Winners 2023

Best live event

Innovation Festival
Northumbrian Water

Launched in 2017 by Northumbrian Water Group, the Innovation Festival is a unique event within the UK water industry that is designed to fuel innovation and new ideas for projects with the potential to change the world.

The four-day event comprises daily dashes, or rapid sprint workshops working through multiple stages in one day, and hacks that attempt to devise solutions to some of the sector’s toughest environmental and societal challenges.

Open to the public and Northumbrian Water partners, this year’s event took place at Newcastle Racecourse and was attended by 630 organisations from 38 sectors, including 27 water companies, who participated in 40 separate sprints generating 42 ideas, which have the potential to deliver more than £170 million in value over five years.

More than 1,000 local school children attended, alongside 21 universities taking part in 26 STEM activities, encouraging young people to get involved with the subjects.

Since its launch in 2017, 15,000 attendees from more than 40 countries have been involved in the Innovation Festival, either in-person or remotely, generating hundreds of ideas. More than 160 ideas are currently under consideration with an estimated value – if successful – of more than £100 million. However, 250 ideas have been taken back into the business while the Innovation Festival has generated more than £2 million for the local economy over five years.

The festivals continued throughout the pandemic, once in a digital only format, once in a digital and physical format, which prompted the innovation team to research different tools to replicate the main aspects of the festival, such as design sprints, speakers and networking.

This year’s theme was Citizens, taking its inspiration from the book of the same name by author Jon Alexander, who argues that the key to fixing everything is all of us. Alexander was also a speaker at the festival, sharing his view that citizens should share ideas, energy and resources with the goal of achieving the best society.

Other speakers included Hairy Biker chef Si King, who discussed his passion for innovation in baking; Northeast based teenager Tilly Lockey, a British amputee known for her bionic arms, who spurred on the sprints; and social entrepreneur Ben Keene, who shared tales of crowdfunding a tropical island.

Publicised via social media, the event reached more than 2.6 million people with more than 10,200 views on X, the platform formally known as Twitter. In September, British Water’s annual survey of the sector named Northumbrian Water as the highest scoring for innovation. The Innovation Festival is key to that work.

The judges loved the event and expressed an interest in attending. ‘The imagination and the engagement – hacks and sprints – and how it is purposeful to outcomes is great,’ they said. ‘The breadth of attendees, the uniqueness and social media engagement was just brilliant.’