Water challenge presents opportunity for cross-sector innovators

Innovators from multiple sectors including energy, manufacturing, transport and food and beverage, could have the opportunity to share their condition monitoring solutions with every water company in the UK and Ireland.

The launch of a new challenge from Spring, the water sector’s innovation centre of excellence, and Innovate UK KTN, which connects innovators with new partners, focuses on condition monitoring of electro-mechanical assets for water treatment and distribution.

New solutions are being sought for water companies to monitor the health of electro-mechanical assets and predict faults occurring due to changing environments and unpredicted events. Proposed solutions are particularly welcome from industries that use sensors and prediction tools to monitor the health of their electro-mechanical assets, such as pumps and valves.

The challenge links to the sector ambition ‘delivering resilient infrastructure systems which can adapt to future challenges’ set out in the joint 2050 Water Innovation Strategy. Spring was launched in 2021 to support the delivery of the strategy’s ambitions and is backed by all UK and Irish water companies. 

Carly Perry, Spring managing director, said: “Spring is excited to be partnering with Innovate UK KTN for our second innovation challenge and we look forward to welcoming applicants from a diverse range of industries.

“The chance to showcase solutions to multiple water companies from UK and Ireland presents a huge opportunity for innovators – the winning technologies from our last challenge are now being progressed by 11 water companies. Innovations which work in the UK and Ireland are also likely to be applicable to international markets, as utilities across the globe are experiencing similar issues.”

Dr David Crole, who manages the Innovation Exchange process for Innovate UK KTN, said: “The water industry is undergoing a transformation, with innovation and collaboration both thriving. As such, the sector represents a major market for innovators.

“We hope to see innovations that can provide close to real-time condition monitoring and predict asset failure – advanced sensors, data-led systems, machine learning and artificial intelligence are all areas of interest. This is an exciting time to collaborate with Spring and I hope innovators will seize the opportunity to participate in the water sector’s transformation.”

David Butler, professor of water engineering at University of Exeter, is co-leading Spring’s delivering resilient infrastructure theme. He said: “A key goal of the water sector is to strengthen the resilience of its infrastructure, particularly to exogenous shocks. 

“An essential part of achieving this is to enable the timely monitoring, collection and analysis of performance and condition data to locate and diagnose faults. The key challenge is how to then use that data to predict when and where faults may occur under a variety of operating conditions. This challenge seeks to draw from solutions developed in other sectors which have similar issues to address.”

Fellow co-lead Sally Watson, technical excellence and digital lead at Mott MacDonald, said: “The resilience of electro-mechanical assets is key for maintaining our critical water infrastructure and we encourage participation and collaboration to develop some world-class solutions”

Established UK-based businesses, start-ups, SMEs, academics or individual entrepreneurs are all invited to take part in the challenge, as are partnership organisations. Successful applicants will be asked to pitch their innovations to Spring and a group of water sector representatives. Selected solutions may enter into a collaborative trial at water company sites, with the possibility of uptake by multiple water companies if projects are successful. The challenge is now open for entries until 14 November 2022. Full details and to apply – ktn-uk.org/opportunities/ix-challenge-condition-monitoring-of-electro-mechanical-assets-for-water-treatment-and-distribution/