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University and industry collaboration wins prestigious award for engineering innovation

Categories: Advanced Manufacturing

Aqua Check Engineering and MMU

Related sector

Advanced Manufacturing

A collaboration between Manchester Metropolitan University and a local manufacturer to develop a smart mobile water metering device has won a top award for university-industry projects.

The KTP Best of the Best Awards 2020 celebrate Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs), which are a scheme that helps businesses in the UK to innovate and grow by linking them with an academic or research organisation, such as the University, and a graduate who is embedded in the company as a KTP Associate.

A KTP between the University and Aquacheck Engineering, a company based in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, was named Best Knowledge Transfer Partnership during the virtual awards ceremony hosted by KTN, which connects innovators with new partners and opportunities, on September 9.

The judges said:

"This KTP has revolutionised the traditional standpipe – something we all rely on for our water supply – by turning it into a smart, connected device, which delivers invaluable insight into water usage.

"The judges felt this KTP had not only created a state-of-the art-device, but had also been utterly transformative for the business, truly benefited all three partners, and led to the development of new capabilities. It does everything a KTP sets out to do."

The project, led by academic Bamidele Adebisi, Professor of Intelligent Infrastructure Systems at Manchester Metropolitan University and with Dario Chiantello as KTP Associate, began in 2016 and finished in 2019.

It involved drawing on the University's expertise in electronic engineering and embedded systems to design and produce a smart water standpipe that utility companies can use to remotely monitor water use.

Professor Richard Greene, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange at Manchester Metropolitan University, said:

" "I am absolutely delighted that we and our partners Aquacheck Engineering have won the Best Knowledge Transfer Partnership Award at the KTP Best of the Best Awards 2020.  

"The award recognises that by working together, Professor Adebisi - supported by our knowledge transfer team - the senior management at Aquacheck and our joint KTP Associate Dario Chiantello have translated high-quality research into new products that have generated significant social and economic impact. We are proud of them for having done so.

"This kind of highly successful collaboration is why Manchester Metropolitan is one of the leading universities in the country for hosting KTPs across Science and Engineering, Health, Education and Sociology.”

Innovative Product

The original aim of the KTP was to create a product that would give real-time data from a mobile standpipe unit that abstracts water from the network - data such as location, volume, flow and pressure readings.

Individuals could previously abstract water from a water supplier’s network undetected without any financial implications and the companies involved lost vast amounts of revenue from unaccounted water loss.

The product and services that have been created during the KTP will prevent this from happening.

Prof Adebisi said the collaboration relied on the University's understanding of wireless communications, power management, and sensors to transform a traditional standpipe into a mobile Internet of Things-connected device using low-cost, modular, flexible and highly efficient components.

He said:

"We are really thrilled to receive this highly prestigious award. This project exemplifies excellent team efforts among colleagues in the University from the KTP Team to academics in the School of Engineering and colleagues in PrintCity, our 3D additive and digital manufacturing centre.

"The KTP has brought significant benefits to all parties: our KTP Associate Dario has learnt more about business concepts and is on the way to completing his PhD at Manchester on a topic that uses AI to solve a major well-known challenge in the water industry; Aquacheck Engineering, an old 'bolts and nuts’ company transformed to an innovation technology enterprise, while the University has increased its research impact immensely."

With five nominations, Manchester Metropolitan University was the university with the largest number of nominations in the awards.

One category - the Most Effective Initiative from a KTP Office Team - has been designated as being “inspired by Dr David Woollard” in tribute to, and in recognition of the legacy of, the University’s KTP Manager who sadly passed away last year.

Ceri Carr, KTP Manager and colleague, said:

"David was hugely enthusiastic about the KTP scheme, both as an academic and as the University’s KTP Manager.

"He was instrumental in developing our initiative, which resulted in significant growth in the University’s KTP portfolio and development of all of our projects selected as finalists in this years’ awards.”

Dr Woollard was a part of the national KTP infrastructure for 18 years including a national role representing the North West on the National Forum, which saw him share his extensive knowledge and skills to the benefit of others in the KTP community and raise the profile of the university’s KTP Office nationally.

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