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Intelligent gels testing new gel product

Orbit member and environmental gel innovator Intelligent Gels in partnership with Durham University, Northumbrian Water and technology innovation catalyst CPI is one of 16 initiatives being awarded a share of £40 million in Ofwat’s latest innovation competition – the Water Breakthrough Challenge.

Now in its third year, the Water Breakthrough Challenge awards funding to solutions with potential to deliver wide-scale, transformational change benefitting customers, society and the environment.

The innovative Root Defender project aims to end sewer misery by preventing tree root intrusion into pipelines. Tree roots, which work their way into sewer pipes, block thousands of pipes every year which causes flooding and pollution and costs tens of thousands of pounds to repair.

Working together to end sewer misery

Working with researchers in our Department of Biosciences, Intelligent Gels are creating a new eco-friendly product that can be applied to the inside of existing sewer pipes, and coated on new pipes laid in the future, to stop tree roots growing any further without damaging roots and killing the tree.

Based at Orbit, Durham University’s Enterprise Zone at NETPark, Intelligent Gels has worked with Durham University, Northumbrian Water and CPI to examine the effects on plant and tree root growth.

Cross section showing Root Defender solution

Our researchers have been working with Intelligent Gels on this project for several years. This new funding will allow further product development and industrial scale testing before commercialisation. This project has the potential to be a game-changing solution to a multi-million-pound problem for the water industry and will be of huge benefit to the general public.

The Water Breakthrough Challenge

The Water Breakthrough Challenge is part of a series of competitions from Ofwat, run by Challenge Works with Arup and Isle Utilities, designed to drive innovation and collaboration in the sector to benefit individuals, society and the environment.

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More information about the winners of the Water Breakthrough Challenge  

Find out more about Intelligent Gels

Find out more about Orbit Durham University Enterprise Zone

Find out more about our Department of Biosciences