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Innovation Strategy


“We at Xylem know that all innovation begins with the customer. We strive to develop technologies and solutions based on a deep, deep understanding of our customers’ true needs. Our teams spend hours and hours walking alongside and in the shoes of our customers, experiencing their challenges and living their pain points. And it is when we match that with the entirety of our internal and external innovation ecosystem that we make a real difference. “
– David Flinton, SVP, Chief Innovation, Technology and Product Management Officer

At Xylem, innovation takes many forms, from providing more connected products and intelligent solutions, to business model innovations that ease the challenges for water and wastewater service providers to convert to new, modern and more sustainable technologies. Our work to drive both innovation and sustainability is aligned and complementary, as we develop new solutions for our customers with a clear aim in mind: to help the world mitigate major water challenges like scarcity and affordability, and help make communities more resilient and sustainable. 

Our Approach to Innovation

Looking ahead in 2020 and beyond, our approach to innovation includes: 

  • Water lightbulb.jpgEngaging customers early and often to understand their true pain points and needs.
  • Enabling Smart City development worldwide through a connected digitized portfolio of water technologies and Decision Intelligence.
  • Co-developing and advancing bold new technologies and applications through partnerships with universities, research institutes, startup incubators, NGOs, policymakers and other technology companies.
  • Convening broader conversations about water challenges and sustainability with policymakers and the general public.
  • Promoting diversity and inclusion to create the vibrant cross-exchange of ideas and perspectives that is critical to fueling innovation. 
  • Developing innovations specifically focused on creating social impact and improving lives through education, awareness and empowering communities to move up the global economic pyramid.

In recognition of our commitment to both innovation and sustainability, Xylem was named to the Fortune “Change the World” list for the second year in a row. The Change the World list is a ranking of 50 companies that have made a significant social impact through their core business strategy. Xylem was recognized for its work with customers and communities around the world to bring digital solutions to the water sector and create a more water-secure, sustainable world. 

The water sector is still in the early stages of its digital transformation, but data-driven insights are proving to deliver tremendous efficiency and more proactive approaches to infrastructure operations and management. In addition, a digital-savvy generation passionate about the environment is entering the water workforce and becoming socially-conscious consumers of water. The combination of these two trends is creating a powerful opportunity to accelerate solutions for the world’s water issues.

Innovation for Social Impact

Xylem recognizes that solving water for people living at the bottom of the economic pyramid requires innovative approaches that incorporate economic empowerment and gender parity to build sustainable communities with adequate water and sanitation. In 2019, Xylem launched the Base of Pyramid (BoP) Solutions team to develop community and household water treatment and sanitation solutions. Building on Xylem’s approach to solving water scarcity, water systems resilience and water affordability, The BoP Solutions team aligned on five community values of acceptability, affordability, accessibility, awareness, and accountability.

Leveraging Xylem’s industry-leading domain expertise and end-to-end technologies in digital solutions, field-ready and scalable hardware, and aftermarket and service, we have the unique opportunity and social responsibility to deploy Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) solutions that enable creation of social enterprise and local markets, support the professionalization of community-based services, and strengthen and the operation of local institutions and systems. To have an impact in WASH, partnership is key; the BoP team is leaning into research, co-development, and commercial partnerships with universities, NGOs, and public partners in the WASH space to close the water and sanitation gap together.  

Xylem Excellence in Innovation Awards for 2019

For the past three years, Xylem has internally recognized its leaders in innovation. The Excellence in Innovation awards recognizes employees who exemplify the spirit of innovative teamwork that is so vital to our continued growth and success. In addition to our award for best technology or product innovation for 2019, we also established a separate award category for best business model innovation. Both types of innovation are critical to our efforts to transform the future of water and critical infrastructure by helping make water more affordable and accessible, and communities more resilient and sustainable. 

Best Business Model innovation: CEO Grand Prize Award Winner, Smart Irrigation Project in Madhya Pradesh, India

With climate change and water scarcity issues growing, there is an increasing need in India to irrigate land as efficiently as possible to conserve water and improve agricultural production. Our Smart Irrigation Team in India adopted a consultative selling approach to better understand the customer’s conservation needs – how to reliably, efficiently and intelligently provide water to 175,000 farmers and increase agricultural production across 5,150 square kilometers in the state of Madhya Pradesh. They will leverage resources and products across four Xylem business units, along with other technologies where doing so creates customer value, and a network of external partners to design and deliver smart irrigation infrastructure that is truly “first of its kind."

Best Technology or Product Innovation: CEO Grand Prize Award Winner, Alyza IQ ANalyzer

The traditional phosphate and ammonium analyzers used in water and wastewater applications rely on hazardous and costly reagents. A Xylem team in Germany fully redesigned the analyzer based on robust voice of customer feedback, and solved customer concerns about user safety, product sustainability and operating costs.

Key innovations of the new Alyza IQ Analyzer include drip-free connection technology that helps eliminate safety hazards associated with reagent spillage. The efficient design reduces both the amount of reagent required and liquid waste, creating a sustainable product with low operating costs. 

Miniaturization of the system led to the development of a revolutionary small reagent pouch that is simple and easy to handle – an advance over the typical large canisters, which create safety risks for operators and require specialized training and storage. Finally, the analyzer’s compatibility with the IQ SensorNet platform gives customers the data they need to manage their operations.

America’s Regional Award

The PipeDiver Ultra team did extensive research to develop a flexible, free-swimming, high-resolution assessment tool to inspect the condition of metallic water pipelines. Typically, inspecting a metal pipeline requires labor-intensive methods that are expensive, intrusive, and need civil works and dewatering – which also can be potentially dangerous operating environments.

The PipeDiver Ultra solves these challenges with three significant innovations. First, its novel ultrasonic transducer can measure a wide range of pipe wall thicknesses. Second, it’s very flexible and can navigate obstacles inside a pipe network like tees, bends and valves, while staying centered to ensure robust data. Finally, almost 100 transducers are squeezed into the PipeDiver Ultra’s body to detect defects down to ½ square inch.

Emerging Markets Regional Award

In China, new government regulations transfer ownership of residential building water pumping systems from property owners and developers to municipalities. Our China Innovation Team saw this as an opportunity to address utility customers’ needs to replace old water pump houses with an efficient, secure, trouble-free and unmanned pump station.

In only a few months, and armed with a deep understanding of their customers’ needs, the team designed and built a turnkey Intelligent Pump House solution. It offers products and technology from across Xylem, including energy-efficient integrated pump boosters, water quality monitoring, disinfection and a security camera system, all in a modern and attractive package. The Intelligent Pump House comes in three versions to meet a variety of building needs and ensures clean, safe water for the last mile of water infrastructure.

Xylem honors innovation!


Read more in the Xylem 2019 Sustainability Report