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United Utilities unveils suppliers for Innovation Lab 2019

United Utilities has announced the eight tech companies that will join its second Innovation Lab.

Following the success of its first iteration, United Utilities has selected companies from the UK, Denmark and Australia to join the accelerator programme that is run in association with corporate innovation specialist L Marks. 

The businesses will collaborate with United Utilities for 10 weeks, developing their ideas while gaining access to United Utilities’ resources and industry-leading insight from specialist mentors.

At the end of the programme, United Utilities will determine which companies to enter into commercial relationships with, allowing the new products or services to be implemented as part of ‘business as usual’. 

Kieran Brocklebank, head of innovation at United Utilities, said: “The Innovation Lab process is a fantastic way for us to tap into some of the best new ideas that haven’t yet made it to market. Our first Innovation Lab last year was a tremendous success – with three new awarded long-term contracts – and we’re going to build on that further this year with our second Innovation Lab programme.

“It has been exciting to see the range and standard of applications we’ve received this year and we have a very strong set of companies starting with us this week. They all have ideas which would enhance our Systems Thinking strategy and we’re looking forward to working together to shape a smarter water industry in the future. In fact, half of the ideas are prototypes which we will be looking to bring to physical reality. We will share our results and make appropriate introductions with our colleagues across the sector – so that our learning can be applied at scale in the UK water industry.”

Daniel Saunders, L Marks' CEO, said: “We are delighted to be partnering once again with United Utilities for the second Innovation Lab. The first Lab proved to be a huge success, with innovative companies embracing the opportunity to get unique access to test their offerings and gain access to industry experts. I have no doubt the second cohort will embrace the Lab with the same level of enthusiasm and dedication and I look forward to seeing what results they produce and in turn disrupt the water sector.”

All eight suppliers are small businesses or start-ups, and five are new to the UK water sector: 

AJEA Products Ltd

AJEA is a product design and manufacturing company based in Cookstown, Co. Tyrone. Its core aim is to bring new and innovative products to a range of global markets. Working with United Utilities, it will look to test its new concept in flood resilience – Quell – which is a passive barrier system that does not require any power source or human interaction to deploy.

Aqua Consultants

Aqua Consultants is a specialist engineering and technology consultancy operating across the water, energy and environment sectors. Using the right mix of data analytics and water industry subject matter expertise, Aqua can help its clients secure savings by identifying minimum build solutions for Capital Investment and real-time monitoring of assets, aiming to ensure OPEX savings are identified, quantified and materialised through actionable intelligence.


FIDO (Free Inserted Data Objects) sees the insertion of three free-floating spheres that travel in any pipe size through the water network first collecting, then uploading and analysing the data in the cloud using FIDO’s differential analytics algorithm. Analysed data is sent back to the engineer’s phone or tablet, clearly identifying pipe anomalies such as leaks (size and location), air pockets and chokes to within one metre.

Emu Analytics

Emu Analytics provide software designed to ingest, analyse and visualise geospatial and temporal data assets, for the purpose of creating visual insights that are accessible to all within an organisation.

Headlight AI

Headlight AI is a sensory artificial intelligence (AI) company with a diverse team of scientists and engineers developing software and integrated solutions for robots and vehicles operating in harsh and complex environments. Their multi-sensor cross-learning technology provides improved perception and is currently being used for infrastructure inspection and monitoring within the water and rail markets. It is also being used to help develop autonomous vehicles (ground-, water- and air-based systems) that can operate in dark underground locations and in adverse weather conditions.


IntroDus is a mobile, cloud-based Pre and Onboarding solution that enables companies to create custom Pre & Onboarding content to share with new hires, with the aim of improving employee time to performance, stay longer and making them feel part of the team from day one.

Neptune Solutions

Neptune Solutions has developed a system for retaining and containing water. This patented invention consists of a metal structure/frame that is built from box sections and machined bars. The metal structure rests on four screw piles. Side plates and clamps are fixed to the sides of the barrier to allow more barriers to sit next to each other, forming a retaining wall of individual barriers.


VAPAR helps water utilities speed up the repairs of their underground pipes. VAPAR's cloud platform automates the fault detection directly from inspection footage of sewer pipes, turning a two-week process into just two minutes. 

For more information about the programme, visit https://www.unitedutilities.com/innovation


Author: Robin Hackett, editor, WWT
Topic: Innovation
Tags: Innovation , United Utilities

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