KTN Innovation Exchange challenge – Measuring and communicating the benefits of nature-based flood prevention measures

This Innovation Exchange challenge is looking at how to measure the effectiveness of nature-based flood prevention measures and communicate this in an effective and engaging way to the communities who are being protected by them. The winning organisation(s) in this competition will be given an opportunity to present their solutions direct to Severn Trent, with potential for a collaborative commercial opportunity.

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Innovative solutions are being sought for this Innovation Exchange challenge, looking at how to measure the effectiveness of nature-based flood prevention measures and communicate this in an effective and engaging way to the communities who are being protected by them. The Challenge is delivered by KTN on behalf of Severn Trent Water. The winning organisation(s) in this competition will be given an opportunity to present their solutions direct to Severn Trent with the potential to partner with Severn Trent to develop and scale the technology together in a collaborative commercial opportunity.

Challenge Details


The management of surface water faces significant pressures from climate change, population growth and urban creep. Floods impact upon many communities in the Severn Trent Region and while significant progress has been made in tackling flooding, change is required in the way that the issue is addressed. To create sustainable and resilient communities it will be necessary to work in collaboration with land owners and managers, engage with the community, and deploy ‘blue-green’ infrastructure solutions (sometimes known as SuDS or Sustainable Drainage Solutions).

A high proportion of urban catchments rely on sewer networks to manage surface water flows. Under normal circumstances, sewers remove surface water for treatment and safe return to the environment but when the network becomes overloaded, surface water flooding, sewer flooding and spills to the environment result. A report by UK Water Industry Research estimated a 51% increase in floods from sewers in the next 30 years, putting a further 3.2 million people in the UK at risk of flooding due to failures in urban drainage.

Image: CIRIA

The responsibility for managing surface water flows is distributed. Individual responses aimed at tackling localised issues cannot tackle the problem. It requires multi-agency, collaborative solutions to significantly improve flooding resilience.  The Government’s 25 year Environment plan, published in 2018, calls for Lead Local Flood Authorities, water and sewerage companies, highways authorities and other agencies to work together to address surface water flooding and advocates ‘improved partnership working’ and ‘adoption and maintenance of SuDS’.

Existing approaches rely on building expensive infrastructure that is mostly underutilised and put under huge strain during storm periods.  In building flood-resilient communities through the use of SuDS, not only are properties protected from surface water flooding, but a range of wider benefits can be delivered, including:

  • improved health and wellbeing
  • greater biodiversity
  • economic growth and job creation
  • reduced pressure on water resources

There is a perception by some customers that SuDS are not as effective at protecting communities from flooding. To convince the communities that will benefit from the proposed measures of their effectiveness and to build confidence for the designers of the systems, Severn Trent would like to hear from technology providers capable of offering a solution that addresses this issue.  It should be accessible by non-specialists, useable in real time to help show the benefits (and potential residual impacts) during storm events, allow interrogation to show how well features/systems perform compared to design assumptions and allow comparison of the effectiveness of different SuDS approaches.

Any solution provider must work collaboratively with Severn Trent to undertake trials of the technology. Severn Trent has selected a catchment within its region on which to trial holistic surface water management at a scale and pace not previously attempted but recognises the critical nature of public engagement at a meaningful level.

Proposals are welcome for:

  • Existing market-ready technologies
  • Established solutions from other industry sectors which can be adapted for this application
  • Development proposals based on existing competences with justification of the applicability of the approach

Potential solutions may come from, for example:

  • Public engagement professionals
  • Planning consultancy
  • Serious gaming
  • Geospatial
  • Flood modelling
  • Civil engineering
  • Virtual/blended reality developers

…or from organisations with relevant expertise.

Severn Trent is willing to consider collaborations between solution providers and may suggest such an approach based on a review of submissions.

We welcome proposals that include the following:

  • Simple and easy-to-use interface. Solution should require minimal training and prior knowledge to use it appropriately.
  • Functionality that enables the system to be easily adapted to different use-cases, ideally integrating with Severn Trent Water’s existing Geographical Information System.


Successful applicants will be given an opportunity to pitch to Severn Trent Water. The package may also include:

  • Support from the KTN and wider Innovations Networks within KTN including but not limited to:
    • Geospatial
    • Digital
    • Virtual reality
  • Support in the development of a prototype or pilot.
  • A place in KTN or Innovate UK events to showcase the technology

A potential business collaboration


Functional Requirements

  • Translate the technical measurements that indicate effectiveness and make them accessible to members of the general public
  • Operate in real or near-real time to help people during storm events
  • Permit interrogation after a storm event to see how SuDS features performed compared to design assumptions
  • Permit comparison of different SuDS approaches (including features such as rain gardens, tree pits, wetlands, swales, green roofs, permeable surfaces)
  • Allow assessment of wider benefits of SUDS systems through the use of publicly available data, such as how far people will travel to access SuDS for amenity benefits
  • Include options for digital and non-digital solutions to ensure we engage with all customers to meet a range of engagement preferences.

Technical Characteristics

  • In measuring the effectiveness of the various SuDS features the solution should include (but not be limited to) rainfall levels, air quality, air temperature, ground water saturation.
  • The inclusion of a citizen science platform for the assessment is desirable. This could help engage the local community and improve acceptance of assessment. An example of such a platform is given here https://freshwaterwatch.thewaterhub.org/
  • It should capture information needed to populate the industry standard for assessing benefits of SuDS – CIRIA B£st tool – https://www.susdrain.org/files/resources/BeST/w047b_bst_guidance_release_5_v0b_issued.pdf
  • Solutions will need to record surface water flood depths up to 500m radius of the features.
  • The solution should ideally include a model which compares the rainfall pattern to permit comparison with a traditional ‘grey’ infrastructure solution.

Operating Conditions

  • User interface is likely to be used indoors or outdoors in ambient conditions
  • Any external devices must be suitable for storm conditions or designed such that they are protected within storm conditions.

Deployment Timescale

  • Launch of the Competition: 18th January 2021
  • Deadline for applications: 26th February 2021
  • Selection and notification of finalists: Early March 2021
  • A presentation day (Video Conference) week beginning 15th March 2021.
  • Solutions should be prepared for:
  • Phase 1 (engagement/ gamification): a platform to test the effectiveness of the proposed ideas i.e. the predicted performance of SuDS at the home, street or city scale. To be delivered by Dec 2021
  • Phase 2 (consultation phase): the platform is extended to predict the benefits of solutions that are being formally developed by June 2022
  • Phase 3 (evaluation): the platform is used show the performance of individual solutions up to the region scale. Dec 2022 – March 2025.
  • Full commercial deployment will start after the project prototype has been demonstrated and must be completed and in full operation prior to 2023.

Cost requirement and market opportunity

  • The cost of continuing to manage sewer flooding using traditional construction-based interventions will increase significantly to meet the forecast future flood volumes driven by climate change, population growth and urban creep. and Severn Trent Water sees great financial benefits and cost savings for customers in the deployment of SuDS. To do so it is necessary to work in collaboration with other agencies and to have public support.
  • The Government has invited water companies to support the green economic recovery through accelerated investment in planned activities to improve the environment
  • The opportunity is for the chosen organisation(s) to present, to a panel including representatives of Severn Trent Water, their proposed solution to this Innovation Exchange challenge
  • Following this presentation, one or more organisations may be chosen to develop the solution with Severn Trent Water and demonstrate it as part of a planned large-scale trial of different approaches to SuDS.
  • Cost will be one factor against which submissions will be assessed however it is recognised that costs can only be estimated at this stage

Eligibility and assessment criteria

Entrants to this competition must be:

  • Established businesses, startups, SMEs or individual entrepreneurs
  • UK based or have the intention to set up a UK base
  • Academic institutions may be considered but should be able to demonstrate a commercialisation model

Applications will be assessed on:

  • Relevance to the topic
  • Innovative nature of the subject
  • Coherence of the proposed business model
  • Feasibility/ economic viability
  • Development potential
  • Maturity of project/solution
  • Ability to launch project quickly/Ease of implementation
  • Price/quality ratio

IP and Potential Commercial Route

  • Existing background IP associated with a potential solution will remain with Solution Provider(s). Where any new IP generation is envisaged, it will be subject to the mutual IP agreement of the Solution Provider(s) and Innovation Challenger.
  • Any commercial deployment of transferred solution or newly developed solution, through licensing, joint venture, partnership or direct investment, will be subject to the commercial agreement between the Solution Provider(s) and Innovation Challenger.
  • Where necessary, a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) may be signed to uphold confidentiality in the engagement between the Solution Provider(s) and Innovation Challenger.
  • Innovate UK and KTN do not take any share of IP ownership or enter into commercial venture through the Innovation Exchange programme.

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