Northumbrian Water has secured over £10m worth of funding for a number of exciting new innovation projects which are set to revolutionise wastewater operations and customer service.  

Sewer robots, AI enabled models and a new customer support platform are among the projects that been granted funding thanks to winning bids in the Water Breakthrough Challenge - an innovation competition ran by water regulator OFWAT.  


The large-scale financial backing will be a fantastic investment for projects to help further improve the region and will also help to make services more efficient for all customers.  


The first project, which was awarded £5.1m, is called River Deep Mountain AI, and will be developed with partners at Cognizant. It will use clever AI tools to gather data and create digital models which will help improve the health of local rivers and seas.   


Another wastewater project being funded is the Pipebot Patrol, which will see the development of a sewer robot that will crawl through miles of pipe to constantly inspect pipework and will raise alerts to the precise location of blockages, as they are beginning to form. This project was granted £1.6m funding and is being developed with partners at Sheffield University, Minicam and Environmental Monitoring Solutions.  


Receiving a similar amount of funding is the METREAU project – which will help reduce energy needs and carbon footprint in the treatment of wastewater. This will be the first time microbial electrochemical technologies have been deployed at a commercial scale for wastewater treatment. This will be carried out with partners at Newcastle University, METzero Technologies, Isle Utilities, Yorkshire Water, Thames Water and Irish Water.  


And finally, the Support for All project, which initially received funding back in 2022, will get another cash boost of £2m for phase two of the plan – to create a “one-stop approach” for customers with priority service needs. It will help to support customers, especially those in vulnerable circumstances, and will be carried out with partners Accenture PLC, Microsoft PLC and Ordnance Survey. 


Angela MacOscar, Head of Innovation at Northumbrian Water Group, said: “Each of these four projects are game-changing in their own right, and we are incredibly proud that they have all been recognised for funding.  


“Over the last three years, we have worked hard to win funding for 16 different projects, some of which are already making tangible differences in the way we operate – and ultimately to the services our customers receive.  


“There is a lot of change happening in our industry at the moment and this is a huge step in the right direction - I can’t wait to see how these new projects progress.”  


The Water Breakthrough Challenge is part of a series of competitions from Ofwat, run by Challenge Works with Arup and Isle Utilities, designed to drive innovation and collaboration in the sector to benefit individuals, society and the environment.   


It supports initiatives that help to tackle the biggest challenges facing the water sector, such as achieving net zero, protecting natural ecosystems and reducing leakage, as well as delivering value to society.  


For more information, click here.