Robotics company wins £5.8m worth of water infrastructure 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.

Ofwat’s Water Breakthrough Challenge will make approximately £40m available for 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 £38m.

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.

The robots can be deployed remotely for long distances, which speeds up the investigation process to improve health and safety and reduce environmental impact.

Simon Langdale, engineering director at Synovate, added:  “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 it benefits from opportunities that robots can play in maintaining infrastructure with the next generation of trenchless technology.”

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