Bruce Hutt founder and owner of Enduratec – a best gas innovation and innovation of the year award finalist at the 2022 Energy Innovation Awards – discusses his firm’s innovation in the utilities sector.

What was your first job in the utility sector?

I first supplied Duraseal – a pipe repair solution which seals by compression rather than adhesion – as an above-ground gas pipe repair solution in 2016 to what was then National Grid Gas Distribution and is now Cadent.

What work experience of qualifications did you have before moving into the industry?

As a small business owner, I have been innovating using high-grade silicone self-amalgamating tape since 2007. A new concept to most sectors, I had the opportunity to collaborate on physical solutions in many sectors. This experience shaped the understanding that underpins Duraseal.

What has been your career highlight thus far?

Relief has been my career highlight. The last 12 months of field trials have validated more than five years of development in close collaboration with Cadent and Wales & West Utilities.

I had risked everything hoping that a concept could emerge as a game-changer. Too often, a new idea fails in the field. Lab testing indicated that this idea could work, but would it work in a tight pit with live gas at medium pressure in the rain? Job after job, in all conditions, sizes, joint and damage types, live escapes and applied by teams without previous experience. It worked every time.

What is the most significant way today’s utility sector differs from the one you first joined?

When I started supplying, the focus of gas distribution networks was on metallic mains replacement. Hydrogen deployment is now the current focus.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced during your time in utilities?

Cash flow. We have been working on a solution that requires policy change before implementation. Funding a lengthy research and development process has been challenging as a small business.

What is your golden rule for overcoming challenges at work generally?

No matter how difficult the challenge is, don’t give up. Look for the good.

How would you describe your creative process in three words?

Clarity follows understanding.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

The simplest form is most often the best.

What do you think Utility Week Innovate reader would be surprised to learn about you?

I have a degree in Theology.

What do you think is key to creating the conditions for innovation within the utility sector?

Collaborate to spot the gap. Enable innovators to engage with people doing the job.

Is there a standout innovation or collaboration project you’ve worked on during your time in utilities – what made it special?

The development of Duraseal as a permanent encapsulation system for leaking gas mains has been the most significant innovation I’ve worked on in the utility sector. Working closely with Cadent and Wales & West Utilities has been rewarding and a pleasure.

What is the change you’d most like to see within the utility industry?

I’d like to see a significant reduction in the waiting time associated with an emergency repair.

How do you feel utility companies can collaborate more – or more effectively?

The Network Innovation Allowance funding system used in the gas distribution sector has facilitated collaboration between companies, as all share the results. Innovation is seen as an opportunity to create a profit centre in other sectors.

Ownership of the IP gives either a profitability edge or a product/service to supply. IP ownership is a disincentive to collaboration.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the utilities sector at present?

Ambitious change targets surrounding decarbonisation.

Which issues or opportunities within the industry don’t you feel get enough airtime?

Small everyday changes repeated by thousands of workers would result in significant improvements. Every company should fund and reward 1% changes.

What is the most significant way you think the utilities sector of ten years’ time will differ from the one we see today?

Healthy networks need to be funded by either investment or efficiency gains. As the hope of tomorrow, some sectors are well funded. For legacy networks, efficiency gains are crucial as only efficient, lean, businesses survive and thrive.

Follow EIC on Twitter and LinkedIn for coverage of the Energy Innovation Showcase and Awards