United Utilities has today launched its new Innovation Lab, inviting bright and creative firms to work with the company on some of its key business and customer challenges.

The water company is seeking businesses with innovative new ideas in the fields of safety, wellbeing, predictive maintenance, connected home, customer interactions and the future of the water sector.

The 10-week programme will be run in collaboration with corporate innovation specialist L Marks and successful candidates will be mentored by senior United Utilities business leaders and tech experts. They will have access to office space in United Utilities’ head office to develop their ideas as well as being able to test their products in a live environment. United Utilities and L Marks will also provide potential investment opportunities.

Through United Utilities’ Innovation Lab, the company is looking for pitches which deliver innovation solutions to the key customer and internal challenges listed below:

Connect Water / Customer – Smart homes and connected devices are a growing trend. How can IoT and sensors work together to catch water issues early and help customers manage their water bills better?

Proactive Customer Actions – How can new technology like predictive or monitoring solutions help United Utilities to resolve issues before a customer even notices they exist? How can United Utilities make its internal processes seamless and transparent to customers and make customer interactions more positive?

• Safe and Healthy Worker – With over 5,000 employees across the business – undertaking tasks including asset repair, maintenance, visiting customers and moving from job to job – how can United Utilities better support the workforce, especially lone workers?

Predictive Asset Maintenance – Every day United Utilities is reacting to maintenance issues which could have saved disruption, time and money if they had been predicted sooner. How can predictive tools help pull together data sources to detect when and where leaks, bursts or floods are going to happen, to help United Utilities manage its water and wastewater networks more proactively?

Future of Water – United Utilities wants to work smarter to maintain the highest levels of customer service, reduce costs and reduce energy consumption. How can it stay ahead of the curve in these areas by using future technologies in the fields of energy management, artificial intelligence or robotics?

Commenting on the launch of United Utilities Innovation Lab, Steve Fraser, United Utilities Chief Operating Officer, said:

”The water sector is an exciting place right now. The best companies will be looking for business solutions from non-traditional sources and bringing ideas from other sectors into water.

“We know it can be hard, especially for smaller innovative businesses, to work with large corporates like us, so our new Innovation Lab will remove some of the old barriers and help level the playing field. We’re looking forward to working with some of the best and brightest talent in the world. Together we can develop those ideas into better and more efficient services, not just for our own customers but right across the water industry.”

L Marks works with some of the UK’s best known brands, including John Lewis, International Airlines Group and EDF Energy. Chairman Stuart Marks said:

“United Utilities is the largest listed water company in the UK, making this an industry first for growing businesses to gain access to this level of scale and expert knowledge. The Innovation Lab is a unique stage for businesses both inside and out of the water industry to get a front row seat to challenge the future of water. I am delighted that United Utilities have chosen L Marks as their partner to discover and assist with the development of these new and relevant innovations.”

Applications are now open from Wednesday 9 August and close on Monday 18 September at midday. To apply or for more information, please visit www.unitedutilities.com/innovation