IMage of man working on blocked sewer

Innovators sought to help unblock UK sewerage systems

Forward-thinking businesses and individuals from across the North East are being urged to join a design sprint aimed at solving the UK’s waste blockage crisis.

Northumbrian Water Group (NWG) and the Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM) Project are urging businesses and experts from all sectors to work with them to help reduce UK sewer blockages.

NWG alone experiences over 10,000 sewer blockages per year, causing sewer flooding to homes, businesses, and outdoor areas, as well as odour problems and environmental pollution.

Companies participating in the sprint – which is being held as part of the annual NWG Innovation festival – will receive fully-funded support from a team of technical experts and will be able to tap into grant funding to further their idea, should they be chosen to submit it for proof of concept trials.

The NWG Innovation Festival is returning for its fourth year – from 14-18 September – however this will be the first time the event has been held digitally, with attendees able to tune in to a series of presentations, masterclasses, key speakers and pitching competitions.

Adrian Lee, technical policy manager at NWG, said: “The Innovation Festival offers a unique and exciting opportunity where we can gather together some of the best and most innovative minds from business, science, technology, engineering, utilities and customer services to tackle real life problems.

The problem of sewer blockages is significant and can lead to issues which are both upsetting and distressing for our customers, as well being potentially harmful and damaging to the environment.  Our vision is to prevent sewer blockages within our network or to identify them before there is an impact to customers or on the environment.

“In recent months we have launched our “Bin the Wipe” campaign, which has seen great success, helping to reduce sewer blockages associated with wet wipes, but there is still a lot more we can all do.  No matter how big or how small your idea might be, please sign up for our sprint where you will be part of an amazing team working together to make a real difference to the planet.”

The Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing Project was set up to support North East (LEP) SME manufacturers to explore and introduce new technology to improve their products or processes.

Ken Teears, project manager at SAM, said: “The North East is home to some of the UK’s most innovative businesses and expert thinkers and this is a great opportunity to once again show the world what we’re capable of achieving when we put our minds together.

“UK sewer waste is growing year-on-year, causing blockages that are extremely damaging not only to the environment, but also to public health.  If this trend continues, water companies across the country are going to require new infrastructure and equipment capable of unblocking such waste streams and hopefully this sprint can help kick start a new revolution in the waste industry.

“Participating companies will not only get to work with a team of academics and experts from SAM and NWG, but any ideas that are viable will also be put forward as concept trials. Funding will also be available to help bring successful innovations to market. I’d urge any company that thinks they have the expertise to get involved, it’s a great opportunity with huge potential.”

For more information on the NWG Innovation Festival, visit: