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Water Works: connecting start-up solutions with water challenges

About the blog

Blair Smith
Melbourne Water Innovation Lead, Commercial & Technology – IT

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  • Water Works: connecting start-up solutions with water challenges

A competitive international field of talented start-ups have pitched their innovative ideas to solve genuine water challenges and generate new commercial outcomes as part of a unique campaign run by Melbourne Water and City West Water

Two Victorian metropolitan water authorities are partnering with corporate innovation consultancy and start-up accelerator, Collective Campus, to develop Water Works - a corporate start-up partnership designed to drive innovation in the water sector.

Water Works invited small and emerging businesses from across the globe to pitch their ideas around solving genuine water challenges and generating new commercial outcomes. A flood of applications ensued from across the globe in response to the three industry challenges presented: (i) continuous monitoring and detection of irregularities at private and rough terrain, (ii) driving customer water efficiency behaviour change, and (iii) accurate water forecasting using new or novel approaches. 

The role of emerging technology and innovation is considered paramount in the provision of safe, reliable and affordable services for modern water corporations. These themes link to what Water Works see as pivotal in managing and protecting our precious water supply and resources.

Water Works first challenge was to ask for ideas to most efficiently manage and monitor vegetation and maintenance in our catchment areas. The remit included keeping track of plant health and detection of unwanted species which in turn would inform maintenance activities and remediation programs. The management and protection of our natural assets is essential to our approach to Integrated Water Management, better public amenity and the sustained liveability of Melbourne.

We’re also continually exploring ways to engage with the community to further water literacy and encourage wise water usage. Population growth, increasing urbanisation and climate change are all placing greater demand on our precious water resources. Innovative ways to promote positive behaviour change and education around water were sought for this brief.

Our third call out centred on exploring best practice around our ability to model and forecast various scenarios for both demand management and asset performance. Here we were interested in identifying and modelling new sources of data which both increase the precision of our forecasting and inform new modelling applications.

Leveraging new stakeholders from across the world and harnessing their perspectives has a positive impact on addressing local challenges

From a shortlist of 50, 14 organisations were asked to present to a combined group of judges, subject matter experts and executives from across Melbourne Water and City West Water. Their concepts, potential for impact and feasibility of ideas were all assessed as part of the process.

The standard of execution and innovation was uniformly high in all of the short-listed start-ups. Melbourne Water and City West Water have identified six organisations with whom they will conduct further discussion and exploration of technology solutions.

The Water Works program demonstrated that thinking differently and leveraging new stakeholders from across the world and harnessing their perspectives has a positive impact on addressing local challenges in our sector. Executive sponsorship and participation in this program further reinforces our willingness to break from traditional approaches and explore new ways of engaging the marketplace.

Given the interconnected nature of Victorian water authorities, Water Works is generating a lot of interest from other water businesses and industry groups across the state. This is encouraging and certainly opens the door to opportunities to trial innovative new solutions across our industry.

As we enter into further discussions and the next phase of exploration, we’re excited to continue the conversation with these modern, nimble organisations with the potential to transform our industry.

Watch this space.

On the back of the success of this program, Collective Campus is planning to run WaterWorks 2.0. Water bodies and associations interested in participating can express their interest at

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