Once again, Digital Catapult’s Hack & Pitch competition was a major feature of Digital Manufacturing Week, and the winner was a micro SME that pitched an idea that would use IoT technology to effectively monitor waste containers at the Sellafield nuclear site.
Hack & Pitch is a real-world competition offering real-world opportunities for small companies to resolve issues that very large companies genuinely cannot fix for themselves.
Run by Digital Catapult, Hack & Pitch is proving to be a game changer for all sides. The competition, which was part of Smart Factory Expo at Digital Manufacturing Week, offered digital start-ups and scale-ups a unique chance to pitch innovative ideas to Sellafield and Unilever.
Participants pitched solutions to industry leaders and players in the digital and manufacturing sector with the potential for UK pilots. The Hack & Pitch competition also allowed the companies to raise their profile among the dominant players in the sector.
The challenges were set in the form of a question. Sellafield asked: ‘What can be done to ensure regular, effective and safe remote condition monitoring of nuclear waste containers?’
Unilever’s posed the challenge: ‘How can innovative applications of new technologies improve efficiencies of factory packing lines?’
Each competitor was granted 15 minutes to sell their idea with two-thirds of that time set aside for product pitching and the final five minutes for Q&A.
Judges then deliberated before picking four category winners ahead of an afternoon ‘Champion Pitch Off’ to decide who would be crowned champion.
This article first appeared in the February issue of The Manufacturer magazine. To subscribe, please click here.
Digital Manufacturing Week 2019 – of which Smart Factory Expo is a key part
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Energy harvesting winner
Judges selected Electrozest as the outright winner, having been impressed by their idea that would improve the time it takes to assess the contents of nuclear waste containers.
Commenting on the success, Martin Timms, the company’s R&D director, said: “It was quite amazing to be voted Hack Pitch champion. It was not something that I had anticipated on first entering the Digital Catapult competition.”
Electrozest’s idea would involve using a handful of different energy-harvesting methods to monitor nuclear storage containers. Sensors would detect the levels of hydrogen, humidity, temperature and pressure of the containers to ensure they’re safe.
Alongside Electrozest, the other category winner was Bristol company, Inductosense. The winners of the Unilever challenge were decisionLab and Cortexica.
decisionLab’s idea involved using an AI reinforcement learning model to, as they described it, “Minimise machine downtime in packaging lines and increase overall throughput…by minimising minor jams and predicting machine failures.”
Cortexica Vision Systems’ solution was an AI-based machine vision that was predominantly about detecting any anomalies or abnormal behaviour within a manufacturing line.
Interestingly, Unilever also showed interest in Electrozest’s idea of energy harvesting sensors, and both they and Sellafield have started discussions with the company.
For Martin Timms, this rounds up a fantastic year for him and his company. “Electrozest and I are looking forward to taking the concepts pitched through to development so that Sellafield are able to better monitor our legacy nuclear waste and so that Unilever can monitor areas of their factory that do not always have access to mains power.”
Reporting by Harry Wise