Piloting a new water technology has always been a cumbersome process. But this may well soon be history with Isle Utilities’ invention: the Trial Reservoir.
What would it enable if water entrepreneurs could deploy their best ideas in weeks instead of decades? That’s what we’ll explore today (and how that’s even possible)…
with 🎙️ Piers Clark – Chairman and Founder of Isle Utilities
💧 Isle Utilities aims to bring new technologies to life by connecting expertise, investment, and inspired ideas across the globe.
What we covered:
💪 How the Water Industry could significantly impact most of the challenges our World is facing today
🧑🔬 How the best weapon for that impact to happen is not any of the usual suspects (regulations, restructuring, operations…) but rather an outlier: innovation!
🤔 How after evaluating 11’000 technologies and validating 1’400 of them, Isle Utilities decided to tackle the root problem: the time to adoption
⚒️ How the Trial Reservoir Isle brought to life is desperately simple, let alone incredibly brilliant
⚡ The three-step recipe that guarantees a Pilot’s success in the Water Industry
📈 How the Trial Reservoir could well be adopted way beyond just the Water Sector and become the new normal in innovation
💥 How Piers’s two significant career bumps shaped Isle Utilities and paved the way for its impact
📈 How Isle Utilities went from two men and a dog to about 100 full-time employees
🌱 How Isle is a purpose-driven organization that always redistributes 25% of its profits
🐍 How it isn’t possible to develop a snake oil technology in the Water Industry and why
2️⃣ The two key specificities of the Water Sector that make it an awesome place to strive as a water entrepreneur
☀️ How IPCC reports and climate change overall should drive our actions going forward
🧪 How a 100% success maybe also means failure and why taking risks is important
😊 Where the name “Isle” came from, the worst thing a utility can do to its customers, what should make you smile on your deathbed, culture change, the incredible consequences of three beers and a coffee… and much more!
🔥 … and of course, we concluded with the 𝙧𝙖𝙥𝙞𝙙 𝙛𝙞𝙧𝙚 𝙦𝙪𝙚𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨 🔥
➡️ Send your warm regards to Piers on LinkedIn
➡️ Visit Isle Utilities’ Website
is on Linkedin ➡️
Teaser: A Trial Reservoir to Rethink Piloting
Infographic: a Trial Reservoir to speed up Technology AdoptionInfographic-Piers-Clark-Isle-Utilities-Trial-Reservoir
Table of contents
These are computer-generated, so expect some typos 🙂
Get Season 2's Summary!
Antoine Walter: Hi Piers. Welcome to the show.
Piers Clark: It’s a pleasure to be here. Antoine. Thank you for inviting me.
Antoine Walter: I’m really looking forward that discussion and explore a bit, all the word, because first you were recommended quite a lot of times from different people. Second, you are on the top 40 list of the water technology power list. So I’m intrigued about that one. And you’re named as an influencer there with the remark that you’re an irrepressibly, engaging water tech connector.
So that’s also something I like to cover with you, but before all of that, I have traditions on that microphone and it starts with a postcard and you’re sending a postcard from Epson. What can you tell me about Epson, which I would ignore by now?
Piers Clark: So Epson is a sort of market town about 10 miles south of the center of London. And it’s famous because it’s got a race course here. It’s got the Epson Derby race course, which I live about a hundred meters away from. So at the end of a long, hard day, my wife and I will go for a walk around the race course.
And the thing about it is the really telling thing is the suffragettes a hundred years ago, the suffragettes were the women’s rights campaigners. And on one of them one of the famous races, I think it was 1914 or 15. One of the suffragettes got onto the race course and tried to pin their flag onto the King’s horse as it raced by.
Unfortunately they misjudged it and the horse plowed into them and killed her. And Emily Davidson was her name and she actually died. I don’t know why, I’m laughing. She actually died about 150 yards away from where we live and it’s on this race course. So it’s a very famous race course. And that is my postcard from Epson a race course that was an important part of the suffragette movement.
Antoine Walter: Actually the Epson Derby was already mentioned once on that microphone. And that was Paul O’Callaghan who took that analogy. And he was mentioning that if you are in innovation, in the water industry, you shall pick the right horse in the right race with the right driver. So it sounds like there’s a connection because those are as well fields, which we might be reviewing today.
So it’s an interesting coincidence. I’d say
Piers Clark: is. Isn’t it.
Antoine Walter: To start you to go a bit through your path. I was just reviewing that path. And I thought that if you look at it backwards, it sounds like everything led to the inception of Isle utilities and everything was absolutely logical. And I do know that sounds oftentimes like a post rationalization where you look at things in, you think everything is logical, but while you’re doing it, maybe it’s not that straightforward.
But in fact, you’ve started as a researcher. You’ve spin out. Some of that research you’ve been bringing that to market. You’ve been working on the capital side of things. You’ve been on the utility side. And I’m just wondering, what’s your threat and how will you describe that?
Piers Clark: So it’s very nice of you to say that it all leads to this. I actually I’ve had two fairly significant career bumps which led me to where I am today.
And at the time they happened, felt absolutely disastrous. And you wondered whether there was a way forward. And yet now I look at them and see them as being critical moments that help me become who I am today and doing what I do today.
And like you say, I started life doing a science degree. I then did a PhD in civil engineering. I was very passionate about doing things in the water sector. And so I joined the water sector in particular research because I felt that. In the water sector, the way to have the biggest impact is in is through innovation.
It’s not through restructuring and it’s not through regulation. It’s not through operations. I felt back in the early 1990s, that the way I could have the biggest impact was through innovation. That was how I could make a, an every youngster you kind of want to create a legacy.
You want to do something that’s gonna resonate down the generations. And it was innovation that I wanted to be in. So I started working for a water company Northwest water. And after a couple of years there I thought I need some international experience. So I joined an engineering consultancy called Atkins Ws Atkins, and I spent nine years at Atkins.
And I went from sort of head of research to commercial director, to eventually managing director over that nine year period. And then I left Atkins and joined another consultancy, Mouchel, where I was now running a team of 3000 people. It was a 200 million turnover business. It was a big international consultancy doing sort of big projects.
And if you’d asked me at that time, what I thought my career progression was going to be, I probably would’ve said I’m gonna be chief executive of a big PLC, which is exactly where my sort of ego would’ve taken me. But I would’ve been a terrible chief executive. I would be a terrible chief executive of a big, complicated business.
It’s not the skillset I’ve got, but of course I didn’t have the wherewithal to understand that at the time. So the first career bump came in 2009, when there was an opportunity for me to buy out my business from Mouchel. So Mouchel is this. Very big engineering consultancy employing 10,000 or so people I’m one of the three managing directors and I’m running a third of the business and I’m basically given the opportunity to lead a management buyout.
And so I spend four or five months going through a very detailed process of raising the money and trying to get this management buyout up and running. And on the 17th of December, 2009, not that these dates are burnt into my brain, but on the 17th of December, 2009, I sat down with the chief executive of Mouchel and we negotiated a deal.
We shook hands on a deal. And if you’d said to me that evening, is this going to happen? I’d have said, hell yes, I’ve got the management team. I’ve got the money. We’ve got the vision. We’ve got the business plan. We’ve got everything in place. There’s nothing that’s going to stop this. And on the 18th of December 24 hours later, there was a hostile bid made for the whole of Mouchel. by Vosper Thornycroft and my little management buyout died instantly. It was dead. It took literally 10 minutes for this deal, which had taken four, five months to create to die.
At that time I didn’t quite feel that it was a disaster. I thought, oh, well, never mind. I’ll go back into Mouchel. I’d been taken offline because obviously I was conflicted.
I was leading a management buyout. So I’d stood down from the the executive board and I went back to be on the executive board. And two weeks later, I sat down again with the chief executive and said, you know what, this isn’t gonna work. I’m gonna become a terrorist here. I’ve spent four months working out how I could do this business outside of Mouchel.
And now you are asking me to come back in and I’m just not there. And so I left Mouchel and I formally left at the end of December, 2009. I woke up actually on January, the first 2010 thinking it’s a new decade. I’m 40 I’m out of a job for the first time in my career. The height of my career was leading a failed management buyout out of a dying PLC.
Well done Piers. And at that stage, it really did feel like this was a pretty catastrophic. Place to be. I was 40, it was too long. I’d had this incredibly blessed career of sort of soaring through the ranks and being promoted way beyond my capabilities. And suddenly I found myself on the metaphorical scrap heap.
Now that was the burp number one. So I continue with Burt number two.
Antoine Walter: Well, yes. I want you to continue with B number, number number two, but it’s interesting because you’ve made all that, that build up. And now you say that in retrospect, that story is a positive one. So it’s interesting because it gives a hint at what you’re building after that. But yeah, I’ve been interested to hear B number two.
Piers Clark: so Burt number two was it’s now January, 2010 and I’m thinking, okay, well I’ve gotta find myself another job. And I’m very fortunate that the new chief executive at Thames water rings me up and says, We need someone to come in and head our asset management team. It was 800 people. They were about to launch a billion pound a year capital program.
They needed someone to sort of come in and get the team sorted. And I’d originally thought, well, it’s a six, eight week piece of work. Yep. Very happy to do it. And that’s when I always created, because Isle was the project name of the management buyout from Mouchel. Now this is very childish. And any of your listeners, aren’t going to judge me on this because we called it project.
Isle, because it’s a play on words. So internally people thought, oh, Isle, they called it Isle because it’s about carving out the water and energy business to be a separate entity like an island. The truth of the matter was that I was just playing with the word projectile. So we took the word project and Isle and made it projectile so that when the finance director said to me, ah, Clark, tell me how’s project Isle going.
We’d go well, projectile is going incredibly well, and he never once picked up on the fact that we were calling it projectile. It was just this incredibly childish moment. Anyway, so the management buyout had died here. I am in January. I’ve been asked to do some work in Thames water and the tax efficient way of doing it is to register a little business.
And so Isle was formed because I went onto the company’s house website to register a little business, a one man band business so that I could do a bit of consulting work. And I was going to call it Piers Clark limited, because that’s what you always do. And I thought, no, I’m not going to do that. Isle is going to live on.
And so I typed Isle into the company’s house website and press send Bing and I got an immediate rejection cuz there was already a business called Isle there’s some business in Scotland. That’s called Isle. So without a moment’s thought without any engagement at all, I called it Isle utilities. Now, if I’d thought I would’ve called it, Isle consulting or Isle advisory, but no, I didn’t think I just typed Isle utilities, Bing it got accepted.
Marvelous. And that has been the ban of my life for the last 10 years because we aren’t a utility it’s called Isle utilities and we aren’t a utility. So we tend to call ourselves just Isle just to be our trading name is Isle rather than our legal entity name So Isle was formed. In early 2010 as I was starting to do a, what I thought was a very small piece of work with Thames water.
This two month piece of work with Thames water, then actually extended. And I ended up being the interim asset director at Thames for about 16 months and I then left Thames and two days after I left, I was then asked to go back as the commercial director. And so I then rejoined Thames’ exec board as their commercial director.
So I had this slightly odd and it was a truly odd experience because I left, I had a leaving due, you know, I genuinely had a leaving due on the Thursday night. I left on the Friday on the following Monday, the chief executive of Thames water rang me up and said, Hey, we’ve been thinking about a commercial director.
Do you want the post? I said, well, I left last week. You don’t really want me to come straight back to you. That would look a bit weird. He goes, wow. You know, whatever, why don’t you come? And so I was. I literally left one exec meeting in, I think it was March, 2011 and I was at the next exec meeting, wearing a different hat.
As the commercial director in April, 2011, I then had four wonderful years at Thames water where I was the commercial director responsible for all of their non-regulated activities and all of the industrial clients, the hotels, the gyms, the factories, the industrial people.
Antoine Walter: Just for me to understand that one, that means you create, Isle, you expect it to be a six to eight weeks appointment with Thames water and it ends up being four to five years you’re working there. So how does that interact between your Thames water duties? Was it fulltime job with Isle as a fake nose?
If I might say
Piers Clark: so?
When it first started, Isle was just me and I was just doing consulting for Thames water. And I did that all the way through until I ceased being the asset director. When I joined as a commercial director, I was then employed by Thames water. So for that first year, I was there. However, in that first year, the team at Mouchel, the previous business Mouchel was going through a sort of unraveling.
And there was an initiative that I’d started at, Mouchel called the TAG, the technology approval group forum. And I rang the chief executive about six months after I left. and his name was rich. Kaper he’s a wonderful man. I said, rich, you know, the tag, I know it’s only employs three or four people, but it’s the icing on the cake.
In fact, it’s the cherry on top of the icing on top of the cake. And you need to look after the tag process because that cascades, all the value that we generate in the consulting business, is it cascades from that that tag initiative. And he said, look, Piers, you don’t how hard it is here. We’re gonna have to make a lot of people redundant and I, without a moment’s thought.
And you’ll see that there’s a thread here that I tend to do things without thinking them through. I, without a moment’s thought said, well, in that case, let me take them on, you know, tag had been my baby and I to be perfectly blunt. I thought if anyone’s going to kill tag, I want it to be me. If it’s going to die on anyone’s watch, I want to be the one that puts it to bed.
And and so I said, you know, let me take these people on. There were only three people Monica, Stewart and Fiona. And I said, let me take them on. And he said, yes, I then rang my wife and said, ah, star, I think I’ve just gambled called her a million pounds. Are we okay with that?
Which was basically all of the income I was getting from Thames water. I was now going to gamble on taking on these three people into this little consulting business
Antoine Walter: To put the timeline, just to understand that you created TAG as part of Mouchel in 2005, then you leave Mouchel. So tag lives a bit without you, and then you take them back in 2011, 12. When is it that you integrate them into Isle?
Piers Clark: 2010. So yes, you’re right.
Antoine Walter: So really at the beginning of your, Isle journey you take those three people on board at the same time that you’re working with Thames as your exclusive customer.
Piers Clark: And to be fair at that time, I fully expected TAG to die. We had six UK water companies and I’d thought, well, if we lose more than two of them, we are dead and we’re probably gonna lose more than two of them because we’ve gone from being part of this big engineering consultancy to, we are just this tiny little, two men and a dog sort of business.
We’re gonna struggle with procurement. Nobody’s going to want to procure with a business that doesn’t have any track record, but far better that it died under my watch than it died elsewhere was the logic I was working to.
Antoine Walter: So, so that leads us to your blurp. Number two, at some point.
Piers Clark: Well, so blowout number two came, I was with Thames. I had five wonderful years at Thames water doing great things. And then In 2015 there was a fund, a new fund was being talked about by Blackstone, the world’s most successful private equity fund. And I’ve thought, well, hell, I’ve done quite well.
I’ve, you know, I’ve done the consulting thing. I’ve done the water utility thing. I think I could become an investor. I thought, yeah, my ego running ahead of me. As I thought that I could become one of the world’s great water investors. And so I heard about Blackstone forming this fund. It was going to be $7 billion starting with a billion dollars sort of seed capital growing to 7 billion.
And so I basically found the person who was in charge of this fund and I begged them for a job. My argument was very simple. It was don’t employ another banker, employ someone like me who understands the water sector and has a great international connection. So it was a very simple pitch and all credit to them.
They actually believed it. They gave me the job. And so I was appointed as the first managing director of the Blackstone water fund called global water development partners. And the first three months were just wonderful. It was great. My job was to find projects where Blackstone could invest a hundred million dollars in water assets.
It was quite expensive money, about 18% IRR, so that means you were looking at projects that had got sufficient risk inside them. So it was a very exciting time to be doing that.
Antoine Walter: When you say project, is it companies, is it like PPP projects, like assets, what kind of projects was it?
Piers Clark: All of the above basically is everything from looking at desal plants to transferring assets over to PPP schemes to there was a particular deal I was looking at, which was around green data centers. Six green data centers in the UK. It was a nice sort of 400 million investment, 200 of debt, 200 of equity with 44-45% IRR.
So it was a really nice financial project. Anyway bear in mind, this is a public podcast. I need to be careful what I say suffice to say that about six months in it became apparent that Blackstone wasn’t the organization for me. And that I wasn’t cut out to be a. A hard-nosed aggressive investor.
There’s a reason why Blackstone is the most successful private equity fund on the planet. And that’s because they are very strict in how they do deals. And I found that this wasn’t well, how I wanted to operate. And so I resigned now of course, resigning from a job like that after you’ve only been in for eight months when you are 45 now It felt like another moment of, oh my God, I’ve done it a second time. I’ve suddenly found myself on a burning pier and nowhere to go. You know, it was almost reliving the Mouchel MBO collapse where out of good fortune, I’d been able to rebuild a career or restart my career with THames here.
I was now having, let my ego run ahead of me and think that I could become an investor. Suddenly I found myself at 45 now going, oh dear. I’m out of a job again.
And of course it has an added bit of hubris, which comes in here because I’d thought I could do things. I’d thought I could make it as an investor and to fail and to actually elect to resign, you know, So I wasn’t sacked.
I went into the business on, there was a particular deal that had happened, a meeting that had progressed in a way that I didn’t like. And at the end of the meeting, there’s quite a lot of high fiving on our side as haha. Didn’t that go well, and I came home and that evening I was telling my wife the story and I suddenly thought, you know what, this isn’t me, this isn’t how I want to do business.
And so the next day I went in and said, I’m sorry, I’m this isn’t for me. I’m out. And it was one of those moments where you find yourself thinking this is either incredibly brave or fantastically stupid!
Now part of the reason I could do that was because of course, by then Isle, which had been bubbling away in the background.
Now employed, I don’t know, 15, 20 people and Isle wasn’t ever designed to be a sort of profitable business. It was just trying to support the water sector, trying to do things with innovation. And we were gradually growing. I was spending some time at the weekend or early in the morning or in the evenings, just supporting Isle and helping it.
It do what it needed to do.
Antoine Walter: Sorry to cut you. But that means that by then Isle had been somehow growing in the back. So it means that you were 100% busy with something else. And when you had some free time, you were supporting the team which was growing. So, and at that time you have an opportunity to go full on.
Piers Clark: Yeah. And yeah, that’s exactly it was quietly bubbling away. And if it made a profit, we either gave it to charity or we gave it back to the staff. Yeah, it was a lifestyle business. It wasn’t, it was just ticking along in the background, hopefully doing good things for the water sector. You know, the aim of Isle was then, and is still now, how do we make this technically brilliant industry that is, is due to its structure naturally conservative and quite bureaucratic.
How do we make the water sector better at identifying and adopting innovations that could make it a provide a better public health service to populations around the world. That was the driving force behind Isle and is still the driving force behind aisle. Anyway, so I then joined Isle thinking, well, now it’s suddenly got me and my salary and you know, my need.
To actually make a living out of Isle. Cause I didn’t draw any salary from it until then. Suddenly it got me in, I thought, well this is gonna kill isle. And we, I was very lucky in that. I found that actually it didn’t kill isle. And if anything, it sort of grew it the key moment there is that it was at that point that I realized it had taken me 45 years to get there.
But I realized that this is what I was meant to do. Running a small boutique technical consultancy is what I’m actually good at. It’s what gives me energy. It’s what gets me excited in the morning. I leap out of bed on a Monday morning thinking Hey, brilliant. We’ve got a week of work. Which isn’t quite how I’d ever felt when I was running the business in Atkins or Mouchel or in Thames, you know, there was that grind to it.
And I wanted that excitement level of. Man, thank God. The weekend’s over. Now we can get back to doing the real stuff. Yeah. You want that, that level of excitement, which I was very pleased to get.
Antoine Walter: You’re calling it boutique business. But if I now look seven years down the line, because that happens in 2015, where you go then all in and full time on Isle, so now we’re in 2022. And if I count it about right on your website, it’s about 100 headcounts right now at Isle. So the boutique has grown quite Spectacularly.
Piers Clark: That’s very nice of you to say so. Yes. Yeah, we’ve we are about I don’t think it’s over a hundred. I think we’re just under a hundred staff that are sort of, full time on the salary, but there’s obviously some consultants and people like that, that, that work as need to be, but the actual main staff body is probably just under a hundred people and we operate in lots of countries.
Now it’s actually easier to say where we don’t operate. So we don’t operate in Japan, Russia, China, and India. And when I told a client that story a week ago maybe two weeks ago, they said, oh, so do you operate in North Korea? I was like, well, no, you are right. We don’t operate in North Korea. So so, so, so there are places we don’t operate in but in general, we’re in the middle east, we’re in Southeast Asia, we’re in Australia, we’re all across Europe.
We’re in Latin America and we’re in north America and it’s a hundred people. I still call it a boutique because what we do is still very specialist. So whilst we work with 350 utilities all around the world, the work we do is very specialist. It is all around innovation and strategy and benchmarking.
And how do you get better at those particular things? So we aren’t ever going to be the broad multi-disciplined engineering, consultancy business that, that Atkins and Mouchel and bins and Stantec and Black and Veatch are. You know, we’re always going to be very specialist. And that I think is why I call it a boutique consultancy.
Antoine Walter: You give some numbers. So. Let’s go to those numbers. Pretty swiftly you give you are working with 350 utilities. What I found as well is that you, you evaluated 11,000 technologies and of those 11’000, 1’400 are approved or validated by your, screening screening. Is that your, your main activity and then have a follow up on investment.
Piers Clark: So, so, so those numbers tend to change. They get bigger and I’m always surprised at how big they get. So about a third of our business is running the TAG program, which is this sort of dragons den engagement with water companies. The other two thirds. Our specialist bespoke consultancy or running of trials, or doing invested due diligence and all those sorts of things.
So about a third of the business is around TAG and it’s through TAG that we have screened indeed, you know, 10,000 plus technologies have gone through that screening process. Now, when we say approved, what that means is we tend to focus. Imagine you are the chief executive of Sydney water in Australia.
You probably know the local universities and have some association with them. You don’t know what’s going on in Vancouver or in Atlanta or London, because you just haven’t got the bandwidth to engage at that level. So our job as Isle is to help, you know, which are the technologies, which are being developed elsewhere around the world that might resonate with your business.
Now, what you are mostly interested in are the latest stage technologies, not the TRL, the technology readiness level 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, but rather the technologies that are at 6, 7, 8, 9. And so when we say we’ve looked at 10, 11,000 technologies, Actually the ones which don’t get approved are the early stage ones.
It’s not that they’re not good because there’s very few snake oil technologies in the water sector, mainly because if you were a crook and you wanted to develop a business that was just sort of fooling people and you were going to do it, you do it in a different industry to be perfectly blunt. It’s hard enough selling stuff into the water sector, even when your idea is brilliant, let alone try to sell it.
It is rubbish. So there’s very few snake oil technologies in the water sector. You and by snake oil, I mean, you know, perpetual motion type machines, you know, things which the science just says, well, that’s not going to work. In general, this is a technically brilliant, very competent sector.
So when we look at those 11,000 technologies, many of them will be early stage and we tend to monitor them and see how they progress. And the ones which get put forward to a TAG forum are the latest stage ones. And the ones that then go under the approved bit are the ones which then get selected by the utilities themselves.
So there’s a second tier of due diligence and we don’t invest money. We are independent. I have to stress that we are independent. We don’t own any intellectual property. We do not compete with any of the tech companies, but what we do is we do then facilitate those companies, raising funding. And the last time we ran those numbers, which was probably two years ago, we found that it was over a billion dollars, had been invested into the companies that we had facilitated through the TAG process.
When you’re going well, what’s the metric you judge success by. I actually judge it by how many utilities are we talking to? How many utilities are engaged in this process? Because that’s a, that I think is the strongest metric of is what we are doing mattering to the industry.
Antoine Walter: Where do you find those utilities? Because many people on that microphone have shared how that industry is quite. Special I think the typical sentence is the water industry is conservative for a reason. And then everybody agrees on that. And it seems to me like you’re working with us 350 utilities, which could be called maybe early adopters, fast movers.
Where do you find them? And are they special?
Piers Clark: I think there’s probably 20,000 or more water utilities across the world. Actually much more than that. Cause there’s 55,000 just in north America alone. But they’re very different. So the sort of clients we work for are the utilities that serve populations of sort of quarter of a million or more because below that, there just isn’t the scale.
The organizations wouldn’t have the bandwidth to be able to engage with us. You know, typically we’d need to be talking to an asset director or an head of innovation. So that screens down the number of utilities we could talk to.
Are they fast followers or sector leaders? No, in general, they’re not.
And that is because the way the water sector is designed and regulated for very good reason, I have to say. Is to have a sort of very strong precautionary approach to life. You do not play fast and loose with people’s public health. You don’t suddenly say, Hey, yeah, this was one way of treating water, but let’s try a different way and run the risk of, you know, poisoning 20,000 people.
You just can’t afford to do that. So, so this is a very heavily regulated sector, which for very good reason needs to operate in a very bureaucratic and quite thoughtful way before it adopts new innovation. The counter to that is that we desperately need new innovation. You know, the activated sludge process was invented in
Antoine Walter: 1914, the famous one.
Piers Clark: and bizarrely, we celebrate it as an industry.
We celebrated in 2014 that it was a hundred years old and I found myself thinking. Are we seriously celebrating the fact that we’ve got this incredibly energy intensive treatment process that we haven’t changed for a hundred years? I mean, that didn’t feel like a moment to something to celebrate a really interesting little anecdote.
I can just go off on side story is that Arden and Lockhart were the people who invented the activated sludge process. And they were essentially Arden. Lockhart were the heads of research for the water companies that are now United utilities and Thames water. Although those two companies didn’t exist at the time.
and I can’t remember which one. I think it’s Lockhart, where in the 1950s, when he was at the end of his life he gave an interview and he talked about how radical the activated sludge process was. Because basically if someone said to you, I’ve come up with a way of treating wastewater. What we’re gonna do is we’re gonna take some wastewater.
We’re gonna blow air through it for a couple of days. Then we’re going to add more waste water to it. And trust me, it’s going to come out cleaner. I mean, you’d never, if someone described that to you’d never go, oh yeah, no, that sounds like an idea that’s going to work. And and he said on this sort of late in his life interview around how radical this idea was and how much people doubted it and didn’t think it was going to happen.
And so there’s these moments where you get this sort of step change in innovation. And we do see it with other things, you know, more recently, I think thermal hydrolysis and the stuff that Cambi have done. In the late nineties, thermal hydrolysis was this sort of pressure cooking of sludge. How’s that going to work?
Now? Of course, there’s lots of people who are trying to copy them Cambi, you know, it’s a really good technology. It’s very robust and works, but it’s, it was a game change in how things worked. And just finally, we do need this sort of innovation because just when you think it couldn’t happen, you get something like Flint in north America where the lead poisoning and the work that Mona Hannah Attisha, I think her name is, you know, the pediatrician who spotted this and fought.
And she was incredibly brave. You know, she was an absolute star, the work she did to not give up, to keep rising the profile of this very challenging situation that just shouldn’t have been happening in the second millennium
Antoine Walter: Just as you mentioned, Cambi for anyone listening , to that have an ear, to season five, episode 14, where I’m having a conversation with the CEO of CAMBI. So,
Piers Clark: Oh,
Antoine Walter: we, I think he, he calls it the pressure cooker, a giant pressure cooker. So that’s a way to rationalize it. And I’m closing that parenthesis here, because if not, I can take you for a long tangent, because Sonico is something which you were involved with.
Piers Clark: oh, no, we’ve gotta do the Sonico bit because I’ve already told the anecdote about how awful the name or how the name Isle came up. And Sonico so I was head of research at Atkins. I dunno, my mid twenties and we invent this very intense Titanium vibrating horn. Basically it’s a metal piece that vibrates and by doing that, it causes cavitation and the cavitation will disrupt cell walls.
And we were using it to enhance anaerobic digestion and then Cambi came along and just wipe the floor with this Cambi was a much, much better technology. It was more robust, it was cheaper, it was more reliable. It was just better. And we were leap frog and Sonico it’s called Sonico because we had this thing called Sonics and in all of the reference papers internally we’d go, well, we’ve gotta create a company here, let’s call it.
And so for laziness, we just call it Sonics co while we were in these things. And then eventually that, because we were a bunch of engineers with no imagination, if a Sonico became the. now the twist in this is that when we launched it, we got quite a lot of hits on the website because we discovered that in Latin America, there is a certain female sexual toy, which is called Sonico.
So we got quite a lot of we,
Antoine Walter: marketing.
Piers Clark: it was, well, it was marketing, of course. When you talk about having a vibrating horn called Sonico and it was, you could understand the confusion that it created in the marketplace. Anyway, Sonico lived and died relatively briefly. It was like many technologies. Yeah.
You need to get overtaken by better ideas come up. And with hindsight, I look back and think, well, you know, we learned something
Antoine Walter: you mentioned technologies and you, you were saying a bit earlier that the water industry is a technology brilliant sector. And yet your tagline as isle is that you want to be the catalyst in the water industry transformation. What is that transformation that we shall undergo as a sector?
Piers Clark: thank you, cuz that’s perhaps the most important thing I’d like to share today is is the water sector is technically incredibly competent. We understand the science around things. We know what to do. The problem we’ve got. Is the rate of adoption. It is the fact that when a new technology is identified and we test it and we trial it and we get some data, we don’t adopt it into our core business.
It stays as a sort of glossy thing that we go, oh, no, that was an interesting trial. Yes. Maybe at some point in the future, we’ll do another trial. And actually the world is on fire. You know, we’ve had three IPCC reports in the last 12 months that are just making it abundantly clear that this generation, if we do not respond on the climate crisis, this generation is going to be the one that will create an impossible situation for the next generation.
So we have to introduce a sense of urgency around. finding better ways to do things and then adopting them once we get comfortable that they know that they work, we adopt them. And that means we’ve gotta challenge some of that. Very understandable resistance to new technology, which exists inside infrastructure businesses, like the water sector.
Antoine Walter: You explain how the resistance is strong because people might be dying. And that is what I often hear. And I’m just challenging that now, because that’s very true for drinking water, but drinking water is only one portion of the water industry. You have all the waste water side, and then you have all the industry water side, and then you have all the agricultural water, which is the part we never talk about in the water industry.
So is there maybe a part, I mean, it’s like if you’re, you have to climb the Everest and there’s many ways to climb the Mount Everest and there’s the north face, which is the most difficult one. And then you can maybe go from the south. It’s still gonna be difficult, but it’s gonna be more doable.
Does that metaphor somehow hold water in the water industry?
Piers Clark: It does. It does. Absolutely however, I would just challenge you on one thing. So we say, I obviously use the example that you don’t wanna poison be. You don’t wanna put you know, and that’s a very extreme example, perhaps I think the worst thing a water company can do. And I say this as the former asset director at Thames water, one of the worst things a water company can do to its customers is flood their houses with sewage.
and actually that happens with a frightening amount of, you know, sewer flooding is far worse, I think, than a drought because getting someone else’s fecal matter coming into your house is a horrible experience. I’m not suggesting that not having water supply. Isn’t a nice one, but ju but you can’t make the assumption that you can take more risk on wastewater assets than you can on drinking water assets, because the consequences of things going wrong are still catastrophic and very impactful on people’s lives.
That said your analogy around the many faces of Everest is exactly right. There are lots of ways in which innovation in the water sector can be the rate at which it can be tested and adopted can be enhanced from where we traditionally start. And that does mean you’ve gotta have forward thinking utilities who are.
Open-minded to taking maybe a slightly different risk profile on, on what they do. You also need regulators who are open-minded to maybe having some flexibility in the regulations. There’s no point in saying, I want you to meet this regulatory standard. And the only solution is using an old form of technology.
If someone’s going to be bold enough, if a utility’s gonna be bold enough to try a new solution, you actually need the regulator to come with you on that journey to understand that if it doesn’t work, maybe they won’t prosecute in the way that they would’ve done. Had someone try a old and tested method.
There is one thing that I think is worth saying, in the water sector, there are two things that are brilliant about the water sector. Well, there are many things that are brilliant about the water sector, but there are two in particular that I love about the water sector.
The first is the water companies. Love to share, you know, they absolutely love to share this. Isn’t like working in pharmaceuticals. Whereas if you manage to get GlaxoSmith client developing a new drug, they’re gonna keep it secret. And they’re not gonna tell anyone in the water sector, someone tries something new and it works.
They will love to tell everybody about it. And that means you get this cascading of learning around the world. The second brilliant thing about the water sector is that it is a global market. So have you come up with a way of resolving leakage or better cleaning up bio methane or better managing the watersheds?
You know, the market for that, isn’t just localized around London, but it will apply in Sydney, Australia in Guatemala, in central Africa, you know, the technologies in general cascade to a global market, which means that if you’re an innovator and an entrepreneur, if you can come up with a compelling solution, And you can test it with a utility.
Who’s prepared to tell the world about it. You’ve got a big market that can open up quite quickly for you. And that’s a brilliant place to be.
Antoine Walter: So if. There are challenges because climate change is here to stay because we are still relying on technologies, which are one century old and which are our workhorses. If there is this potential to on the long run, being quite successful, because once your technology is validated, then the word is yours.
That means that you have to concentrate on this step in between, which is this adoption of the new technology. And you mentioned how rate of adoption is a difficult thing in that industry. How do you overcome that and what are you doing as Isle to help companies overcome that? I think the name is chasm crossing the Chas.
Piers Clark: Now chasm are absolutely right. So we launched a initiative called the trial reservoir. At the end of last year and the reservoir, it’s a reservoir of money. It’s basically a pot of money that we have given to the water sector and it is to fund trials but the big, the really key thing here is that funding is only allowed.
It’s only gifted. If the utility agrees to adopt the technology, if the trial is successful. So imagine a scenario, you’re an entrepreneur, you’ve got a utility. You’re talking to, you’re talking about doing a trial. And traditionally what normally happens is you do a trial and everybody goes, well, that was interesting data.
Yeah. Let’s think about it. And we’ll come back to this in six months time, and then they’ll do another trial and then they’ll do another trial. And then they’ll do another trial. You get caught in this sort of Groundhog day of doing trials. What we are saying is no. We will fund the trial. We will take 100% of the risk on the trial.
So if the trial fails, there’s no comeback on the utility and there’s no comeback on the entrepreneur. We as Isle will take 100% of the risk on the trial failing. However, if the trial works. Then actually the utility will adopt it. And that means the utility then has to think about, well, actually, if I’m gonna adopt it, what do I need to see from this trial?
You get into much more thoughtful trial designer. What would be my no regrets outcome? What would make me excited about this trial, such that I’m confident enough to mean I’m prepared to adopt this technology. and now if the trial is successful, then obviously the utility buys the technology and the technology company then pays back the loan we’ve given them, pays back money into the reservoir.
So the money flows, that’s why it’s called a reservoir. The money flows in and out. And the aim is that we have this pot of money that could be used multiple times. Hundreds of times the same money could be used to fund trial after trial with different companies and all the time driving forward, this adoption of technology.
We launched it in November. We had over a hundred applications, which we’re working through. We’ve got over half a dozen trials now operating in north America, Europe, central Africa, Australia. We’ve it’s just absolutely wonderful.
Antoine Walter: Can you give us an example from one of these ongoing
Piers Clark: yeah, so, so there’s well, there’s two, can I give you two examples?
Antoine Walter: Yeah, sure.
Piers Clark: So there’s one in Africa which is around it’s around intelligent water supply. So typically the carbon footprint , in rural places in Africa, The carbon footprint on water goes up, cuz people get contaminated water sources, and then they have to chop down trees to boil the water to make it safe.
So this is a technology that’s providing low carbon footprint, but clean water, but it’s basically a clever tap, a smart tap where you can tap it with your RFID token. And it will then discharge a pre-bought amount of water into a canister. So the the family member can go there with their canister and the tag, they tap the tap, they turn it on, they can extract their 10 liters of clean water, safe in the knowledge that they then don’t need to start chopping down firewood to, to boil it.
And it’s a great technology eWater services. And we are funding a couple of new pipes, new taps in a new area to see what impact that could be.
Antoine Walter: what’s the metric. You follow there to say, if we meet that, then it’s gonna be adopted.
Piers Clark: so, every trial has slightly different metrics. I think on that one it’s actually a minimum number of people in each of the areas. Every time you install one of these taps, it’s gotta sort of have a minimum community that it serves. Although to be honest for the trial reservoirs key metric is how much carbon are we alleviating?
That’s when I’m on my deathbed and someone says to me, you’re proud of the trial reservoir. I’ll be going, yes, we achieved this much carbon mitigation. The second one is jumping to the UK. We’ve got a technology called Orage, which is a French technology for sludge thickening. And they are doing a trial with Yorkshire water.
And the beauty of that was, it was a relatively small trial. It was about $50,000 cost in trial. And the commitment they’d made was that they were going to buy one of these dewatering units. If the trial was successful, they’d buy one of these dewatering units, which was about quarter of a million in cost.
And the trial was designed to be six weeks long. And within three weeks of it starting, they were already talking about how could they buy four of these units because the results were so good. And the thing that happened there. Was it because we were forcing the utility to think about what would they do if they adopted it.
It meant that there were more senior people engaged in the company looking at the trial and going, well, hell if this thing does what it says, it’s going to do, we need to adopt it. Not in six months time, we need to adopt it today. And that was an incredibly powerful moment.
So the trial reservoir isn’t really about a potted money. It’s about a culture change. It’s about trying to ensure that, that, that thought process, that that I think is necessary at a senior level inside utilities to drive forward adoption is actually happening.
Antoine Walter: Sorry to take you down to the nitty gritty details, but you mentioned how Isle is taking 100% of the risk and I do get that it’s an awesoome metric to say how much carbon you’ve saved by the end of the process. And there should be no end because it’s an evergreen process, where do you take your own share of that bucket?
Because you need to live from something
Piers Clark: So, well we do, but we have our core business for that. So the trial of reservoir was a gift that we made. I have to say I was quite surprised when my shareholders, when I took it to my shares and said, I wanna take 25% of our profits and put them into this reservoir we’d always give them 25% of our profits had always given to either to charity or to entrepreneurs working in the water and sanitation space.
And last year I said, look, this year, I don’t wanna do that this year. I want to put in the trial reservoir. Are we okay with that? and I got a hell yes. From our shareholders. And so we launched this initiative and I have had people say to me, one person said to me, well, if you do 10 trials and they’re all successful, then the trial reservoir is going to grow.
What are you going to do? Then? It was like, well, we’re going to invest in even more trials. , you know, great. And and actually if we did invest in 10 trials and we found them all to be successful, that would suggest that we weren’t drawing the risk line in the right place. We weren’t taking enough risk.
Cuz of course I don’t want the trials to fail, but equally, if everything we do is a success, it means we are probably not being innovative enough. We’re probably not taking enough risk. So I do actually want to. I’ve gotta be careful saying that. Cause what I don’t wanna be is have a whole bunch of nutts coming to me going, well, I’ve got a trial that will definitely fail.
Why don’t you fund this one? Because that clearly isn’t where we are, where we’re trying to take this concept. But yeah, that’s where we’re at the moment. It’s still early days. We’ve got, like I said, we’ve got a very healthy pipeline of opportunities, very healthy hundreds, over a hundred technologies from all around the world.
And the bit I love is it’s they’re in municipal and industrial. They’re in low, medium and high income countries. It’s just wonderful. It’s a wonderful initiative.
Antoine Walter: To compare it to what we discussed a bit earlier about this, these timelines in the water industry and how we are somehow doomed to accept our fate of being a quite sensitive industry. I take your example, you just shared of this Orage pilots, where within three month you go from
Piers Clark: Three weeks three weeks.
Antoine Walter: Three weeks.
Oh, sorry. It’s even faster. So th three weeks you go from pilots to possibly selling four units. Usually if you look at the timelines in the industry between piloting and being in those three to five first references, it takes almost a decade.
Piers Clark: Oh, I think you are being unreasonable there. No, it takes much longer than a decade.
Antoine Walter: to get the first references, not to be in the middle of the
Piers Clark: I, I, I was being fabulous. You know, typically I used to joke when we were in Sonico. Well, maybe if we could get this sale, then maybe my children might be able to get the second sale through in a generation’s time. And actually, if you look at, Cambi, let’s just go back to, Cambi you know, Cambi came onto the market pretty much fully formed in 1998-1999.
You know, the technology they had. Okay. I needed some refining, but it wasn’t it was well formed yet. It’s taken two decades to get to it being fully recognized. It’s this it’s a very long time for these things to fall into place
Antoine Walter: It’s a topic we’ve been discussing on that microphone with Andrew Benedek with the example of Zenon, which is the perfect example of how long it takes and which polar LAN has been like putting into a theory in the thesis, which we also discussed on that microphone. So I linked to that in the show notes, but I have a question on that one, which is you’re taking out the risk.
And by doing that, you’re very successful and I’m, over simplifying it right now and quite a lot, because as you explained, the real trick is not taking off. The risk is having the right stakeholders on the table very early on and deciding on what is gonna be success. And then executing on that success.
If I not compare it to the business model, which is quite growing now in, in north America of water as a service, wastewater as a service, basically they do exactly the same. They come, they say, Hey, you don’t have any capital to put down. We do it for you. You look at it. And the risk you take is two, three months of of fees.
And in worst case scenario, it doesn’t work and we just leave forever. And there, the adoption is faster than conventional, but still not to the extent you’re describing here. To me. The difference is you have a third party, which is Isle Utilities, which is saying that technology is not only risk free. It’s also approved and we have a track record of technologies we’ve approved and we reviewed it with our external eye, and we think it might be a good match.
So is that the secret sauce?
Piers Clark: Well, yes it is. Although I’d say the reason I’m the way I manage the risk in the trial reservoir. Perhaps this comes back to learnings from my Blackstone days. Is it’s all around the due diligence that you are doing and focusing your due diligence on the right things. And you often see investors looking and they’ll spend lots of time and effort and money doing due diligence before they make an investment.
But I tend to think they spend it looking at answering the wrong questions and for a trial reservoir trial, there are really only three things that we need to look at when we’re doing our due diligence. So the first is, does the technology work, you know, is it snake oil? Is it a perpetual motion machine or does it actually do what it says it’s going to do on the team now?
That is of course Isle’s core business. So if we don’t know the answer to that, then we deserve to fail. You know, quite simply the second bit of due diligence is, has the trial been designed to be reasonable? You know, it might be, there’s a technology that is brilliant, but the trial’s been designed to be.
Unreasonably ambitious that no matter how good the technology is, it’s never going to achieve the goals. Well, that’s a really useful thing to have flushed out in the conversation with the client, but equally, if the trial is unrealistic, you have to walk away. And again, that’s relatively straightforward due diligence.
It’s relatively straightforward to get your head around. What’s the risk here. It’s not always going to work, but you can minimize down the risks of failure by clever trial design or sensible trial design. The third and most important bit of due diligence is actually on the utility. It’s on the end user.
Is the person at the end user utility. Is it someone who actually has the budgetary authority? Do they actually have the. The full understanding and the authority to make the commitment that’s being made. i.e. If this trial is a success, they are going to do something meaningful, which is probably buy the technology.
And that is the most important bit of the due diligence actually is just making sure that the person in the utility isn’t suddenly gonna go oh no, I’ve still gotta pass this by my boss. I’ve still gotta get it through procurement. I’ve still gotta, you know, put it through. And we try and do all of that work before the trial begins.
All of that, ensuring that you are compliant with all the procurement rules and all of the asset standards and operational requirements, and that all of that gets dealt with before the trial begins. And that’s the most important bit of due diligence. And of course, once you’ve got a well meaning and informed buyer, you’ve got a sensibly designed trial working with a technology that, you know, should work.
Actually, it’s a relatively low bet. The risk level. Isn’t, I’m not saying the risk level zero, cuz it clearly isn’t, but the risk level begins to be something that is bankable.
Antoine Walter: Well, that’s fascinating. And I’m getting frustrated because I could take you one more hour on the topic. Like, why do we need Isle Utilities to do that? Isn’t that supposed to be something that governments shall be doing themselves, but I don’t want to open a sidetrack here and I don’t now
Piers Clark: So say I’m 52 and I’ve got, I don’t know, 15 years left probably in this water sector. And I have decided that I’m gonna commit those 15 years to trying to make it so that the trial reservoir concept is something that begins, that becomes. Endemic everywhere. It becomes the way that we do trials, because it strikes me as this is such an obvious model for how innovation should be adopted, not just in the water sector, but in the energy and transport and all sorts of in particular sectors where their infrastructure heavy and the adoption of innovation is a cumbersome process.
Antoine Walter: Actually it’s the definition of a brilliant idea. It’s when you hear it, you’re like that’s obvious, but you had to had the idea first and that’s exactly how when Sivan Zamir mentioned the trial reservoir on that microphone, it was like, that is exactly what we needed. And it’s so awesome to see that actually you did it.
Piers Clark: well, can I tell you, can we finish? I know that you wanted this to be 45 minutes long and we’re
Antoine Walter: No, don’t worry. I’m cautious of your time. Mine doesn’t count.
Piers Clark: Well, let me finish with a little anecdote as to how the trial reservoir idea came about. So it was last summer. About a year ago, I was on the holiday with my family in the Yorkshire Dales. And I was there with my brother. My brother’s very senior at OTED, the offshore wind farm people.
And it was the day that the first IPC C report came out that basically said the world’s on fire and we’re all screwed. And we were walking in the orchard malls and and going well, we’re both quite senior people in the environmental sector and this feels overwhelming for us. Imagine what it feels like if you are not in a senior position, how the hell are we going to resolve this?
And that evening, we went to an Italian restaurant in in Yorkshire and I’m normally a two beers, man. I have two beers and then I’m in my sort of happy place. And for some reason that night I had three beers and I never drank coffee. And at the end of the meal, the waiter came around and said, who’d like a coffee.
And I was like, yeah, I’ll have a coffee. And so what it meant was that night I was lying in bed with a little bit more alcohol than normal and a lot more caffeine than normal causing through my veins. And I was wrestling with this IPCC report, climate change. How could we resolve it? And I swear to you, the ideal of the trial reservoir pretty much came to me fully formed.
At 3:00 AM that morning. I was so excited. I woke my wife up who to this day still doesn’t show the right level of excitement about the trial reservoir. She wasn’t very amused at 3:00 AM that morning. But it was, and it was one of those ideas where, you know how you have these things in the middle of the night and you think they’re terribly brilliant.
And then when you wake up in the morning, you can’t quite remember what the idea was and you can’t quite remember. And it never feels quite as good. The following day on this occasion, when I woke up in the morning it was still, this is how the industry could do it. This is how it could happen. And the key moment being someone needs to seed it, someone needs to give a pot of money to the industry.
And that was then led me to me talking to our shareholders, saying, hell, we’re going to put, we are going to put the money in it’s our money that we’re going to put at risk here. Time will tell whether it’s a mad idea or whether it’s a good one, but yeah, we will see.
Antoine Walter: You’re right. Time will tell if I was to take a bet. To me, it’s obvious that it’s a good idea and you never know what happens, but yeah, I stand my case that is one of the most brilliant things I’ve heard ever. And really happy to see how that develops. And honestly, and that’s why I’m frustrated.
I would dive much deeper into it, but I’d be really happy to have you next time to, to have a follow up on how that developed how does the evergreen funding allow you to go to even more places and cover even more technologies and even more fields, but I’ll keep that for the next time you’re on for today.
I propose you to switch to the rapid fire questions to round off that discussion.
Get Season 1's Summary!
Rapid fire questions:
Antoine Walter: So in that last section, I’ll have short questions, which aim for short answers, but I’m never cutting the microphone. The first one is what is the most exciting project we’ve been working on and why?
Piers Clark: Oh, trial of reservoir. Cause it will save the planet
Antoine Walter: I I felt like there, there was a hint can you name one thing that you’ve learned the hard way?
Piers Clark: oh yeah the learning that I am not, I’m not someone. Yeah. My career at the beginning was that I, my, my aspiration was that my career would be that I’d be some big chief executive of a big company and I’d be the big I am. And I literally, you know, spent 20 years progressing a career path that could had luck gone in a different way.
Led me to that role, but I think I’d be miserable in it. I genuinely think I’d a, be a terrible chief executive of a big organization and B I’d be miserable. I wouldn’t enjoy it. I’d get up on a Monday morning thinking, oh God, here we go again. And that is not a way to live life.
Antoine Walter: something you’re doing in your job today that you will not be doing in 10 years?
Piers Clark: Yeah. Quite . So we’ve just recently appointed a, so as I’s grown, it’s getting to a hundred people meant that Yeah. Once you get to a certain scale, you have to do a bit of management and I’m not a manager as you’ve probably become blindingly obvious in this interview. So I appointed a chief executive last year in Isle Utilities a chat called Dr.
Ben Tam. He’s absolutely exceptional. And it means that I’m getting less and less involved in the things I’m not good at, which is the administration around running a business. And I look forward to 10 years time where I have zero responsibilities for doing that.
Antoine Walter: By the way you mentioned the 100 people roughly at Isle Utilities, what I found amazing on your website is that there’s. Biography for every single person working at isle. Usually you get the story of the founder, the story of the CEO, sometimes of the board here, it’s everybody, because it sounds like everybody has to be one of the parts of that bigger impact.
So I found it really
Piers Clark: and that feels like there’s just the sort of thing that Ben Tam would’ve sorted out for us, cuz I certainly had no involvement in ensuring that happened.
Antoine Walter: what is the trend to watch out for in the water sector?
Piers Clark: So there’s all the obvious ones that people talk about, which is you around digitization and such like, I think the trend will be towards I think atmospheric water generation is something that we are going to see more of over the next 25 years.
Antoine Walter: That’s an interesting one, but not opening a sidetrack again, because there’s strong proponents and strong opponents.
Piers Clark: absolutely. Yeah.
Antoine Walter: It’s a good sign. Usually that you’re onto something when people have so strong opinions. If you were a word political leader, what would be your first action to influence the fate of the World’s water challenges?
Piers Clark: So I would I would try and install the model that they’ve got in Welch water in Wales with Welch water. So I’m not a huge fan of privatization. I don’t think, I think privatization works for 20, 30 years, but it then, as we’re seeing in the UK, it begins to get very tired and it becomes very difficult to match the aspirations of the investors with the performance that’s required for the public.
Of course, the reason you do privatization is cuz you need a cash injection into the infrastructure to enable you to improve the assets that are there. So it’s not a black and white conversation, but I love to see a world where you had the sort of attitude and behaviors that we see in DW com or Welch water as a sort of notfor profit yet privatized type.
Antoine Walter: Finally last question. Would you have someone to recommend me that I should definitely invite as soon as possible on that same microphone
Piers Clark: Yeah I, so I met Jim Bentley. Jim Bentley is spectacular. He’s used to be the managing director of hunter water in in Australia, it’s a area of Newcastle serves Newcastle about a hundred miles north of Sydney. And he’s he’s got this wonderful background and he is one of the most principled people I’ve ever met in the water sector.
And he’s spectacular. I would strongly recommend talking to him.
Antoine Walter: Piers,
Piers Clark: I
Antoine Walter: have to say had really high expectations for that discussion. And you went far beyond those expectations, so thanks a lot. Thanks a lot for that. If people want to follow up with you after that interview, where shall I redirect them the best?.
Piers Clark: So you can either go to our website or email me at Piers dot Clark at Isle Utilities dot com.
Antoine Walter: Piers, thanks a lot. And I hope to have that follow-up with you at some point in the future!
Piers Clark: I look forward to, it was wonderful speaking with you. Thank you very much.