‘Let’s get together’: Preliminary research findings on enabling collaboration for innovation in the water sector.

Posted: 30.11.2016

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Theme 7 of TWENTY65 is tackling the challenge of understanding and enabling cross-organisational collaboration for innovation in the water sector. Over this summer, MSc in Occupational Psychology student Usman Ramay (under the supervision of Theme 7 leader Dr Kamal Birdi) undertook a pilot study on identifying barriers and facilitators to collaborative innovation from the perspectives of different stakeholders.

Water company representatives, water supplier representatives and research academics were recruited through the TWENTY65 network. In total, 13 individuals agreed to take part in the study: four from water companies, four water suppliers and five research academics. To cover the geographical spread of the individuals involved, semi-structured interviews lasting from 30 to 60 minutes were carried out either by phone or Skype. The interviews asked participants about their experiences of successful and unsuccessful partnership working. Thematic analysis techniques were used to tease out the most influential factors and the following six recommendations emerged from the analyses as strategies for boosting creative collaborations in the water sector.

• Identify a shared and suitable mechanism of sharing knowledge amongst all the stakeholders involved. Make sure the information is presented in such a way that is understandable to all stakeholders (avoid too many unexplained acronyms and complex technical jargon!).

• Improve the understanding of the requirements of different stakeholders involved so that their relevant needs can be met.

• Construct, clarify and constantly revisit a shared vision for the collaboration.

• Use formal risk assessment strategies within organisations and jointly.

• Set up contractual agreements surrounding knowledge transfer to help control for obstacles such as leakages, competition and Intellectual Property issues in collaborations.

• Create formal integrator roles whose job is to formally span boundaries across organisations and therefore ease the interactional process.

The upcoming months will see us produce a comprehensive systematic literature review of innovative collaboration in the water sector (led by Dr James Porter) and more in-depth research into specific aspects of the topic. For more details please contact Dr Kamal Birdi at or Dr James Porter (


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