Innovation and beyond – United Utilities adopts more transformative solutions

It’s up, up and away for the successful graduates of United Utilities’ latest Innovation Lab.                         

The alumni of the company’s highly regarded Innovation Lab that will now go on to work with the water company on a business as usual basis include a system for faster collection of water samples using drones, new portable battery-powered submersible chemical sensors for water chemistry monitoring, and an app which reduces water discolouration by managing valve operations.

Altitude Thinking drone.jpgAll of the successful companies deliver benefits to customers by supporting the company to enhance their drinking water testing and improve security of supply.

United Utilities Head of Innovation Kieran Brocklebank explained: “Our fourth innovation lab is drawing to a successful close and I’m thrilled to bringing three of our alumni on board to work with us on a longer term basis. We’re also continuing our trials with a fourth supplier.

“They are each brilliant and have brought exciting new concepts into United Utilities to support us on our drive for continual improvement.

“But it isn’t just for our benefit, they now have potential to grow their business and work with us for many years to come, and of course, their ideas will benefit others in the water sector.”

The successful companies are:

  • Altitude Thinking from Grangemouth who have developed a series of autonomous, remotely operated vehicles to collect water quality samples and data from difficult to reach locations.
  • SmartValve from Lincoln developed an app to manage and monitor manual valve operations. By ensuring all valve operations are carried out efficiently, Smartvalve reduces the creation of transient pressure which means fewer bursts, leaks and water discolouration events.
  • ClearWater Sensors from Southampton created portable battery-powered submersible chemical sensors which can be used for long-term and real-time water chemistry monitoring.
  • Trials are also continuing with Previsico from Loughborough who are developing a new way to assess surface water flooding risk, allowing United Utilities to mobilise sewer cleaning teams faster and reduce flooding risks.

United Utilities’ idea development 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. In total, United Utilities has awarded long term contracts with eight suppliers and created forty-five new jobs, many of them in the North West.

Cumbrian firm Typhon took part in Innovation Lab 1 and developed its unique low-energy water treatment solution using advanced LED bulbs. Its first units were installed at the treatment works serving Carlisle and their award-winning technology is now attracting interest from water companies and industrial users around the world.

Another UK company FIDO Tech took part in Innovation Lab 2. Its leakage detection solutions are now up and running at United Utilities and also being used around the world - they went on to become the first company in the water sector to earn the KPMG UK Tech Award in 2021.

United Utilities also continues to work with three companies from Lab 3 which was held in 2020.

The fifth Innovation Lab is coming soon with applications invited from companies ready to take the water sector by storm.

Innovation Lab