£174k grant will help drainage pipes maker unearth carbon savings

Lancashire firm Aquaspira has secured a £174,000 grant from Innovate UK, which is part of UK Research and Innovation driving productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas.

The announcement comes as part of the Government’s unveiling of a multimillion-pound investment to support businesses across the country pursue clean growth projects.

The Sustainable Innovation Fund is a main part of the £1.25bn investment package announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in April to help businesses innovate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aquaspira, a specialist manufacturer of large diameter drainage pipes based in Nelson, will supplement the grant with a further £44,000 and is set to work in partnership with the University of Birmingham and the UKCRIC National Buried Infrastructure Facility to develop a lower carbon smart pipe for sustainable large-scale buried infrastructure projects.

The research has the potential to make a significant step-change in helping the construction sector achieve government de-carbonisation targets.

It will explore the use of recycled materials for storm and drainage water pipes and the backfill required for their installation, as well as incorporating innovative sensing equipment for long-term asset monitoring.

Neil Wallace, Aquaspira managing director, said: “As a business we have been looking for the silver linings to the COVID cloud. At this difficult time, the grant will help our business to continue to innovate, grow and create jobs in the North West.”

He added: “This provides an incredibly exciting opportunity for new innovation.

“The Government’s objective of carbon zero by 2050 cannot be achieved without a significant reduction in the use of concrete in the construction process.

“This grant provides an opportunity to enhance understanding of the alternatives and deliver an exemplar low-carbon solution.

“It’s undoubtedly a major milestone for the business and will generate significant opportunities for Aquaspira in the UK and a potential export market.”

Prof Nigel Cassidy, Professor of Geotechnical Infrastructure Engineering at the University of Birmingham, said: “Innovation is at the heart of the nation’s recovery from the COVID epidemic and we are delighted to be partnered with Aquaspira in this exciting and innovative project.

“Not only will the research deliver low-carbon drainage solutions for the construction industry, but the new monitoring technologies will be vital for the long-term assessment of climate change impacts on our built environment.”

The grant will significantly accelerate Aquaspira’s research and lay the foundations for the future growth of the business and employment in the area. The research will also open up future avenues for new products that will contribute to increasing the efficiency of the UK economy.

Executive chair of Innovate UK, Dr Ian Campbell, said: “Yet again we see the exciting range of business innovation taking place across the United Kingdom, despite these difficult times.

“Every initiative we’ve supported here represents an important step forward in sustainable economic development, but also one step nearer dreams becoming reality for ambitious hard-working company owners and their staff.”

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