Blue Innovation Futures: Success Stories
12 May 2014
Costain’s Blue Innovation Futures (BIF), launched last year, gives companies across the UK the chance to promote new solutions and revolutionise ways of working.
In 2013, Costain selected 52 ideas to present at three events to Costain’s senior management team. Of these, 21 ideas were selected and five have been employed on the Company’s operations.
Phil Moore at Skaftray® pitched his product last year. Skaftray®is a safety and productivity product designed and patented for the safe containment of tools and materials whilst working at height, either on a mobile tower, a podium step or a mobile elevating work platform. The obvious benefit is a reduction in the number of accidents caused by falls from mobile towers as well as a reduction in the risk of repetitive injuries caused by bending down. Phil already had a proven product but since meeting with Costain, doors have opened and the company has gone from strength to strength.
“Blue Innovation Futures enabled us to present first-hand the benefits of Skaftray® to key industry personnel who immediately understood the benefit to Costain’s business and in particular its commitment to safety. As a result, we made contact with Costain’s key plant supplier to provide Skaftray® and, through BIF and Costain’s endorsement, it assisted us in achieving a distribution agreement with a major UK manufacturer of access equipment,” said Phil.
Innovation is central to how Costain runs its business, providing customers with innovative solutions that improve the performance of their business. Innovation underpins the Company’s Engineering Tomorrow strategy, the Group’s commitment to identifying, developing and implementing innovation in order to meet the UK’s need for strategic national infrastructure.
Getting an opportunity to engage with potential customers is a vital component in successfully entering a new market, particularly if you’ve got a new product or innovative disruptive technology that has the potential to revolutionise the way people look at a problem.
“Innovation is about change, it’s about education, engagement, collaboration and finally implementation. We didn’t secure any funding through BIF but sometimes it’s more about opening doors, getting to speak to the right people and making things happen that way, which is just as important as funding,” said Ian Spreadborough, the Managing Director of IOBAC Magnetised Flooring Technology, a business that pitched its innovative flooring product at one of the first Blue Innovation Futures events in May last year.
IOBAC is a fast, efficient and sustainable way to install flooring which removes the need to use adhesives or damp proofing membranes. This eliminates contaminants and therefore makes it easier for them to be stored, cleaned, re-used and recycled. More crucially, the time it takes to lay the floor is also greatly reduced.
Since the first BIF, Ian has had meetings with Costain to discuss the development of IOBAC’s system to support other major markets, including public spaces like major transport hubs. Ian also showcased the IOBAC Magnetised Flooring Technology at the Engineering Tomorrow Innovation Event at the Natural History Museum’s Darwin Centre.
“With Costain’s full support during this event, we had the chance to present our system to BAA, National Rail, Tfl and Crossrail, to name but a few. This January we attended the Costain Group’s own internal Technical Expertise Community Conference which was held in Loughborough to present IOBAC to key members of staff,” said Ian.
Due to the number of markets in which Costain operates, there is enormous scope to get involved, whether it’s in solving the congestion in the UK’s transport systems, reducing water scarcity, optimising assets through new technologies where Costain has been able to reduce the cost of design, to delivering construction and maintenance more efficiently to extend the life of an asset, or reducing the cost of decommissioning and improving health and safety. In the case of Wind Power Performance, it was about improving energy storage.
Wind Power Performance aims to be a grid-level energy storage battery manufacturer in the 1MWh – 100MWh range. Its technology is focused on the distributed and centralised electricity network as a low cost solution specifically designed for the needs of the renewables industry. Based on existing, proven chemistries and architectures used in the metal refining industry, the company intends to fill a gap in the energy storage market by manufacturing safe energy storage batteries with the lowest levelized-cost battery technology.
Wind Power Performance has R&D facilities near San Francisco. It’s energy storage technology aims to enable the deferment of infrastructure costs, reduce the need for curtailment and help balance generation and demand through time shifting of supply, all of which will help drive down the £/MWh levelised cost of energy. Nick Kitchin, the company’s Managing Director, pitched his idea at the Blue Innovation Futures event in Cardiff last year.
“I’d heard about BIF so I phoned Tim Embley (Costain’s Innovation and Knowledge Manager) and, with little more than 24 hours’ notice he invited me to Cardiff. I gave my presentation to Costain’s innovation team and subsequently to Ian Graves, Costain’s Power Sector Director, and we’ve now signed a memorandum of understanding which acknowledges the strategic fit between what Costain does and what we can offer,” said Nick.
“Getting that tangible support from a major blue-chip company has done an enormous amount of good for our credibility,” Nick added.
Costain’s innovation leadership team will be hosting Blue Innovation Futures events in Edinburgh (May 15th), Manchester (21th); Sheffield (May 29th), Cardiff, Waterton (June 3rd) and finally in London (June 5th) to hopefully identify new products and services that will help to meet the needs of its customers.
“Innovation is an expectation in our market and within our teams. We are constantly looking for new ideas that will improve our services to our customers. Engineering Tomorrow is our business strategy to identify, develop and implement innovation and Blue Innovation Futures is our mechanism to ask you what’s new?” said Tim Bowen, Costain’s Corporate Development Director.
Five innovations have received investment, the largest being £500,000 to develop a concept into a service in Costain’s market around affordable energy management. If you’re interested, then please register and include some basic details about your idea, the problems you are addressing and the potential markets you are interested in focusing on. Following your registration, Costain will invite you to your chosen venue to provide a short presentation. At this point you will get the opportunity to discuss how Costain can help take your idea forward.
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