A company producing tools to monitor and manage gas pressure within gas distribution networks (GDNs) is the latest to receive funding from the Enterprise M3 (EM3) Growth Fund.
Utonomy has been working with two of the UKs four GDN operating companies to develop a fit for purpose “Smart Grid” solution as there is currently no effective system available on the market. The company has created its Active Grid Management solution, comprising relevant hardware (actuators and sensors), installed throughout the gas network, with a cloud-based software platform using self-learning algorithms to continually optimise the network remotely.
CEO Adam Kingdon, who established the company in 2015 after being approached with an opportunity to apply his experience in water pressure management to the gas distribution industry, outlines the problem: “The demand for gas is influenced by time of day/week/year, weather conditions etc.; at its highest, demand can be up to 100 x greater than at its lowest. This means GDNs are managing an ever present conflict between a) ensuring gas pressure does not go below the minimum requirement at any given time and b) too much pressure resulting in system leaks, which is not only costly, but also has environmental implications – an area monitored by Ofgem. GDNs have found existing systems for managing pressure to be inadequate, resorting to labour intensive manual adjustments. A costly process, these adjustments take place only a handful of times throughout the year resulting in gas pressures being set to the incorrect level 99% of the time.”
Utonomy’s offering is unique on several levels: its actuator is able to operate in dangerous substance environments; its intelligent software will interpret the statistical relationship between weather temperatures, calendar fluctuations etc. and changes in pressure to generate accurate predictions for high and low pressure points; its hardware can monitor the ongoing condition of the network resulting in faster detection of mains breaks along with easier maintenance planning.
The £150,000 EM3 Growth Fund investment is part of a larger funding round that will see the company establish its international sales and marketing base in Basingstoke. The funding will help the business to further commercialise its offering and gain traction throughout Europe and in North America.
Ralph Singleton, Fund Manager at The FSE Group, which manages the EM3 Growth Fund on behalf of the Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), comments: “Utonomy is responding to a clear market demand for a solution to real problems facing the gas distribution industry globally. The company’s strong technological background and extensive industry knowledge and contacts has allowed it to work directly with end clients to develop an innovative product that will fully meet their needs, offer a good ROI and help them deliver against environmental targets. We are pleased to be supporting them on this exciting journey to achieve their full potential.”
Geoff French, CBE, Chair of Enterprise M3 LEP adds: “Enterprise M3 LEP area is home to a vibrant Sci-Tech corridor and this is due to a conscious collaborative effort creating the conditions for innovation to thrive. We are pleased that Utonomy now has the financial resource to expand, increase productivity, create more jobs and be part of our ecosystem of technological excellence.”
The Enterprise M3 Growth Fund is part of the Enterprise M3 Funding Escalator, a £5.5million initiative funded by Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership. The escalator, which also includes an expansion loan scheme, provides eligible companies with loans and equity funding between £50,000 and £200,000 for activities that will deliver high-growth and employment opportunities.