Meet United Utility’s Innovation Lab 3 winners
Utilities Digital Solutions Europe

Mobile robotics to sludge cleaning-microbes: Meet UU’s Innovation Lab 3 cohort

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Eight technology companies with solutions ranging from sludge-cleaning microbes to 3D-concrete printing will participate in the third Innovation Lab project.

Global participation

Global companies, including those from the US and Italy and Australia, have been selected to participate in United Utilities’ third Innovation Lab in the UK.

From sludge-cleaning microbes to 3D-concrete printing, 118 ideas from over 100 companies were nominated on themes including System Thinking, Circular Economy, Future of Water and Wild Card.

The Innovation Lab saw an increase in applications by 58 per cent on previous years, despite the coronavirus pandemic shifting assessments and pitches from physical to virtual.

What is the Innovation Lab?

A utility-led incubator scheme, the Innovation Lab provides successful applicants with the opportunity to test their solutions in a “live environment”, with the potential to lead to long-term, commercial partnerships.

Previous examples have included Innovation Lab 1 start-up Typhon Treatment securing an order to deliver the UK’s largest UV-LED municipal water disinfection project.

Innovation Lab 2 company, FIDO Tech, went onto secure £1.5 million investment for its AI leak detection system following an extended trial with the water utility.

Another example included an eight-year framework signed by Canadian AI company, Emagin, before going on to be acquired by US software giant, Innovyze.

Who are the eight companies?

A total of eight companies will now spend 12 weeks with United Utilities before presenting their final products at a demonstration day in April.

The eight winning suppliers include:

(Circular economy category)

  • Changemaker 3D, a company from Malvern, UK, using mobile robotics machinery to 3D-print bespoke low carbon concrete items on site more quickly and with less waste than traditional cast or pre-cast.
  • Genesis Biosciences, a company from Cardiff, Wales, has combined a fine natural mineral with specially selected microbes to aid anaerobic digestion, reduce sludge and generate more renewable energy.

(Future of Water category)

  • Leakster Pty, a company from Queensland, Australia, has developed a prototype Internet of Things (IoT) AI leak sensor that non-invasively monitors pipe condition to spot leaks, locate them and gauge their size.
  • SME Water, a company from Birkenhead, UK, uses machine-learning and applied data science to analyse district metered areas' flows and better understand water demand.

(Systems Thinking category)

  • HWM, an established company from Cwmbran, Wales, with an easy-install, low maintenance monitor and software solution to spot sewer blockages.
  • Noam, a firm from San Francisco, USA, using automated systems thinking to bring insight into unstructured data and spot trends, save costs and improve forecasting.

(Wildcard category)

  • Planetek Italia, a company from Bari, Italy, combines satellite monitoring, ground-based activity monitoring and AI to detect the millimetre-scale ground movements, leading to pipe fractures.
  • Transcend Software, a company from New Jersey, USA, has developed automated cloud-based design software that can generate complete preliminary engineering packages “at a fraction of the cost and time”, according to UU.

These eight companies will now spend 12 weeks with United Utilities before presenting their final products at a Demo day in April.

Co-nurturing water innovation

Kieran Brocklebank, head of innovation, said United Utilities was looking forward to nurturing and co-creating the companies "for the benefit of everyone in the water sector".

“Every one of them deserved a help getting their foot in the door of the water industry, but we can only take eight,” he said.

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