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Call for innovation 2021

Call for innovation 2021

We're looking for innovative ideas to help us meet the government's ambitious net zero carbon targets and address the changing needs of our customers.

If you have an idea for an innovation project that could help us solve a problem in one of our focus areas or more broadly, we would love to hear from you.

We are particularly keen to hear from smaller organisations, possibly based in the North West, who would benefit from the financial support and partnering opportunities afforded by innovation funding.

Please refer to our new innovation strategy which describes our future challenges and opportunities and our call for innovation 2021 for more details.

The key areas in which we are currently looking to innovate are summarised below.

Managing the risk to environment

Oil and SF6: Some of our assets use materials such as oil and SF6 for insulation and/or arc extinction which can become hazardous to the environment in uncontrolled situations, particularly SF6 which is a greenhouse gas. Therefore, we are continuing to seek ways to manage the risks associated with our use of these materials.

Excavated waste: From June 2022, excavated waste from unplanned utility installations and repairs must be assessed to determine whether it contains any hazardous substances and disposed of accordingly. We are looking for a rapid-test solution which would allow us to test and classify the waste quickly and dispose of it responsibly. 

Safety

The electricity network has inherent risks associated with electricity and the assets used to distribute it, presenting a potential safety issue to employees and members of the public. We are therefore seeking innovative ideas to help mitigate risk relating to working at height, public safety and electric shock.

Extend the operating life of an asset

Despite our record levels of investment on new and replacement equipment, the size of our network means that many of our assets are increasing in age, having been installed in the 1950s and 1960s. It is unaffordable and impractical to replace these assets. We are therefore looking for alternative ways of managing our ageing asset base of transformers, switchgear and cables.

Data

As part of the energy system transition, the access to, and use of, data is a key enabler to managing and operating an increasingly active network. To help focus the challenge in this area we have developed a number of questions which require investigation:

  • How can data sets be used to plan and operate our networks more efficiently and effectively?
  • How can data be used to provide additional understanding of real-time network and asset conditions and to inform new standards?
  • What is the appropriate data hierarchy?
  • How can we facilitate third-party access to data?

Looped services

Looped services were a common way to connect electricity supplies to new properties from the 1950s through to the 1980s. A single service cable is used to connect two or more houses to the electricity network which limits the electrical capacity available. These services will need to be 'un-looped' to remove any limitations on capacity as demand for electricity increases, for example due to the connection of electric vehicle charge points. We are seeking alternative ways to un-loop services which minimise cost and disruption to customers.

Next steps

Our Call for Innovation for 2021 is now closed but if you have an idea that could help us solve a problem in one of our focus areas or more broadly, please contact us through our innovation mailbox.

We will carefully consider all ideas submitted to us and endeavour to provide feedback to all parties. Any ideas submitted will be treated as confidential and we will respect fully any intellectual property of the originator, regardless of whether we choose to progress with an application for funding.