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In conversation: Hans Moller, Innovation Director, looks at the future of innovation in practice

Next week will see Newcastle Racecourse taken over by 400 people from a mix of big businesses, the North East’s SMEs and the public for the first Northumbrian Water Group Innovation Festival. The event will see attendees working together in a festival atmosphere to come up with innovative solutions to tackle six issues that will not only make a difference to the companies involved but also to society as a whole.

Innovation Director at the North East LEP, Hans Moller, tells us what he’s looking forward to at the Festival:

Think of all that has happened in the areas of innovation over the past ten years… Technology development is now so fast that even the most technologically-savvy among us have difficulty keeping up with the twists and turns.

Digitisation is almost everywhere in all contexts, both in our personal lives and in the business world, and the transformation of the workplace is happening at a raging speed, affecting all of us. Old jobs disappear and new digitally driven ones are added and if you’re not on board with this rapid change, you’re likely to be left behind.

It’s a bit hard to imagine that the iPhone was introduced just ten years ago. Try explaining to a ten year old that there was a time when there were neither Internet nor Smart Phones and you’ll be faced with a barrage of questions like: How did you find places you’ve not been to before? How did you find out when Coldplay’s next concert took place or how did you get a taxi booked or an airline ticket? And how on earth did you figure out how much 25% of 700 pounds was if you did not have access to a calculator on a mobile phone? What did you do in your free time if there were no online games or social media such as SnapChat or Instagram?

It’s not only new technologies and products that are being developed, but also services locally and globally. Who could imagine that the world’s largest holiday lettings company, Airbnb, does not own a single property? Or that the world’s largest taxi company does not own a single car? Or that transferring money between individuals could easily be done between two continents with one touch?

All of this also creates enormous opportunities to solve difficult challenges with the help of innovation. This could be, for example, in the areas of community development, climate change, social isolation or security.

To drive forward innovation and make it as efficient as possible, businesses must realise that we can’t continue to rely on tackling issues or developing new ideas solely within our own organisations, but we have to open up and invite in people with experience and knowledge to help us develop new ideas.

That’s why I see Northumbria Water’s Innovation Week as a brilliant example of how modern businesses must act in the future. The importance of innovation is raised internally within the company, but also externally and both parties are encouraged to collaborate openly. I am absolutely convinced that this initiative will create lots of new ideas for solutions that address difficult challenges for Northumbria Water, but also for all of us. And we are also going to have a lot of fun doing it!


You can find out more about the Innovation Festival here.