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Harrogate robot firm wins £5.8m in water contracts.

The fourth round of Ofwat’s Water Breakthrough Challenge has awarded two contracts worth £5.8m to Synthotech and its innovation division, Synovate.

Harrogate-based, utilities engineering company Synthotech, will use its latest robot technology to identify and repair links from within live water mains without requiring extensive excavations and minimising interruptions to water supplies.

Project partners include Thames Water, Yorkshire Water, Affinity Water, SES Water, Anglian Water, Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, Uisce Éireann Irish Water, and Southern Water, alongside the University of Sheffield, WRc, ALH Systems, and Arcadis.

Robots equipped with advanced sensors will also be deployed in rising mains to predict failures and make repairs before they burst to prevent environmental pollution. The water industry already uses human-controlled robots to assess its partially filled sewer tunnels and sewers, which use gravity to move sewage.

The project will pave the way for autonomous robotics technology to be used in fully pressurised sewer pipes. Project partners include Thames Water, Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, Wessex, and the University of Sheffield.

Ofwat’s Water Breakthrough Challenge will make approximately £40 million available for highly collaborative water-sector innovations to benefit customers, society, and the environment. The previous round, Water Breakthrough Challenge 3, concluded in 2023, with 16 finalists awarded a total of £38 million.

Commenting on the award, Mark Tindley, managing director of Synthotech, said: “Our team has worked hard to advance this technology to create a more efficient and sustainable way to identify and repair leaks. We look forward to working with Ofwat, water companies and partners across the industry to roll out the robots.”

Synthotech’s technology allows for high-definition images to be relayed to the operator. It allows for the accurate assessment of the issue and the selection of the most appropriate fix. The robots can be deployed remotely for long distances, which speeds up the investigation process to improve health and safety and reduce environmental impact.

The robots serve as a platform for sensors and repair technology that can adapt to each situation. Several spray liners, structural lining and sealants can be used to make repairs. The robot can operate in a pressurised environment, which boosts efficiency in the repair process.

A team of two can be deployed to investigate and repair. The robots are small enough to access a pipe through an access point, reducing the need for excavation.

Synthotech is based in Harrogate, North Yorkshire and operates internationally. It is a leader in robotics-as-a-service and works with utility companies to deploy the latest technology in pipeline maintenance.

Simon Langdale, engineering director at Synovate, concluded:  “Over the next decade, robots will play an increasingly important role in the economy and society. The water industry is taking significant strides to ensure that it benefits from opportunities that robots can play in maintaining infrastructure with the next generation of trenchless technology.”

 

About Ofwat Water Breakthrough Challenge.

The Water Breakthrough Challenge is part of a series of competitions from Ofwat, run by Challenge Works with Arup and Isle Utilities, designed to drive innovation and collaboration in the sector to benefit individuals, society and the environment.

It supports initiatives that help to tackle the biggest challenges facing the water sector, such as achieving net zero, protecting natural ecosystems and reducing leakage, as well as delivering value to society.

 

About Synthotech.

The Water Breakthrough Challenge is part of a series of competitions from Ofwat, run by Challenge Works with Arup and Isle Utilities, designed to drive innovation and collaboration in the sector to benefit individuals, society and the environment.

It supports initiatives that help to tackle the biggest challenges facing the water sector, such as achieving net zero, protecting natural ecosystems and reducing leakage, as well as delivering value to society.

Synthotech has worked closely with the University of Sheffield to develop the next generation of industrial robots. As part of the Pipebots initiative, Synthotech worked with leading UK water companies to conduct a research and feasibility study into using robots for mains inspection.

The Pipebots team worked with Synthotech to test the robots on iron pipework using accelerometers, ultrasonic probes and electromagnetic (EM) induction sensors. The sensors are attached the Synthotech’s LeakVISION robots to help gather data.

Professor Kirill Horoshenkov, programme director at the University of Sheffield, said: “The Pipebots partnership brings together leading innovators from industry and academia to accelerate the development and adoption of the latest robot technology in the UK’s pipeline networks. The benefits of pipeline robots include fewer roadworks for motorists and communities, alongside significant efficiency improvements for utility companies.”

Visit: https://synthotech.com/ and https://www.syno-vate.co.uk/

Posted in Construction News, News, Robotics, Technology, Utilities