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Costain secures Ofwat funding to lead innovation in the water industry

Water splash


03 May 2022


Ofwat, the English and Welsh water regulator, has announced the winners of its latest innovation competition, the Water Breakthrough Challenge. Costain has been awarded funding for two projects as part of the ‘Transform’ stream.

The first award, with Northumbrian Water and ten strategic partners formed under the name ‘Stream,’ has secured £978,000 for the first phase of the Open Data Platform, an £8m, three-year project.

Stream’s vision is to co-create an Open Data Framework to unlock water data for the benefit of customers, society, and the environment. This will help address challenges such as the prevention of environmental incidents and carbon emissions reduction across the sector. Costain is partnering with Pinsent Masons to provide the legal and commercial framework that will enable sharing of data between industry bodies, removing a significant barrier to collaboration.

Costain’s innovation investment lead, Aarti Gupta said: “Innovation and collaboration are at the heart of what we do at Costain, and I am really excited about the Stream project. The power of data sharing to manage carbon, drive greater transparency and support better decision making is proven in other industries. Applying best practice to help water companies meet the affordability and sustainability challenges they face will ensure our water industry is fit for the future.

water breakthrough challenge_infographic

The second award, worth £300,000, is for phase one of the Hy-Value project led by Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water and Costain, with the University of South Wales. This innovative project will develop hydrogen from sewage waste gases and has the potential to power Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water’s fleet of vehicles and to provide renewable energy to other local fleet operators. If the scheme is successful, it could produce 20 million kg of hydrogen each year across the UK, enough to fuel 2,850 hydrogen buses.

The phase one funding will support the business case to assess whether it is feasible to produce hydrogen, suitable vehicle fuel cells, from the biomethane created when sewage sludge is digested. If the pilot is successful, Costain will deliver the front-end engineering design for a full-scale plant to support Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water’s AMP8 business plan.

Commenting on Hy-Value, Costain’s water sector director Gerard Shore said: “I am delighted that we have been awarded funding to develop the Hy-Value project. Hydrogen will play a key part in reducing CO2 emissions and improving air quality, and if this demonstrator is successful it will help to unlock wider investment in renewable hydrogen projects. By collaborating with our partners and leveraging our expertise across energy, water, and transportation, we can create connected sustainable infrastructure to help people and the planet to thrive.”

Other winning initiatives include projects to reduce leakage, improve household water efficiency, and turn carbon dioxide created by the water sector into useful products like paint and fertilizer.

The Water Breakthrough Challenge is run by Nesta Challenges, with Arup and Isle Utilities, and forms part of Ofwat’s £200 million Innovation Fund, an ambitious initiative to support the water sector to better meet the needs of customers, society, and the environment through innovation.

Water Breakthrough Challenge 3 will open in Autumn 2022. Ofwat are currently consulting on changes to this and future competitions and will be sharing more details over the summer.