BU graduate’s company wins grant to develop new flood barriers

Posted on Monday, January 21 2013

A company set up by a Bournemouth University graduate has received a government grant to develop an innovative new FloodBrick to protect homes from rising water.

Fluvial Innovations Ltd. has received around £65,000 from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), after winning a competition for businesses developing technology to tackle flooding and climate change.

The grant will be used to develop and manufacture a new FloodBrick product – a temporary and portable flood barrier which could replace sandbags in protecting homes and infrastructure from rising water.

BU graduate Simon Phelps, who is founder and managing director of Fluvial Innovations Ltd, said: “The whole thing about sandbags is that they don’t work – they make sandy water leak into properties and are really heavy, so need a lot of people to move them.

He added: “If it wasn’t for the grant, it would have been at least two years in the pipeline to develop the FloodBrick. We can now start working on bringing it to market.”

Simon studied Computer Aided Product Design at BU from 2001 to 2005, and set up Fluvial Innovations Ltd. after developing a Floodstop product for his final year product.

The Floodstop is a unique lightweight and portable barrier that is formed through a series of interlocking units.

The units fill up with the rising floodwater, making them heavy enough to stay weighed down, and empty when the water recedes – meaning they are light enough to be carried away.

BU helped Simon to develop and commercialise the product and owns 10 per cent of the company, which started life in the BU Innovation Centre and is now based in Nuffield Industrial Estate in Poole.

Simon said the company has gone from “strength to strength”, and now has clients as far afield as the US – as well as councils and the Environment Agency.

“The FloodBrick is a development of the Floodstop product,” said Simon, 29, of Bournemouth.

“They are massively more effective than sandbags, and we have combined everything we have learnt with the Floodstop, and improved on it.

“The FloodBrick takes it to the next level. It is stackable, so you can build up levels, and will be about 50 per cent less expensive, so we can help more people.”

Fluvial Innovations Ltd is one of three companies benefiting from £200,000 of Defra funding, after competing in a Dragon’s Den style competition.

Fluvial has received a grant of £44,280, plus the cost of kitemarking the product – a total of around £65,000.

Simon now hopes that the FloodBrick product will be available by November this year.

“When I heard about the competition, I thought it was a great opportunity – I didn’t think we would win, because they only selected three winners, so it’s amazing to get the grant,” he said.

“It’s really good for small businesses that this type of funding is available.”

Congratulating the winners, Environment Minister Lord de Mauley said: “Last year we saw weeks of heavy rain and flooding across the country and we witnessed the devastation extreme weather can cause, especially to the rural economy.

“These businesses have created exciting ways to combat climate change and the effects of flooding in our communities.”

You can find out more about Fluvial Innovations Ltd here