wastewater treatment plants by focusing on N2O.

Carly Perry, managing director of Spring, said: “We are thrilled to have three innovative companies reach the collaborative phase of the Spring acceleration process. All three ideas have the potential to be gamechangers in helping the sector achieve its net zero challenge, which is why 10 water companies want to work collaboratively to progress these innovations.  

“I extend a huge thank you to everyone who submitted an idea following our callout back in February and congratulations to Cobalt Water Global, Xylem and Siemens.”

The ideas were announced at a Spring webinar on 7 Jul. Reflecting on the process, Adam Cartwright, head of internet of things applications at Siemens, said: “As a supplier, it is exciting to see your solution transparently and robustly tested.

“With all the water companies coming together and agreeing a common evaluation framework for the trial it will reduce the time it takes to move to scale adoption. For me, this is the number one benefit of the Accelerator process.”

Oliver Puckering, principal process engineer for digital solutions at Xylem, added: “Involvement in a truly collaborative approach, to what is one of the critical issues of our time, offers the potential for a best of breed combination of offerings.

“The level of engagement on all fronts has been very promising thus far. Spring is to be commended for this, particularly given this is the first of the challenges.”  

Jose Porro, founder and CEO of Cobalt Water Global, said: “We are thrilled and honoured to have been chosen for the Spring innovation challenge to work with 10 leading UK water companies. We fully support Spring’s initiative to kick-off the challenge series with net zero technologies.

“Not only is it critical to find ways to accelerate innovation but also urgently needed climate action. This Spring challenge does both.” 

Also speaking on the webinar, Richard Powell, innovation manager of Severn Trent said: “As a water company, the Spring challenge has been valuable in enabling us to review technologies through a robust and logical process and has allowed us to quickly hone-in on specific elements of the solutions that we’ve seen.  

“It has been open and collaborative experience, which has facilitated connections with others in the UK water sector. The group workshops have helped us demystify some perceived sector concerns.

“Where there have been legitimate barriers, we’ve been able to talk them through and overcome that barrier. As a result, we’ve been able to move the process on quicker than we would have done otherwise.” 

Next steps 

Mobilisation workshops with the three innovators and water companies, led by Spring, are now underway, and individual trials are being progressed. Welsh Water, which is running trials of two of the innovations, has already hosted an information sharing session with other water companies. On the completion of individuals trials, a collaborative group trial will be led by Severn Trent.  

Tony Harrington, director of environment at Welsh Water and Spring board member, said: “We fully support the drive to accelerate innovation and enable collaboration within the water community and were delighted to share the insights of our trials as part of the Spring Accelerator challenge.

“By taking an open approach, we can help streamline the innovation process and enable faster roll-out of new innovations — something the whole sector will derive great value from.”

Value in collaboration  

Spring is now inviting feedback about the first accelerator challenge. 

Perry said: “The value for all of us is in the collaboration. We are excited to learn from our first challenge and to scale that value as we move forward to the next one. We will also be looking at cross-sector collaborations by inviting participation from innovators from a diverse range of industries.”

Future challenges will go live via the Spring platform in the coming months, based on ambitions set out in Water Innovation 2050. As Spring grows, there may also be challenges set outside of these themes.