A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Aquaspira's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Aquaspira is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Highlighting best practice
Managing Director NeilWallace
Replacement of Scottish Water
sewage network, Clarence
Gardens, Glasgow
AquaSpira provide innovative drainage solutions,
employing the latest composite materials and
manufacturing technology. Having developed the
patented composite steel reinforced “CSR” pipe for the UK
market, they are able to offer a product that is more efficient
and environmentally friendly than their competitors. Since
manufacturing began in 2010, AquaSpira have become an
established supplier for the water, housing, highway and
industrial sectors. Managing Director Neil Wallace explains
the advantages of their CSR pipe and the challenges they face
within the sector.
AquaSpira is a privately-owned manufacturing and marketing business that
utilises composite technologies to produce large-diameter lightweight pipes for
stormwater attenuation, sewerage networks and water management.
In establishing AquaSpira, we recognised that the UK sewage network was going
to require refurbishment. We should be eternally grateful to Sir Joseph Bazalgette
for his contribution to our health and wealth, however after 150 years the brick-
built sewers are nearing the end of their lives.
We were initially incorporated in 2007, financially committed in 2008 and started
manufacturing in 2010. The timing could not have been worse: we had launched
into one of the most significant UK construction industry recessions since the
Second World War. We have managed to survive and grow because of our high-
quality product and a well-motivated team.
»Managing Director: NeilWallace
»Founded in 2007
»Based in Nelson, Lancashire
»Services: Production of
drainage solutions
»No. of employees: 50
Support from the Enterprise
Investment Scheme
We were directly affected by the
banking crisis, and the company
survived through extensive use of the
Enterprise Investment Scheme to raise
funds – a scheme which, for start
up companies, stood in the shoes of
conventional banking. Without this
scheme, we would not exist, and we
are indebted to the entrepreneurs who
could see through the financial miasma
of the period.
We are licensees of an Australian
manufacturing patent for a composite
steel and high-density polyethylene
“HDPE” pipe. Until our arrival, market
supply was dominated by concrete or
HDPE. Both traditional products are
manufactured to a British Standard, and
the strengths and weaknesses of these
historic products are well understood.
Pipes and structures are highly
technical products, and the consulting
engineers who use them rely on
BSI standards. Standards are only
valid if they are objective. To protect
objectivity, BSI requires that products
are represented by trade associations,
not companies. By definition a novel
patent means that you are a sole
manufacturer and finding a trade
association to represent the company
in the standards process is difficult.
This has had profound implications
for us. Our Water Research Council
accreditation was based on the
relevant aspects of BSEN 13476. In
2018, this standard was rewritten to
exclude composite pipes. We were
not consulted on the changes and
technically, we now supply a product
that is not manufactured to a standard.
A new standard, or the alternatives,
will be beyond the resources of most
start-up companies, and if it is not so
already, the requirement for, and the
complexity of, standards could become
an obstacle to innovation in the UK.
There are other unpredictable and
negative ramifications of operating
under a patent. By way of example,
Highways England maintain the Manual
of Contract Documents for Highway
Works, the design manual for roads
and bridges in England. Highways
England adopt a similar approach
to standards, and for lack of a trade
association, we do not appear in the
manual. Highways England are aware
of the problem and have given us a
solution, but as ever, these deviations
to the norm take time to solve. Stormwater attenuation
tank on a Barratt Homes
development, Garstang
We have
managed to
survive and
grow because
of our high-
product and a
Highlighting best practice
Building links with Cardiff
A technical edge to a start-up
company is critical. The government-
sponsored Knowledge Transfer
Partnership scheme “KTP” should be
central to any company wanting to
undertake primary research. We have
linked up with Cardiff University’s
engineering school to advance product
development. This relationship is not
one-way and the university benefits
from our interaction, gaining a greater
understanding of the requirements
The KTP scheme provides us with
much-needed technical assurance in
a conservative market. Unlike most
industries, in which the customer is the
decision-maker, the pipe industry has
many decision-makers. The purchase
order is the final step of a long and
technical process involving both
statutory and commercial decisions.
At times, especially in the early days,
this process can be exasperating.
While legal processes and regulations
are critical in an advanced society,
there must be balance. Where
there is an overbearing culture of
regulation, it can suffocate sensible
The challenges to innovation
from process and regulation in
government and statutory bodies
are evident, however change also
presents challenges to commercial
organisations. AquaSpira CSR pipes
possess a fundamental construction
advantage over historically used
products. The composite pipes
require significantly less excavation
and backfill, indicatively reducing
construction vehicle movements by
40 per cent. The implications on
carbon emissions and construction
time are significant, but change
Combating aversion to risk
Significant advantages do not lead
to overnight sales. Our potential
customers need to change their
processes to secure the benefits, and
the biggest challenge to change is the
risk that it brings. If we have a system
that generates aversion to risk, then
our customers will never change.
Risk is an essential and necessary
ingredient in a decision-making
process, but balance is required. We
do not expect to convert everyone
overnight to our product, and it is our
responsibility to convey the message
first. It is important, however, that the
UK’s schools and universities, which
produce our future decision-makers,
continue to nurture risk-takers to
preserve future innovation.
Looking forward, we have concerns
over valuations in the UK housing
market and the potential impact
this could have on the UK economy.
Additionally, whatever the outcome
of the post-European referendum
process, it is critical that decision
takers take a long view to avoid radical
change to market conditions. In or
out, this can be achieved or minimised.
We are confident about the future,
and, as we become more established,
we hope to move beyond our core
commercial activity and take up our
wider responsibilities within the local
While legal
processes and
regulations are
critical in an
society, there
must be balance.
Where there is
an overbearing
culture of
regulation, it
sensible decision-
Major civil projects –
Birmingham Airport
runway extension

This article was sponsored by Aquaspira. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.

In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.

We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.

And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.

As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy