Customer Stories

UK Water Industry Research

Global Solver community submits 70 solutions and solves water industry problem

UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR) is responsible for facilitating the shaping of the water industry’s research agenda, developing the research programme, procuring and managing the research and disseminating the findings. The organization’s ambition is to create a platform for research and innovation that meets the challenges of the water industry across the UK. 

As is the case for the rest of the world, the blockage of drains and sewers is a serious problem in the UK as they can have serious consequences such as severe flooding and polluted waterways. It was these potential consequences and the absence of an optimal solution that led the UKWIR to run a Challenge to find solutions that could monitor complex sewer networks and detect the formation of such blockages at early stages.  

We wanted to go beyond our usual cohort of specialists and invite solutions from a potentially unlimited pool of people. In the end, we got brand new thinking with over 50 high quality and original solutions.
// Steve Whipp Project Manager, UKWIR

The Challenge

  • UKWIR was seeking ideas of novel methods to monitor the formation of blockages in sewer networks in order to prevent spillages.
  • The reactive approach typically taken by the water industry was unacceptable. UKWIR needed a solution that allowed for a proactive approach, which many sectors already took for their asset management, in order to avoid the potentially severe consequences of blockages.
  • Winning solutions needed to be robust, safe, low cost, easy to install and operate, and able to detect blockages at an early stage.

The Solutions

  • The top prize of $10,000 was won by the MCA GROUPE – a global engineering and high-tech consulting company.
  • The solution was a sewer monitoring system composed of a myriad of fixed sensors. It was inspired by similar problems faced in other industries that manage large networks (e.g. power grids, railways, telecoms etc.).

The Results

  • The Prize engaged hundreds of Solvers and attracted a diverse range of submissions in terms of both geography and ideas. It allowed UKWIR to access knowledge from relevant expertise from adjacent industries outside of the UK.
  • The impact was much bigger than the Challenge itself with the additional training helping to instill a different way of thinking within the team at UKWIR. It also allowed UKWIR to recognize the place and value of Open Innovation in future research programs.
  • UKWIR & its Steering Committee discussed how to develop the winning ideas, and MCA and UKWIR are currently in discussions regarding the development of a pilot system.

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