The Growing Innovation seminar lived up to all my expectations, with the wonderfully uplifting impact of students from Thomas Clarkson Academy as a tremendous bonus. There was a real live example of innovative, collaborative and inter-connected problem solving – how I wish that we could all have bottled that and taken it back to work with us.

Building on my ‘leap of faith’ theme, there are two aspects to creating a sustainable future. These are: creating the solutions needed (the innovations), and having them adopted widely.

The seminar, with its case studies from Simon Bowen of AB Sugar, Chris Brown of Asda and Guy Thallon of Produce World, certainly created the right environment for innovation to flourish, with new collaborations between Agri Tech East, Anglian Water and other stakeholders being established. Continuing our dialogues from the seminar is vitally important, and a responsibility we all must shoulder. These conversations fuel the development and adoption of innovation, so maintaining momentum with them is vital.

Going beyond that, we all need to turn our minds to how we will achieve widespread adoption of innovations. How will collaborative business models work? They are the essential foundations for a collaborative approach to managing water risks and implementing solutions. Shared risks and shared solutions – these should mean shared investment and shared rewards. Difficult to see perhaps in the potentially adversarial world of markets and profits – but where is there an alternative?

The students from Thomas Clarkson posed a question to Keith Weatherhead and I: “What would we do if we knew we would run out of water, if we knew that we would suffer a 100 year drought that would start in 20 years time?”

Perceptive and far-sighted, this cuts right to the heart of the challenges we face. The best scientific evidence indicates that ‘when’ is the only uncertainty. Keith and I were optimistic that, with such certainty of when, we would start to plan now.

Would we actually do that? Or, would business and society continue to live in a state of denial until it was too late?

Let us resolve to ensure that we all plan, and that we develop the solutions now. Once developed, we can move to widespread adoption.

(You can also read Agri-Tech East’s blog on the workshop…)