How the SuperNetwork connects big business with bright ideas: Northumbrian Water and Amtech

In 2019, the Northumbrian Water Innovation Festival hosted a design sprint featuring team members from the automotive company Ford. Thinking about how Northumbrian Water drivers used their cab as an office, the sprint looked specifically at how technology can support those drivers and their future work demands.

Every year, Northumbrian Water (NWG) Innovation Festival brings together big business with innovative SMEs to solve industry problems. As part of the GX Project, the Innovation SuperNetwork facilitated the sprint, providing one-to-one support to SMEs in the room to help them develop their ideas.

Following the initial design sprint, the SuperNetwork went on to secure seed funding of £15k from NWG to further develop the best solutions. Amtech were sourced to develop a prototype with introductions to Ford specialists brokered by the SuperNetwork.

Graeme Miller, Innovation Manager at the Innovation SuperNetwork explained: “One of the things we most pride ourselves on at the SuperNetwork is our ability to bring businesses together to collaborate, forge relationships and develop innovative responses to real-world challenges.

“In this case, the team recognised that for many workers, life on the road can be logistically challenging when any traditionally ‘office-based’ tasks are conducted in the front seat of a van. 

“The design sprint at the Innovation Festival gave everyone involved the space to really think about what the challenges are for people working in this environment and we were able to flesh out a number of potential solutions.

“This was really just the starting point, enabling us to take a really good idea and support its development by securing seed funding from NWG, sourcing Amtech to produce the solution and brokering the relationship with the Ford team.”

Watch the prototype in action

What the Partner’s said:

Paul Larrad from Ford’s Partner-Centred Development team, said: “This sprint project was a great opportunity to extend our close relationship with Northumbrian Water and their employees, and to collaborate together to identify innovative new solutions that help improve their drivers’ working lives behind the wheel.”

Head of Innovation at Northumbrian Water, Angela MacOscar, said: “We were delighted to have Innovation SuperNetwork join us at our Innovation Festival and to work alongside them on this exciting challenge. “Looking after our employees and making sure that they have the right tools and equipment to do their job safely and comfortably is a priority for us, and the Innovation Festival allowed us to look at options for this. I’m very excited that we’ve now got a solution for supporting those workers whose office is on the road, and will continue to work with our partners to develop it.”