On Tuesday 17 September 2019, MM Creative Solutions (MMCS) director, Monica Mwanje attended the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) SciTec 2019 conference. The conference was held in Birmingham and it attracted over 130 attendees from nuclear and non-nuclear organisations. The theme for SciTec2019 was ‘Innovation Through Action’.
In her role as event host, NNL Senior Commercial Officer Kate Fleetwood welcomed delegates to SciTec.
Setting the tone for the event, NNL’s Chief Scientist Professor Andrew Sherry cited the example of NASA starting to collaborate with disruptive market entrants, posing the question to the nuclear sector attendees: “If the space sector can do it, why can’t we?”
Next, NIA Chairman Dr Tim Stone provided a thought-provoking keynote speech. He stressed that innovation is critical for the survival of the nuclear sector. He stated that nuclear power can help to deliver the UK’s Net Zero carbon emissions goal. But nuclear power needs to innovate and act differently to be accepted in the Net Zero energy system. He encouraged the audience to act, stating that: “Business as usual cannot continue.”
Embracing the day’s theme of ‘Innovation Through Action’, delegates then attended 4 workshop sessions:
The Innovative Technologies workshop, featured presentations from:
- nPlan – who have built a project learning algorithm, so machines can read project Gantt charts . The nPlan system is fed project schedule data and predicts likely outcomes.
- NNL – a discussion on the use of atom probe tomography and how its deployment to understand material structure and performance is aiding Plant Lifetime Extension (PLEX) work.
- National Centre for Nuclear Robotics – shared how they have used drones to map radioactivity levels at Sellafield and Chernobyl.
- NNL – on the use of robotics in nuclear.
The Collaboration and Supply Chain session challenged delegates to think about the barriers and opportunities for new tools/technologies to enter the nuclear sector. Attendees also heard from:
- Sensing Feeling who shared how they are using data gathered from their deployment of sensors in a range of environments to advance and inform root cause analysis.
- The Lloyd’s Register Foundation Safety Accelerator; which is a challenge-led programme that to date has engaged with over 500 start-ups.
- Senseye – an operational risk management platform, that uses an eyescan to detect if workers are fit for duty.
- The Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) programme.
The Culture and Leadership session focused on: Mindset, Skillset and Toolset. If leaders have these techniques, they can create and drive a culture that fosters innovation.
The Innovation and Regulation session discussed a number of items including:
- The use of sandboxes to allow trials and testing.
- How early engagement of the regulator can aid and ease the path for innovative approaches in the nuclear sector.
MMCS director, Monica, was a panellist during the closing session of the event. Monica sat alongside: Dr Tim Stone, Reuben Holmes, Sophie Zienkiewicz and Jacob Home. The panel session was hosted by NNL’s Director of Strategy, Science & Innovation, James Murphy. A key message from the panel was to take the learning and energy from the day and to put it into action.
Overall SciTec 2019 was an informative and enjoyable day.