Ingenuity is essential in the water industry. So when Anglian Water discovered a tiny but prolific mollusc blocking their pipes and pumps, they turned to Cambridge University for assistance. “Zebra mussels are an invasive species from the Black Sea, which come here on the ballast of ships and end up in our rivers,” explains Steve Kaye, Head of Innovation at the Cambridgeshire-based utility company. “They breed like mad, attach to everything, and block our pipes and pumps – they’re a real pain. So we worked with Cambridge on a novel solution to the problem.”
Together they developed Bio-Bullet, a white powder that is one part edible protein, one part toxic to mussels. Each grain resembles a tiny Malteser – the mussel eats through from the consumable outside to the poisonous centre, is killed and drops off the structure to which it is attached.“Before, these mussels were very difficult to remove,” says Kaye, “but this approach has saved us hundreds of thousands of pounds in pumping costs.”
It is via collaborations with external organisations such as universities, local industries and international partners that Anglian Water has progressed. Its ideal graduate is an innovative and outgoing thinker who communicates well and can engage with people from different parts of the business and different companies. This, says Kaye, is because of Anglian’s approach to innovation through collaboration.
“At present, we have a monopoly position in the market,” says Kaye, “but that’s changing, so we want people who can survive in a commercial organisation, who are skilled at meeting customer demand, who want to change things and are comfortable with change. We don’t want people looking to work in isolation or in an ivory tower.”
Like other water companies, Anglian was once an invisible service. Today, says Kaye, it is very much customer focused. From fair billing to zero pollution, Love Every Drop is the company’s road map for engaging better with customers and the community. For example, Anglian not only treats waste water – it also helps maintain lakes and reservoirs, as well as the wildlife in and around the region. It means that people can enjoy places like Rutland Water in the East Midlands in their leisure time.
“We want to continue to be a leading business,” says Kaye, “which engages better with customers and the community through innovation, collaboration and transformation.”
AN ECO-FRIENDLY COMPANY
Protecting the environment is also a key priority. Leaky pipes can cost the company money and waste a precious resource. But a new ultrasound technique developed in partnership with Sheffield University and a Norfolk-based company called Syrinix has helped Anglian target leaks.
Managing its carbon footprint is another goal and the aim is to deliver a 60 per cent reduction by 2020 in “capital” carbon, the term used to describe the impact of transporting materials and in construction of new assets, such as pumping stations. Technology also lies at the heart of any successful company’s future strategy, and Anglian is capitalising on the benefits of the digital age to improve its service. A new website will enable consumers to see exactly how much water they are using, what works are being carried out in their area – and even if any regattas are taking place nearby!
Creative thinking and collaboration is the key to Anglian’s success along with investing in resourceful staff. With this approach, any problem can be overcome – even an invasion of mussels with a tenacious grip.