Northumbrian Water have been awarded over £6m worth of funding for projects which will help to reduce leakage and enable innovation across the utilities sector.
The funding has been granted to two separate projects; The National Leakage Research and Test Centre (NLRTC), which was awarded £5.3m, and Stream, which was awarded £880k.
It comes as part of the second round of the Water Breakthrough Challenge, an innovation competition led by water regulator Ofwat and delivered by Nesta Challenges in partnership with Arup and Isle Utilities.
The incredible amount of funding will be used to make services more efficient for customers – and will also help to detect and repair leaks faster.
The National Leakage Centre project will see the creation of a large-scale five kilometre-long buried water network and control room, which will be used to help accelerate the development of leakage detection and repair solutions.
Innovators and inventors will be able to use the site to test out their leakage solution ideas without interruption to customer supplies or risk to water quality.
It will be possible to deliberately insert leaky sections of pipe to see how effective the repair solutions under test are, and any leaked water will be collected and recycled.
Not only will this project help to reduce leakage, but it will also create three jobs for staff who will eventually work in the control room once the build has been completed.
The second project, known as Stream, will see the development of a new open data-sharing platform for the water industry and beyond.
This platform will eventually allow all of the UK water companies to share data with one another, other utilities companies, and the wider public.
These new cross-sector data sets will provide innovators both within and beyond the sector to develop richer insights, make more informed decisions, and further improve services. It will also ensure that data is shared safely and in line with regulations.
Stream will transform customer services by increasing transparency and efficiency between companies, which will help to stimulate innovation.
Angela MacOscar, Head of Innovation at Northumbrian Water Group, said: “I am incredibly proud that we have managed to secure funding for not one, but two of our projects.
“In the last round of the challenge, we won funding for customer-focussed projects – and whilst these projects will help our customers, they will also boost innovation and provide environmental benefits too.
“I particularly love these projects because they are real enablers that will speed up the development of innovative products and solutions in the water sector.”
“I can’t wait to see how both of these projects develop.”
For the NLRTC, the full list of partners involved in the project includes WRc, HR Wallingford, Anglian Water, Dwr Cymru Cyf, Irish Water, Northern Ireland Water, Portsmouth Water, SES Water, Severn Trent, Southern Water, South East Water, Thames Water, United Utilities, Wessex Water, Yorkshire Water, Sheffield Uni, Southampton Uni, British Water and Isle Utilities.
For Stream, the partners involved are Anglian Water, Dwr Cymru, Scottish Water, SES Water, Severn Trent, Southern Water, South West Water, Thames Water, United Utilities, Yorkshire Water, Aiimi, Costain, Open Data Institute (ODI) and Sia Partners.
Some of the ideas funded were developed during Northumbrian Water's Innovation Festival – which is returning in July 2022.
To register for the festival, go to – www.innovationfestival.org/register
For more info on Ofwat’s Water Innovation Fund and the Water Breakthrough Challenge, go to – https://waterinnovation.challenges.org/
NOTES TO EDITORS – ADDITIONAL QUOTES IF RELEVANT TO YOUR PUBLICATION
Louise Burke, Managing Director at the ODI, said: “The Open Data Institute (ODI) was pleased to provide advice on the infrastructure, standards and skills required for the sharing of open data in this project, as well as being one of the bid partners for Stream. We know the importance of a clean and efficient water supply and strongly believe in encouraging innovation to both solve problems and improve services to the public.
“The ODI is a non-profit with a mission to work with companies and governments to build an open, trustworthy data ecosystem. We work with a range of organisations, governments, public bodies and civil society to create a world where data works for everyone.”
Bruce Tomlinson, Chief Executive Officer of HR Wallingford, an independent engineering and environmental hydraulics organisation, said: “Reducing water leakage is an important challenge, and we’re excited to be able to offer technical advice to this consortium, and for our business park to be one of the three sites under consideration.
“We’ve got extensive experience in networks and pumping stations, and our business park, located in the heart of the country, has existing assets such as boreholes, storage tanks and existing pipes. We also very involved in innovating around pipe leakage in networks.”
Tom O’Farrell, Chief Customer Officer, Aiimi, said: “Having worked with Northumbrian Water, and across the water industry for many years, Aiimi has a deep understanding of the data challenges facing the sector.
“As part of Stream, and in partnership with Northumbrian, we will harness our unique data science and analytics expertise, as well as industry-leading technology, to deliver solutions that make the most of the data-sharing potential enabled by this inspiring collaborative project.
“Access to data is essential for innovation across industries and we look forward to working with our Stream partners and wider organisations to deliver value for the water industry and beyond.”
Costain’s innovation investment lead, Aarti Gupta said: “Innovation and collaboration are at the heart of what we do at Costain and I’m really excited about the Stream project.
“The power of data sharing to manage carbon, drive greater transparency and support better decision making is proven in other industries such as health and transport.
“Applying best practice to help water companies meet the affordability and sustainability challenges they face will ensure our water industry is fit for the future.”