Urban Water: Novel ways of Organising Innovation among Clients and Consultants in the UK Water Industry

high level water sanitationTheme: Systems, Services & Design

Dates: 2008-2009

Research Team: Andy Davies, Lars Frederiksen

The aim of the research was to understand how innovation occurs in the UK water industry. We focused on organisational innovation because previous studies have shown that technological innovation is limited in this industry.

The traditional client-contractor relationship is undergoing a transformation in both organisation and capabilities; creating new space for consultants to become involved in the innovation process. Clients and consultants are forging different relationships to promote innovation across new projects.

The research aimed to understand new and emerging ways in which clients and consultants are working together to develop and commercialise innovations. In order to achieve this aim, we examined:

  • The changing organisational relationship between client and consultants; the changing balance of capabilities between client and contractors over the same period of time
  • How the client and consultant collaborate in leading edge, innovative projects (e.g. maintenance, joint delivery, large schemes projects).

The project identified best practice advice for promoting innovation for firms within the industry, but also illustrated potential successful trajectories for the management of innovation for firms that are embedded in large technological systems, for example, in other utilities (e.g. energy, roads, railways, etc). The project had a strong collaboration established with Arup Water, Leeds and Yorkshire Water.

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