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Streamlining innovation for a sustainable future

Aquafin

Aquafinplaybookmockup transparant

Streamlining innovation for a sustainable future

Aquafinplaybookmockup transparant

Aquafin

Context

Aquafin, Belgium's leader in wastewater management, stands at the forefront of innovation when it comes to water body protection and climate change mitigation. Their efforts are not just about treating wastewater; it's about pioneering practices for the greater good, such as repurposing residues from the purification process and harnessing energy generated during these processes.

To strengthen and spread the culture of innovation even further, Aquafin joined forces with Leap Forward as their innovation partner.

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Redefining innovation at Aquafin

Aquafin was on a mission to make its innovation process smoother and boost its culture of innovation. While innovation is a key pillar, fully supported by the leadership and CEO, their existing process, despite a dedicated team, seemed too complex. Aquafin aimed to not only streamline this process for better efficiency but also to integrate innovation more transparently and cohesively into its culture. The goal was to clarify the innovation path, making it welcoming and understandable for everyone, thereby nurturing a more vibrant and inclusive innovative environment.

Streamlining the innovation process

The first step in our collaboration was optimising the innovation process through co-creation. We simplified and improved the innovation funnels and flows, and visualised it in order to make the process transparent and understandable to everyone in the organisation.

To embody this new approach, we introduced a system of innovation waves. Every six months, a new strategic topic is launched, accompanied by various underlying strategic challenges that need urgent solving. These are spread in the organisation across multiple internal channels. This allows Aquafin's employees to actively participate by submitting their ideas to address specific challenges.

Kicking off with the strategic topic "The construction site of the future," we launched different innovation challenges to spark creative thinking and encourage broad participation right from the first wave.

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Elevating skills with a comprehensive training program

The next pivotal step was developing a robust training program, designed to empower Aquafin's workforce with the skills to innovate and communicate their ideas effectively. This multi-faceted program kicked off with a pilot training session for a select group, laying the groundwork for what was to come.

Following the success of the pilot, the program expanded to offer full training sessions, welcoming new participants and enriching the pool of innovators within the company. A key component of this educational journey was a specialised course on "Learning to Pitch", aimed at equipping employees with the art of presenting their ideas compellingly.

The culmination of this training was a pitch event, an open platform where anyone from Aquafin could step forward to pitch their idea. This event not only showcased the wealth of creativity within the organisation but also reinforced the supportive, innovation-friendly environment that Aquafin strives to cultivate.

Participants of the pitch event whose ideas got selected for an exploration or validation trajectory, received extensive training and coaching on how to further develop their idea. To tackle the challenge of applying training knowledge, we rolled out a user-friendly digital playbook for practical implementation.

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Igniting innovation: the ‘Impact Makers’-brand

The third track in Aquafin's innovation journey focused on ramping up internal communication campaigns to foster a deeper engagement with the innovation process. Central to this effort was the branding of 'Impact Makers’. This brand embodies a fresh, vibrant, and empowering identity, wrapped in a playful yet coherent design that mirrors Aquafin's mission. With the rallying cry "Let's make waves", it's all about sparking a tide of inventive ideas.

The brand's visual language—infused with dynamic shapes, a water-linked color scheme, and creative scribbles—illustrates the flow of ideas. These elements are unified across channels to vividly convey the innovation journey, and documented in a clear brandbook.

Leveraging internal channels

To ignite interest and participation, the campaign leveraged Yambla, a platform for idea submission and collaboration. The goal was to attract employees to share their innovative ideas by making the process as inviting and accessible as possible.

A key moment in this campaign was a video message from Aquafin's CEO, officially announcing the Impact Makers brand. This move not only underscored the leadership's commitment to innovation but also served to inspire and motivate employees to become active participants in Aquafin's culture of continuous improvement and creativity.

The results

The 'Impact Makers' initiative has led to impressive results:

  • Innovation Challenges launched: 3
  • User growth on idea platform Yambla: 30% growth to 781 users
  • Ideas pitched: 15
  • Selected ideas to explore, validate or implement: 11
  • Trained Innovators: 17 employees completed our innovation training

These figures not only reflect Aquafin's vibrant innovation culture but also highlight the tangible outcomes of fostering creativity and participation across the organisation.

What’s next for Aquafin's innovation journey

Aquafin is already gearing up for the next phase in its innovation evolution:

  • On-demand workshops: tailored support for anyone needing extra help to bring their ideas to life.
  • Future focus: we're diving into solutions for complex issues, from integrated construction site coordination to implementing mobile charging at construction sites.
  • Community growth & coaching: further strengthening our innovation community with targeted coaching sessions.
  • Impact Day: an upcoming flagship event celebrating innovation across Aquafin.

These steps underscore our commitment to making innovation a continuous, inclusive, and impactful journey.

Don't take our word for it

We aimed to ignite a culture of innovation and organically grow our innovation portfolio. This required diverse skills—from communication and brainstorming to community-building and mentoring. I'm thrilled we expanded our team with a partner who brings these essential skills. Combining our experience with their multidisciplinary expertise accelerates our transformation. Together, we add capabilities we couldn't achieve alone.
Maarten

Maarten Raemdonck

Head of Innovation

Talk to us about your innovation challenge