Innovation

Asset Intelligence & Innovation

 

We must continually evolve and improve how we take care of one of life’s essentials. 

Our innovation strategy is to research and develop new solutions and incubate and experiment with ideas that already exist to adopt solutions quickly. We aim to learn from others and collaborate locally, nationally and globally.

 

Our innovation challenges

We want to solve the challenges we have today as well as find answers to some of our industry’s bigger long-term challenges.

By managing risks, keeping the financials in check and prioritising sustainability, we can address some of our key operational issues and long-term strategic challenges, such as our commitment to our Triple Carbon Pledge and achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

Our short-term areas of innovation focus include:

  • Water Resources, Treatment and Distribution
  • Wastewater Collection and Resource Recovery
  • Bioresources: Maximising energy production and alternative sources of energy
  • Technology and Asset Intelligence

 

Our Innovation Ecosystem

We are curious by nature and this is why our Asset Intelligence & Innovation department has grown to almost 150 employees. Yes that's right, we have almost 150 individuals innovating, to help tackle our biggest challenges and identify new opportunities.

Our team is diverse and varied, we hold over 1000 years of experience in design thinking, bio diversity, customer service, data analysis, technology and
beyond.

However, we know we don’t have all the answers, and we have established our innovation eco system to enable us to collaborate.

Wavemakers

With our customers – Wavemakers is a brand-new annual ideas challenge that seeks to nurture talent and create innovation in the community. 

The project has been especially created to find unique and innovative ideas in the world of water, will turn to local talent to help develop new ideas that could be rolled out across the Midlands.

Innovation Catalyst

With our world-wide innovators – launched in December 2021, we have set ourselves the challenge to look outside of what we already know in order to learn from knowledge and experience across the globe. 

We want to find new innovations, to embrace new thinking and forever change the way we work.

In order to engage fully and ensure learning is captured and embedded by Severn Trent, an ‘Innovation Tour’ will take place to visit regional hubs to participate in ‘Meet the Innovator’ events.

World Wide Innovation Forum

With the worldwide sector – working with the World Water Innovation Forum to solve the biggest issues facing water today. 

The forum has been established to bring together likeminded water companies to share their learnings through collaboration and knowledge-sharing on trials, research, and ground-breaking technology.


Spring

With the UK sector – Working alongside the UK Water sector and Spring to enhance innovation and collaboration within and beyond the water sector. 

Severn Trent have collaborated to create the Water Innovation Strategy and will continue to contribute towards a more efficient and effective approach to innovation at the sector level; driving benefit for customers, society, and the environment.

Supply Chain

With our Supply Chain – Creating a culture of Innovation Team work with the diversity of our supply chain partners, utilising opportunities for mutual support, both innovative and financially.

Funders & Partnerships

We want to optimize the potential of funding and partnership landscape, ensuring we work with organisations who innovate in fields such as science, academic research and technology. 

Our aims are to focus on prospects that enable us to work with the ‘Best in Class’, obtain knowledge and wisdom early through tests and trials and experiment wisely with our financials.

 


Innovation 'Vanguard'

With academia – We are in the process of establishing an Innovation Vanguard; a group of leading academic and key industry players (from inside and outside the water industry) to encourage new, innovative thinking and push the boundaries of the possible.

The Vanguard will offer Severn Trent a broader view of innovation and provide constant questioning as to whether the right investments are being made. 

The group will pressure test our innovation ideas, create new ones and help us to define and deliver the trials and experiments to confirm the opportunity value of new technologies.

Challenge Cup

With our colleagues – Severn Trent runs an annual innovation ideas campaign called the ‘Challenge Cup’. 

Every year, in the month of May we invite  >7,000 employees to generate and share their ideas on new products, systems, or processes that help improve our service.

The Challenge Cup is brilliant for employee engagement and in addition to inspiring many new ideas, it has also helped create our‘Curious’, innovative culture here at Severn Trent.

 

Government & Regulators

With Government & our regulators  – continuing to grow our constructive relationships with government departments and regulators to engage them in our innovation plans and foster a collaborative relationship giving an opportunity to exchange views and experience.

Water resources, treatment and distribution

Our focus areas for innovation in water resources, treatment and distribution.

 

Delivering water that is always good to drink

We’ll make sure we continue to deliver clean, safe drinking water by developing technologies that enhance our treatment capability, and consistently deliver high-quality water through our network to our customers.

Research into raw water quality improvement, such as algae management, and utilising the latest developments in monitoring and flow cytometry will ensure we can limit treatment demands and further increase our treatment control.

 

Optimising water production and our network

We can optimise water production by researching and developing transformative technologies and using analytics and digital twin capability to adapt our water sourcing and treatment to future regional, national and climate challenges. 

 

Reducing leakage

Upgrading and renewing our assets in the most cost-effective way, making our repair operations more efficient for the benefit of our customers, will help us to reduce mains bursts, supply interruptions and ultimately reduce leakage.

 

Reduced waste in our processes with energy efficient technologies

Through support-automated operation and condition-based maintenance, we’ll reduce waste in our processes. Harvesting energy from our existing assets, such as vibration conversion to support self-powered sensors and remote condition monitoring is just one of the ways we’re looking to limit waste.

 

Improving our distribution infrastructure

Our distribution infrastructure can be improved through sourcing raw water efficiently, in a way that doesn’t negatively impact the environment, and looking at alternative sources of raw water.

We can reduce the cost of cleaning water by reducing the losses in the process and reducing costs of installing, maintaining and operating new equipment, in a safe and controlled manner.

 

Wastewater collection and resource recovery

Our focus areas for innovation Wastewater Collection and Resource Recovery.

 

Improved visibility of the network to enable proactive network management

Severn Trent have 94,000km of sewers and currently have around 5,000 sensors on the network providing less than 0.5% coverage.

By investing in sewer sensor technology that can be deployed at scale, we will be able to more proactively intercept network failures preventing service failures like pollutions or blockages. 

 

Predictive asset management to prevent pollutions and blockages

Through using digital twins, analytical tools and machine learning, we will be able to better predict the behaviour of our network and prevent issues such as blockages and pollutions from occurring.

 

Delivering efficient operations to minimise customer disruption

Through continuing to explore and use new technology and techniques for sewerage operation, repair and rehab, like digless technologies we will be able to minimise customer disruption from our activities.

 

Enhanced process monitoring

We use effluent and asset monitoring to provide visibility of the performance of our treatment works and to help us intervene ahead of process and asset failure. But current costs and maintenance requirements prohibit their widespread use throughout the wastewater treatment process.

We need a range of cost-effective effluent quality and asset monitoring devices that can be easily deployed and that have realistic lifespan and/or maintenance requirements.

 

Securing Low Energy Effluent Treatment

Energy for waste pumping and treatment represents the biggest single operational cost for the business. With tightening effluent consent standards, we’re looking at higher energy costs in AMP7 and beyond.

We want to utilise retrofittable, low total capital cost treatment technologies which significantly reduce our energy demands.

 


Bioresources

Maximising energy production and alternative sources of energy

 

Our focus areas for innovation are:

  • Reducing cost to treat
  • Energy production
  • Enhancing sludge products
  • Creating fertiliser products from waste inputs
  • Producing hydrogen from anaerobic digestion by-products and waste streams

 

Technology and Asset Intelligence

Taking advantage of the rapid changes in technology

 

Our focus areas for innovation are:

  • Building our data science and machine learning expertise for predictive maintenance, dynamic risk management, simulation and automated decision support.
  • Using innovative sensor and data acquisition technologies to drive down costs and maximise our cloud capabilities.
  • Exploring opportunities to support our field work force through the use of tools to improve task notification and feedback, provide on-the-job support and improve safety and welfare.

Submit your innovation ideas and collaborate with us

We believe that we can be more innovative in collaboration with others.  

We would welcome technology providers and partners to work with us on the innovation challenges we have described. 

If you’ve got ideas or solutions that meet our challenges please share them with us. If it’s got promise, we could collaborate on the idea with you to make it a reality.

Innovation showcase case studies

Here are just a few examples of the outputs of our innovation programme.

The resource recovery and innovation centre

A first in the UK full-scale wastewater innovation test pad at our Redditch treatment site which supports our long-term urban wastewater strategy and some of the low energy wastewater treatment we are testing.

Our waste water treatment innovation facility at Spernal Sewage works is open for business.

The Resource Recovery and Innovation Centre provides a full-scale plug-and-play testbed where we can develop new technologies and undertake demonstrations and trials in a safe, controlled environment.

We’re keen to collaborate with technology suppliers, academics and others who wish to utilise the following facilities;

  • Influent of 500m3/day crude sewage, 1000m3/day settled sewage or tankered imports.
  • A fully equipped waste laboratory
  • Dedicated technical resources
  • Conference room
  • Opportunities to trial monitoring and treatment technology on the main works

 


Centaur

Flooding and Combined Sewer Overflows (CSO) spills happen because existing sewers can no longer convey the volumes for which they were designed due to climate change, growth and other catchment pressures.​

Solutions such as additional buried storage or sewer enlargement are expensive, space prohibitive, slow to implement and not carbon efficient.​ CENTAUR® is an AI-enabled automatic flow control system that manages flows and mobilises pipe storage in-real time to prevent downstream escapes.​

CENTAUR® solutions are first modelled within InfoWorks ICM to seek out hydraulic capacity opportunities to manage a problem. Following this, hardware is retrofitted in manhole chambers (sensors, control gates).​ 

Feasibility to full commissioning occurs in less than 12 months, enabling current flood and CSO spills to be quickly resolved.​

 


SPS Risk Matrix

Sewage Pumping Station (SPS) Dynamic Risk Matrix is a new product that has been developed in-house by the Data Science Team at Severn Trent.

This is a dynamic dashboard available on both desktop and mobile devices and shows a prioritised list of our c3,700 SPS sites ordered by highest probability of failure for the day.

The dashboard also has a map which geographically shows the location of selected pumping stations allowing for users to easily recognise the location and surrounding areas.

The dashboard is used daily by our Waste Field Technicians and enables a daily data driven visit prioritisation to identify and fix issues before they cause any significant problems, or at worst a waste pollution event.  .

 


Mecana Algae Removal

The Mecana Algae Removal trial was designed to remove algae from raw water in Shuhstoke Reservoir before it reaches Whiteacre Water Treatment Works.

Mecana filters are ‘pile cloth’ filters used in wastewater for removal of phosphates. These have been used to remove the algal load in raw water before it is sent for treatment.

 


AnMBR

We have developed a first-of-a-kind, demonstration scale Anaerobic Membrane Bioreactor (AnMBR) based on ten years of research at Cranfield University.​

Anaerobic mainstream treatment will be a key building block for energy neutral wastewater management and resource recovery. ​We have collaborated with the supply chain to deliver a 500m³/d AnMBR by integrating off-the-shelf upflow anaerobic sludge blanket reactor, ultra filtration membrane and membrane degassing systems.​

We are running a two-year programme to finalise the design and establish performance.​ The trial is being carried out at the Resource Recovery and Innovation Centre (R2IC) at Spernal STW and is part funded by the EU Horizon 2020 Next Gen programme.


Membrane aerated biofilm reactors MABR

Membrane aerated biofilm reactors (MABR) use hollow fibre membranes to support the growth of nitrifying bacteria.

The technology could be up to 75% more energy efficient than conventional activated sludge plants (ASPs) and produce 50% less sludge.​ 

MABRs can be retrofitted to existing ASPs and deployed at sites where ammonia permits are being tightened.​ 

There are several suppliers of MABR technology and we are running a side-by-side trial of the Suez and Oxymem systems at our Research Recovery and Innovation Centre (R2IC), Spernal.​ 


Aqualiner

New structural lining technologies that will reduce the cost of mains rehabilitation and therefore support the delivery of our leakage outcomes.


ePulse condition assessments

The ePulse condition assessment technology uses acoustic signals and advanced computer algorithms to assign a condition grade on our distribution mains.

This will be used to derive a forecast pipe life expectancy, to target mains renewal more effectively, especially within high cost DMAs such as Birmingham.


Veolia disc filter

 Evaluation trials of commercial technologies for tertiary wastewater treatment to achieve the low Phosphorus permits.


Vulnerable customer's

This project will facilitate a step change improvement in engagement of hard-to-reach customers and communities to improve clarity on the support they need.

We will do this, in collaboration with the project partners, by gathering data on ethnicity, language, literacy levels, disability, trusted sources of information, preferred or most used communication channels and which audiences are using them.

Working in collaboration with CCW will allow us to build upon our current learning within the sector to further enhance our knowledge and insights of existing relationships with hard-to-reach communities.

It presents an opportunity to work collaboratively across companies and learn from one another. Between STW, Thames Water, South East Water and CCW we will worth together to build long term innovaative strategies for the support of our vulnerable populations. This will strengthen relationships within businesses increasing the potential for people to collaborate in the future. 

CCW provide the governance and understand customers sector-wide, working together we aim to work towards one of their key strategic ambitions which is 'to provide an oustanding service that is always delivered right first time'.


Converting sludge to fertiliser

Developing a unique technology that can convert waste grade digestate from our anaerobic digester plants into a saleable product.

This project has successfully secured £1.1million in external funding from the Carbon Trust, £630k of which will help to fund us to build a pilot plant to produce high quality fertiliser at Minworth.

This is a real game-changing opportunity for us as we will be the first water company in the UK to deliver this solution.

The technology reuses many of the waste streams that you would find on a sewage treatment works - carbon dioxide from Combined Heat and Power (CHP) engine exhausts, ammonia from centrate returns and the potential for recovered phosphorous.

Early indication shows that if we treat half of our sludge through this process, there is a potential to save around £2.75 million and bring in approximately £2 million in revenue from a 10,000 tonne per year plant.

 


Severn Trent’s urban wastewater strategy