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Open call

Sellafield Hack & Pitch challenge: Remote condition monitoring

Open date: Thursday 4 October 2018   Close date: Thursday 25 October 2018

Digital Catapult’s Hack & Pitch competition offers a unique opportunity for startups and scaleups to develop solutions for and pitch ideas to larger manufacturing companies. As part of Smart Factory Expo 2018 on 14 and 15 November, in Liverpool, this year Digital Catapult have partnered with two challenge owners Sellafield and Unilever.

The competition focuses on two challenges presented by Sellafield and Unilever:

  • Sellafield: Remote condition monitoring of nuclear storage containers
  • Unilever: Innovative applications of new technologies to improve efficiencies of factory packing lines. Read more about Unilever challenge here.


Sellafield is a nuclear fuel reprocessing and nuclear decommissioning site located in Cumbria, England.

A large part of Sellafield’s mission over the next several decades is safe custodianship of nuclear products and wastes. Over the last 20 years Sellafield has produced in excess of 100,000 waste containers of varying sizes, construction materials and content and over 30,000 product containers.

Sellafield has designed stores to keep containers with nuclear waste in safe and secure environments. The assessment of each and every container on a regular basis would be excessively expensive, time-consuming, potentially hazardous and a very manual process.

The challenge

For this challenge Sellafield is looking to monitor containers of nuclear product until it is either used in the nuclear cycle or reclassified as waste, until transfer into a geological disposal facility in 2040. During this interim period, Sellafield need to monitor and ensure that the storage system behaviour is within predictions.

There is a clear opportunity for the application of IoT solutions in the provision of automatic monitoring and reporting on the condition of all aspects of the storage system elements: content, individual storage containers (some underwater, some dry) and the store in which they are located, including environmental factors affecting it.

Options of reporting on the condition of the storage system (content, storage container and store) may include sensing the following:

  • Temperature
  • Shape of container
  • Gas evolution
  • Background radiation levels
  • Shock damage to containers
  • Monitoring water quality (stores underground)
  • Any other parameters to monitor the containers.

The storing environment poses special challenges in terms of:

  • Longevity withstanding harsh environments (temperature, radiation)
  • Powering sensors over decades
  • Transmission of data through water, metal, concrete and often without line of sight.

Why you should get involved?

This is an exciting opportunity for innovators and research groups to:

  • Address specific solutions for industry players and apply products to real world challenges
  • Pitch solutions to industry leaders and players in the digital and manufacturing sector with the potential for UK pilots
  • Raise the company profile by gaining exposure at industry recognised Smart Factory Expo
  • Refine understanding of industrial requirements
  • Get an exclusive opportunity to get interviewed and featured online as well as in the Manufacturer magazine.

Who should apply?

Startups, scaleups and researchers who can apply their solutions to assess the condition of the store system or its elements.

These may include companies specialising in:

  • Remote asset monitoring
  • Remote condition monitoring
  • Low power sensing
  • IoT devices
  • Novel sensing solutions for condition monitoring, including temperature, gas, shape, sound and vibration, and other relevant factors
  • Non invasive and/or non line-of-sight communication
  • Non destructive testing (NDT)
  • Energy harvesting for low power sensors
  • Alternative connectivity solutions not impacted by radioactivity.

Innovators may have relevant industry background in the aerospace, mining and drilling, chemicals, infrastructure, and oil and gas industries.

Additional detail

  • Tuesday 23 October – Open Call closes
  • Thursday 1 November – Webinar briefing with challenge owners for shortlisted candidates
  • Tuesday 14 and Wednesday 15 November: Hack & Pitch as part of the Smart Factory Expo at Exhibition Centre Liverpool

See our videos from previous Hack & Pitch events: