United Utilities names the eight new tech firms in its Innovation Lab 3

United Utilities names the eight new tech firms in its Innovation Lab 3

Low carbon 3D-concrete printing, sludge-cleaning microbes and satellites that hunt potential pipeline fractures - just three of the pioneering new technologies to make it onto United Utilities' third Innovation Lab.

The innovative technologies will now be developed hand-in-hand with United Utilities, which gives them unrivalled access to the company’s expertise, processes, data and resources to help co-develop and bring them to market for the water sector.

This year’s winning suppliers come from as near as Birkenhead, in Liverpool, to the Sunshine Coast of Australia via Europe and the US.

A total of 103 suppliers submitted a bumper crop of 118   ideas to meet the themes of Systems Thinking, Circular Economy, Future of Water and Wild Card. It was an increase in applications of 58% on previous years. Twenty were invited to virtually pitch their ideas in November.

United Utilities head of innovation Kieran Brocklebank said although the coronavirus pandemic had prevented assessments and pitches taking place in person, it clearly had not been a barrier to ingenuity.

“It’s almost become normal for us to say how impressed we are at the standard and sheer brilliance of some of the ideas that come our way, but it really is true. Every one of them deserved a help getting their foot in the door of the water industry, but we can only take eight.

“We’re really looking forward to nurturing them and co-creating with them for the benefit of everyone in the water sector,” he said.

The eight winning suppliers are:

(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, which 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, which has developed a prototype Internet of Things (IoT) AI leak sensor which non-invasively monitors pipe condition to spot leaks, locate them and gauge their size.
SME Water, a company from Birkenhead, UK, who use machine-learning and applied data science to analyse flows in district metered areas and provide better understanding of water demand.
(Systems Thinking category)

HWM , an established company from Cwmbran, Wales, with a novel idea for easy-install, low maintenance monitors and software 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, combining satellite monitoring, ground-based activity monitoring and AI to detect the millimetre-scale ground movements which could lead to pipe fractures.
Transcend Software Inc.,a company from New Jersey, USA, whose automated cloud-based design software can generate complete preliminary engineering packages at a fraction of the cost and time.
These eight companies will now spend 12 weeks with United Utilities before presenting their final products at a Demo day in April.

United Utilities’ technology incubator programme is run in conjunction with L Marks and has successfully launched a number of new suppliers into the water market since it began in 2017.

Cumbrian firm Typhon took part in Innovation Lab 1 and developed its unique water treatment solution using advanced LED bulbs. Its first units are being installed this month, with the technology attracting interest from water companies and industrial users around the world. 

Another UK company FIDO Tech took part in Innovation Lab 2 and its leakage detection solutions are now up and running at United Utilities and currently being piloted around the world.