Low carbon smart pipes will contribute to construction sector decarbonisation

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Low carbon smart pipes for use in large-scale buried infrastructure projects are to be developed in a new partnership between the University of Birmingham and specialist manufacturing company Aquaspira Ltd.

Funded via a grant from Innovate UK, the £269,000, 9-month research programme has the potential to make a significant step-change in helping the construction sector achieve Government decarbonisation targets.

The programme is led by North West firm Aquaspira and will support the development of composite plastic and steel drainage and storm water pipes, incorporating high levels of recycled material. Sensor technology built into the pipes will detect and report changes in environmental conditions, enabling infrastructure problems to be rapidly identified and rectified.

Experts at the University of Birmingham’s School of Engineering will work with Aquaspira on the development of the sensing technology and the pipes will be tested at the University of Birmingham and National UKCRIC Buried Infrastructure Facility. 

The announcement comes as part of the UK Government’s unveiling of a multi-million pound investment to support businesses across the country pursue clean growth projects. The Sustainable Innovation Fund, delivered through Innovate UK, 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.

Professor 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 open up future avenues for new products that will contribute to increasing the efficiency of the UK economy.

Neil Wallace, Managing Director of Aquaspira Ltd, 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.”

“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.”

Speaking about the Sustainable Innovation Fund, Business Secretary Alok Sharma commented: “The UK’s response to coronavirus has demonstrated the very best of British ingenuity, and it is this resourcefulness that will help us navigate our way through this pandemic.

“Today’s investment will ensure that our innovators and risk-takers can continue to scale up their ideas, helping the UK to build back better and ensure we meet our clear commitments on tackling climate change.”

Executive chair of Innovate UK, Dr Ian Campbell, added: “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.”

Notes to editor:

For media enquiries please contact Beck Lockwood, Press Office, University of Birmingham, tel: +44 (0)781 3343348.

About the University of Birmingham
The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.

About Aquaspira Ltd
AquaSpira designs and manufactures next-generation large diameter drainage solutions for the construction industry. Founded in Nelson, Lancashire, in 2007 by an experienced team which wanted to deliver strong, effective low-carbon drainage solutions using the latest composite materials and manufacturing technologies.

By 2017, Aquaspira pipes were named the Housebuilder Product of the Year for best external product. At the forefront of Research & Development within the sector, Aquaspira has developed pipes and fittings, pipeline access and also designs and builds tank systems for storm and foul water attenuation, using composite steel reinforcement to offer a far more robust, durable and eco-friendly solution.

All of its products are manufactured in the UK. The company is now a mainstream supplier to the utilities, construction, highways, rail, airport, ports, commercial, housebuilding and green energy sectors.

Nationally Aquaspira employ 45 staff, 40 in the North West.

About Innovate UK
Innovate UK drives productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas.

We connect businesses to the partners, customers and investors that can help them turn ideas into commercially successful products and services and business growth.

We fund business and research collaborations to accelerate innovation and drive business investment into R&D. Our support is available to businesses across all economic sectors, value chains and UK regions.

Innovate UK is part of UK Research and Innovation.