Network June 2016

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NETWORK / 27 / JUNE 2016 The innovation game T he journey of an innovation through to acceptance into "business as usual" by a distribution network operator can be a challenging one. In a recent Utility Week report, Innovation in UK Utilities, none of the networks surveyed thought they were "extremely successful" in ensuring valuable innovations were adopted quickly as business as usual. This lack of pace can create barriers for SME innovators who typically lack the time and resources required to complete a lengthy procurement process. This is a sentiment that our community of innovators at the Energy Innovation Centre regularly plays back to us. So it was that last year we decided to see if this was an area where we could drive a positive change – for them and for the industry. Small changes o-en have the biggest impact. In this case, the small change we implemented was to ask our industry partners to highlight specific areas where new technologies acoustic screen. A major benefit of this approach is that it can be implemented very quickly and at low cost. Thanks to INVC's experience and the time efficiency of the new process, it was possible to schedule trials of the prototype noise-control measures as a demonstration to an environmental health officer just two months a-er initial contact. This was before very noisy, sensitive gas pipe replacement work was due to start a week later. Thanks to the INVC solution, the project was approximately 15-20dB (97-99%) quieter than previously expected. It had also established a new best practice noise mitigation standard for gas pipe replacement and other buried service activities in built-up areas. Richard Hynes-Cooper, innovation delivery manager for Northern Gas Networks said: "The experience of placing this 'call for innovation' has been a positive one. It has provided an outlet to problem-solve and find a solution that benefits customers, stakeholders and the project team in an area where it has previously been challenging to do so." The project has also won recognition for INVC, which picked up the 'Environmental Impact Award' at the UK Energy Innovation Awards earlier this year. Peter Wilson, technical director of the Industrial Noise and Vibration Centre, said: "As an SME, we are very familiar with the typical, very extended and time-consuming, process involved in tendering to large organisations. As a result, if we are busy, we will quite o-en not even bother to apply. In this case, however, it was gratifyingly painless: one presentation to the EIC with all relevant personnel present, a few emails and then an order for the trial project for the innovative noise control measures from NGN. The whole process from the initial presentation to the end of the initial project was less than two months – unprecedented speed!" Alec Breen, innovation leader, Energy Innovation Centre Business as usual innovation is the goal, but for that to happen there must be a change of pace. InnovatIon would unlock benefits for their customers and their business operations. We then took this information and shaped it into a series of "calls for innovation" that were promoted to our community of innovators far and wide. The results so far have been compelling. An example of how this works at its best happened when Northern Gas Networks (NGN) called for help with a project in Hull. Digging in heavily built-up areas can be noisy and this can cause problems with customers and stakeholders. Work on site had been temporarily suspended because of the noise that was being made during essential gas mains replacement work. The Slough-based Industrial Noise and Vibration Centre (INVC) responded to this call for innovation through the EIC with a solution that would reduce the noise and prevent any further delays. INVC already had experience of working with noisy plant works, so they were able to combine different innovative techniques and create a new

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