Making Waves spotlights 4 ways Xylem is building a culture of innovation.
Fast Company has recognized Xylem as a 2022 Best Workplaces for Innovators standout for using our scale to create a rich culture of innovation for employees across our enterprise. Innovation is at the core of Xylem’s culture, as we partner with utilities, industry, the tech sector and other stakeholders to develop groundbreaking technologies and solutions to solve urgent water problems – such as drought, resilience to climate change, budgetary constraints and other critical challenges.
“Innovation and co-creation with partners who share our values makes all the difference. It fuels our progress and helps us in shaping the next generation of water solutions.”
– Patrick Decker, President and CEO of Xylem
As water issues accelerate around the world, we’re focused on discovering new ways to help our customers and their communities solve their water challenges faster, efficiently and sustainably.
Here are 4 examples of innovation at work at Xylem:
1. Investment in innovation
One of the biggest levers Xylem has to drive growth is to bring new breakthrough technologies to market. Building digital solutions and delivering impact for customers now accounts for 70% of Xylem’s new product development spend. Over the past three years, Xylem has also more than doubled spending on developing breakthrough products and solutions, often at a low maturity level, meaning longer-term investments that require patience and incubation. One of these technologies is a new-to-world wastewater treatment product called Taron, a cost-effective way to provide oxygen to bacteria for treating and stabilizing wastewater that dramatically reduces the footprint of the treatment process – important for cities and urban areas with minimal space for new builds or retrofitting.
2. Xylem Innovation Labs
Xylem is focusing our resources and global presence to identify and bring to market the most promising technologies to solve the world’s water challenges from both inside and outside the business. This is the impetus behind the launch of Xylem Innovation Labs – a team dedicated to sourcing new ideas and partnering with the most creative minds across sectors and stakeholder groups all over the world. Among our innovation collaborators: technology companies Esri, Amazon and Dragos; startup companies; venture capital firms The Westly Group and Burnt Island Ventures; leading universities and research institutes such as MIT, Arizona State University and BlueTech Research; government agencies and non-profits such as Imagine H2O, which runs the world’s top water technology accelerator; and invariably, our customers, and supplier and distributor partners.
Xylem Innovation Labs explores these partnerships through founder-friendly Incubator and Accelerator programs focused on accelerating technology development and commercialization. We are currently engaged with 13-companies across the globe, from California to Singapore, representing a wide range of technologies, including harnessing water from air with atmospheric water generation systems, destroying harmful PFAS contaminants with innovative electrochemical and membrane technologies, reducing carbon emissions and energy use in wastewater treatment operations with genetically engineered algae, and virtually assisting water plant operators with augmented reality tools.
3. Business model innovation
In addition to new technologies, pioneering new business models is a critical pillar of innovation. Xylem recently became the headline sponsor of the Trial Reservoir, a revolving loan fund started by Isle Utilities, a global water consultant and tech scout for utilities. By funding trial technology deployments, the Trial Reservoir is a unique business model that aims to speed up market adoption of new technologies by utility, industrial and commercial customers. The ‘reservoir’ of funding is replenished from the proceeds of commercial contracts when the trials move to full deployments. If trials do not move to commercialization, the cost is borne by the Trial Reservoir, thereby reducing the burden on the tech vendor. The initial focus of Trial Reservoir is on Net Zero decarbonization technologies, a much-needed move to smooth the path for water operators to confidently embed these solutions into their daily treatment processes. Reducing the risk for customers to trial new technologies is a move that stands to strengthen Xylem’s innovation ecosystem by bringing stakeholders together to advance industry technology.
4. Bringing together teams from diverse backgrounds
Bringing stakeholders together and embracing different perspectives not only strengthens and unites Xylem’s global workforce, it also fuels the company’s culture of innovation and shared purpose while attracting the next generation of talent. To that end, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are at the heart of how Xylem builds a sustainable company to solve the world’s water issues. As we works towards our Sustainability Goals, like achieving 50% female representation in leadership positions by 2030 and at least 25% U.S. minority representation in leadership positions by 2025, Xylem continues to sharpen our focus on diversity recruiting and building inclusion into the fabric of how we operate. Within Xylem, we foster a culture of collaboration and innovation through Employee Network groups, leadership development programs, innovation events, and other initiatives like mentoring young innovators through the Xylem Ignite program.
Innovation holds the key to solving the world’s water and climate challenges, and the future of innovation at Xylem is working hand-in-hand with our colleagues, customers, and other partners and stakeholders to unlock value for water managers and create a more water-secure and sustainable world.