Celebrating Local Innovation

CSC Services enjoyed a day celebrating local innovation at Middlesbrough College’s £20 million STEM Training Centre yesterday.

The STEM Training Centre operates as a simulated industrial site and is a leading provider of technical training, skills, behaviours and competency solutions for a range of industries.

STEM students, Institute of Water members and a range of local contractors came together for the finals of the Institute’s Northern Area Innovation Awards, and to enjoy a tour of the remarkable facility.

The Institute of Water’s Innovation Awards provide a stage on which to recognise innovation in the UK water and sewerage sector. Each year, each Area of the Institute holds a regional innovation competition and the finalists from each are short-listed for the National Award.

Competing for the Northern Area Award yesterday were Aquam, Northumbrian Water and Apem. Lyndsey Gilmartin, CSC Services’ Marketing Manager reviews the entries.

First up, the group heard from Yorkshire Water’s retired Operations Manager Roman Boryslawskyj . Roman, now a consultant with Aquam, presented about the company’s pioneering work to combine overland supply service with Serline Lead Pipe Lining. This joint offering allows for a rapid refurbishment service to be delivered on site leaving customers largely unaffected by the work. The initiative significantly reduces the time customers would be interrupted for lead-lining work of this nature. Trials of the service at United Utilities are estimated to have resulted in £325K savings from prospective penalties.

Project Leader Aidan Marshall gave the second, very detailed presentation about the work Northumbrian Water has been undertaking to produce more biologically constant water. This innovation related to improving the water quality risk score through flow cytometry – the technology that is used to analyse the physical and chemical characteristics of particles in a fluid as it passes through at least one laser. The scientists in the room seemed very impressed with the work and there were lots of questions for Aidan about the work which Northumbrian Water hope can lead to fewer failures and fewer reactive investigations.

Finally, there was a presentation from scientific consultancy APEM, and their use of remote sensing to detect customer water pipe misconnections.  APEM is one of Europe’s fastest growing providers of aerial surveys, and this innovation utilises a purpose built camera that can produce extremely high resolution images. In short this method of aerial photography allows the sides of buildings to be photographed multiple times to allow for parallel image coverage at a high resolution (1.5cm per pixel, compared to Google Earth who operate at 20cm per pixel.)

Case study evidence from APEM showed just how quick, none-intrusive and cheap this method of identifying houses incorrectly joined up to the water company sewer network can be. Through a three hour survey of a coastal town of 10,000 homes, 5,890 misconnections were identified, with address and image data provided to the client. It is estimated that that water industry as whole could save over £200 million if this service was rolled out nationally.

The afternoon was very inspiring and each of the short-listed entries certainly deserve credit, but it was the Aquam entry that received my vote. Speaking from the point of view of a specialist contractor, the impact that the curing time of protective coatings can have upon operational shut-down periods can be immense.  By specifying a rapid setting polymeric lining as part of this process the rehabilitation work can be completed much quicker allowing for a 100% increase in the amount of properties that could be lined on a daily basis. Now that’s impressive!

The winners will formally be announced by the Institute of Water very soon. Good luck to all!

Here are a couple of pictures from the STEM Centre, and some of the industry specified training equipment used to train apprentices and the engineers of tomorrow.. Certainly worth a visit!