Embracing collaboration and innovation on SUEZ Innovation Day

Water industry leaders and innovators from around the globe united in Adelaide for the inaugural SUEZ Innovation Day together with SA Water.

In a declaration of commitment to innovation and sustainability, water industry leaders and innovators from around the globe united in Adelaide last week for the inaugural SUEZ Innovation Day together with SA Water. Against the backdrop of pressing global and local challenges, this two-day event served as a crucible for transformative ideas and collaborative solutions, heralding a new era of progress and resilience in the water sector.

As SA Water’s Production and Treatment (P&T) Alliance partner, SUEZ oversees the operation and maintenance of the utility’s major metropolitan water and wastewater treatment facilities.

Commencing on Thursday, 21 March, within SA Water’s Adelaide CBD premises, experts delved into forthcoming societal, economic, and environmental shifts, commonly referred to as ‘megatrends’. These included urbanisation, climate variability, and regulatory alterations, all poised to profoundly impact our world.

SUEZ Australia and New Zealand’s CEO, Kevin Werksman, expressed heartfelt gratitude to SA Water for their instrumental role in bringing this event to fruition.

“In a world marked by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA), bringing people together highlighted the criticality of innovation in mitigating risks and unlocking value,” Werksman said.

“The palpable sense of camaraderie and purpose permeated the event, as participants from diverse backgrounds united in a shared commitment to collaboration and co-creation within the sector.”

P&T Alliance General Manager Wafaa Khalifi also highlighted how Innovation Day enhanced local operations through diverse perspectives.

“This gathering offered a priceless opportunity to foster collaboration within the water and wastewater ecosystem, leveraging insights from international counterparts and local experts to pave the way for future solutions,” Khalifi said.

“This event was a success thanks to the invaluable contributions from our panellists, including SUEZ employees locally and globally, SA Water and its partnering businesses, and other Australian utilities such as Water Corporation, Coliban Water, Service Stream, and Unity Water.

“At SUEZ, we want to continue enabling co-creation opportunities where the people in the sector can learn from one another and find answers quicker. We are all working towards a common purpose of a sustainable future.”

Customers at the core

The discussions highlighted the necessity of adaptability and collaboration in navigating an uncertain and complex future, ensuring that the sector’s efforts remain focused on meeting customers’ evolving needs and expectations.

There was also a strong emphasis on artificial intelligence’s (AI) transformative potential in addressing megatrends and enhancing service delivery, all with the ultimate goal of providing better experiences for end-users. Additionally, the conversations centred around democratising asset management responsibilities and recognising the value inherent in wastewater.

SA Water Chief Executive David Ryan underscored the importance of innovation in meeting customer needs and addressing societal challenges. He emphasised the imperative of smarter service delivery to ensure reliability and affordability for South Australian communities.

“Our customers are at the heart of everything we do at SA Water, and we need to remain focused on achieving positive outcomes for them—this means working smarter to deliver reliable and affordable services,” Ryan said.

“Innovative technologies are crucial in helping us meet our customers’ changing expectations and needs, and SUEZ Innovation Day together with SA Water enabled us to tap into global ideas and successful strategies to broaden our thinking and consider options for possible future solutions.”

Insights unveiled

The day involved interactive sessions and discussions with a diverse range of expert panellists, including:

Discussions centered on the transformative potential of global connectivity, trusted networks, and AI-driven solutions to accelerate innovation and address challenges. Mr Werksman highlighted the burgeoning concept of the ‘Biofactory’ and its role in realising a circular economy paradigm.

“We’re seeing ‘Biofactory’ concepts come to life in how we approach waste management and resource utilisation,” he said.

Other take-homes included:

  • Responsibility of corporations: The community’s expectation for businesses to uphold ethical standards and champion responsible practices
  • Interconnectivity across industries: The indispensable role of cross-industry collaboration in driving innovation and tackling multifaceted challenges.
  • Sustainable pricing: The imperative of investing in the present to safeguard the future.
  • Embracing uncertainty: The importance of agility and resilience in an unpredictable world.
  • Unlocking AI potential: The transformative potential of AI to enhance ethics, safety standards, and change management.

Exploring future frontiers

Looking ahead to 2050, Werksman painted a vivid picture of a digitally-enabled future characterised by automation, AI-driven resource management, and enhanced connectivity. He expressed optimism about the prospect of co-creating circular products and solutions, engaging in real-time conversations with customers, and advancing integrated water solutions to ensure a safer, more sustainable world for future generations.

“We envisioned a future, buoyed by digital innovation, where automation fosters a safer environment,” he said.

“In this era, AI emerges as a solution to our resource challenges, promoting a healthier work-life balance.

“This forward-looking vision extends to enhanced connectivity across Australia, New Zealand, and the global landscape. It encompasses optimised business practices, creating circular products and solutions tailored to customer needs, and real-time customer engagement through data-driven conversations. I am genuinely enthused about the possibilities that lie ahead for us.”

Day two, 22 March, was a closed event where specialists explored ideas to convert a current wastewater treatment plant into a self-sufficient and resilient future bio-hub. Participants challenged the norms and designed a pathway into the future.

SUEZ’s Innovation Day is a recurring annual event that alternates between Paris and the cities where it operates. Notably, this marks the inaugural occurrence of the SUEZ Innovation Day in Australia.

Drawing water and innovation researchers and experts from around the world, SUEZ Innovation Day serves as a dynamic platform for exchanging ideas and exploring opportunities to tackle pressing water and wastewater challenges.

Topics of discussion spanned from water scarcity and waste recycling to resource preservation and green energy initiatives, reflecting a collective commitment to advancing sustainable solutions on a global scale.

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