North West Tech Firm Secures European Space Agency Backing to Protect UK Utilities

North West Tech Firm Secures European Space Agency Backing to Protect UK Utilities

MGISS, one of the UK’s leading geospatial technology companies, has launched a new project, part-funded by the European Space Agency (ESA), to help minimise nationwide disruptions to gas and water supply.

The project, Interruption Prevention Alert Service (IPAS), will use cutting-edge technology to identify and locate development risks within close proximity of critical utility assets.

Gas and water outages caused by developments are a growing problem and IPAS will offer a preventative solution, using satellite data and services to automatically detect changes to the built environment.

The challenges that utilities providers face are also likely to intensify with the Government’s anticipated easing of UK planning laws as part of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, along with proposed additional investment in infrastructure and housebuilding.

To ensure that these relaxations do not negatively impact on critical utility assets, a robust, platform-based risk alert service is required to support gas and water providers in minimising supply disruptions.

It is expected that the IPAS project will also deliver added-value outcomes to utility suppliers, including cost savings and a reduction in carbon emissions, supporting the development of a sustainable utility network.

The €1m project, supported by €500,000 of match funding from ESA, will run for an initial two years to test its technical and commercial viability, and to develop a go-to-market plan.

North West tech firm secures European Space Agency backing to protect UK utilities
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MGISS is heading up the project in collaboration with data partner, Geospatial Insight; client partners, Northumbrian Water Group (NWG) and Northern Gas Networks (NGN); and funding partners, ESA and the UK Space Agency (UKSA).

The launch of the pilot project follows a joint workshop with ESA at Northumbrian Water’s 2020 Innovation Festival, and two years of collaboration with NWG and NGN.

Michael Darracott, Managing Director at MGISS, said: “I’m looking forward to working with our partners to promote the value of capturing, using, maintaining, and leveraging accurate and reliable geospatial data.

“We already have a significant amount of interest from operators within the water and gas sectors, and we envisage wider potential in other sectors of the UK and global economies.”

Mike Cooper, Innovation and Strategy Manager at MGISS, commented: “We’ve been successfully supporting our utility partners for several years, helping them to build richly attributed and accurate asset records.

“This solution will enable utilities providers to leverage investment in those data records, combining them with change-detection data from satellite services to enable them to avoid supply disruption via a preventative insight service”.

Clive Surman-Wells, Innovation Partnerships Manager at Northumbrian Water Group, added: “Building works on or near our strategic mains pose a very real threat to the resilience of water supply to our customers.

“It’s very challenging to detect and intervene early because our network covers such a huge geographical area. The IPAS project offers an ‘eye-in-the-sky’ solution, leveraging satellite data and combining it with our own asset data records to proactively identify risks sooner.

“Our operations team at Essex and Suffolk Water will be working with MGISS and Geospatial Insight on the initial test area, and we are planning to expand the trial across all of our regions by 2024.”

The IPAS project is part of a growth strategy for MGISS, enabling the creation of high-quality jobs in the North West region. The project has also allowed MGISS to sponsor a PhD student at the University of Liverpool’s Data Science department for four years.

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