After over a decade of success working in the energy sector, the EIC has recently welcomed partners from a wider spectrum of areas, including the broader utilities sector. We recently began work with Yorkshire Water, facilitating a new project to prevent internal sewer flooding in residential areas.
Here’s a brief outline of how technology company Intrepid Minds rose to the challenge with an innovative monitoring solution.
What is the challenge?
In the area that Yorkshire Water cover, there are round 262,000 cellared properties, and around 1,500 of these suffer from internal sewer flooding each year, causing significant inconvenience for residents and a regular challenge for Yorkshire Water.
The majority of these incidents are caused by blockages in the first length of the small diameter sewer which serves the property. Currently, these sewers can’t be monitored with existing sewer level monitors. At best, monitoring can take place at the nearest downstream manhole – but this means that an initial length of sewer is unmonitored. Often it is in this section that blockages occur.
Yorkshire Water have set themselves ambitious targets to reduce internal sewer flooding. In the period between 2018-2025 they aim to reduce these events by 70% to reduce their impact on customers. They want to drive this reduction in a sustainable way by finding innovative solutions that will change how they deliver their services to customers.
They worked with EIC to launch a call for innovation. Five companies presented their ideas to Yorkshire Water and Intrepid Minds were selected to help shape their innovation to the needs of the water industry.
About the innovator’s solution
Established in 2010, Intrepid Minds had some previous experience in creating sensor-based solutions for the energy and renewables sector but had yet to apply their expertise to the water industry. However, they felt strongly that they would be able to adapt their existing technology and provide a solution quickly.
Using their existing knowledge, Intrepid Minds developed a base which can be internally or externally fixed to any pipe of any size, whether new or existing.
The base allows for a series of small sensors to be fit to it for data collection along the pipe. Each sensor collects different kinds of data, which can be used in isolation or in conjunction with other sensors along the network, to give an accurate picture of the condition of the pipes.
The data is then sent back to Intrepid Minds’ Adrestia system and a prioritised alert-based monitoring feed is sent back to Yorkshire Water. This informs them of any changes in the pipes and the likelihood of potential internal sewer flooding in properties, so that the appropriate action to mitigate the issue with an element of geographic precision.
The level of information provided allows workers on site to understand the steps they will need to take – for example, if they’re going to have to dig into the pipe, or whether they just have to put their hand in and pull a blockage out.
Water ingress causes billions of pounds worth of damage every single year and can drastically increase customers properties’ insurance premiums. This solution allows utility providers to better identify potential blockages, and so decreases the likelihood of internal sewer flooding.
This, in turn, will improve the service that Yorkshire Water provides to its customers, as they will be able to clear the blockage before any significant damage is caused to the customer’s property.
Mark Gregory, Project Manager at Yorkshire Water, said:
“We have found it very easy to work with EIC and Intrepid Minds who have an excellent understanding of our needs and requirements and have a very flexible and pro-active working style.
We expect the project outcome will bring a step change at Yorkshire Water in our understanding of the wastewater network and our ability to monitor activity. Ultimately, it will be of great benefit to our customers.”
Intrepid Minds are now working with Yorkshire Water to test the system in a lab, before moving onto field trials in Yorkshire, in areas where issues may be likely, so that the system can be put to the test.
For Intrepid Minds, the success of the trials opens up the potential for new opportunities and have already begun having conversations as to how the solution could be applied elsewhere.
Adam Smith, Managing Director of Intrepid Minds, said:
"This project was really, for us, the right opportunity at the right time; we believed that we had something that could be adapted, and we were able to come up with a solution quickly. When we applied for the call, we had a ready platform and we were flexible in how we were going to be able to deliver it and I think that resonated with the EIC and Yorkshire Water.
I think it is important for innovators to be flexible and responsive. If you already have a product then don't believe that that product is the silver bullet – you need to listen to the customer and build on your innovation around the customer’s need.
Hopefully, with this solution, if Yorkshire Water see this as a positive and think they could deploy it, others might as well. Overall, though, this isn’t so much about breaking into new areas or making lots of money, it’s one of those ‘doing the right thing’ projects."
Explore our current innovation opportunities and find out more about how you could get the chance to work with our industry partners, here.