Innovation isn’t always about new tools and techniques, as demonstrated in the launch of the EIC-coordinated ‘Ramp Up’ project with Wales & West Utilities.
Street works that involve digging in pavements often need kerb ramps to be laid for pedestrians to navigate through the site. However, these ramps can create challenges for customers using mobility scooters and wheelchairs, as the kerb ramp can cause mobility aids to slip or lose balance.
In June, during Wales & West Utilities’ annual Customer Conference, concerns surrounding the use of ramps by the more vulnerable in our communities were highlighted as an area for concern. Following the conference, Wales & West Utilities requested that the EIC launch a collaborative Call for Innovation in a bid to find innovative ramp solutions. Following a successful call, the recent ‘Ramp Up’ project was kicked off on Tuesday 3 December 2019.
This collaborative project unites four innovators (Frazer-Nash Consultancy, Hahn Plastics, MacLellan Rubber & Oxford Plastic Systems), three GDNs (Wales & West Utilities, Cadent and Northern Gas Networks), two DNOs (Northern Powergrid and SP Energy Networks), and children’s charity Whizz-Kidz, with the shared goal of improving customer safety and experiences of navigating street works.
Lucy Mason, Wales & West Utilities Innovation Manager said:
“It’s the first time we’ve worked with a charity in this way and we’re proud to the leading the project. The ramp will be not only for our business, but all gas distribution networks and other utilities, who could modify the winning design for their own needs,” she adds, “It could be a breakthrough moment, helping improve the experience of the most vulnerable in our communities near our work”
Project Support from the EIC, Nathan Dyke, said:
"It’s fantastic to see collaboration working at its best to bring both gas and electricity networks together. This cross sector effort will endeavour to improve the experience of navigating street works, for customers in vulnerable circumstances.
I am excited to be involved in the coordination of this project and am looking forward to the outputs it brings."
‘Ramp Up’ will conclude early in 2020 with the opportunity for young people with mobility and visual impairments to take part in a testing day, where they will have the opportunity to trial the prototypes provided by the innovators, and identify a safer alternative to the traditional kerb ramps currently in use.
Once the successful prototypes have been identified, it is hoped they will be rolled out into business as usual.
To read more about how the EIC are working with industry partners to develop innovations that support those on the Priority Services Register, and to find out how you can get involved, click here.