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Welsh Water wins share of £40m to tackle environmental challenges

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An innovative solution that could save Welsh Water two tonnes of carbon per year through transforming the management of organics during the treatment of drinking water, is one of the winners of a £40 million competition from Ofwat, the economic water regulator.

Welsh Water provides safe and reliable drinking water to over 1.4 million homes and businesses, making it the sixth largest of the 23 water companies in England and Wales. The not-for-profit water company has water treatment works where raw water is treated to make it safe enough to drink, which supplies over 800 million litres of water every day through a network covering 27,000km. By the time water reaches rivers, reservoir or aquifers, water already contains a wide variety of substances including organics which determines its quality. It absorbs dirt, dust and gases from the air, debris and bacteria from the ground, and soluble minerals from rocks.

At a water treatment works, the main objective is to remove bacteria and other unwanted substances from raw water through a drinking water treatment process. Granular activated carbon (GAC) is used during this treatment process to remove organics from the raw water– an exhaustive process that means the GAC requires thermal regeneration every three years.

The current process is carbon intensive, creating around two tonnes of carbon per year costing around £1m per year to manage. The solution proposed by Welsh Water’s innovation team and partners including Swansea University and Panton McLeod, seeks to investigate ways to regenerate GAC in situ, reducing both financial costs and carbon footprint before proposing a recommended solution that can be adopted by Welsh Water and shared with the wider industry.

Paul Gaskin, Research and Innovation Manager of Water Services at Welsh Water said:  “We are excited to be leading this project to investigate transformative ways of regenerating granular activated carbon locally. This project is an example of Welsh Water’s commitment to finding innovative solutions to environmental challenges, whilst bringing the wider industry along with us. This project ties in with our 2050 vision to become a truly world class, resilient and sustainable water service for the benefit of future generations. Along with our partners working on this project, this funding will help us tackle a key challenge faced by the entire water industry.”

Helen Campbell, Senior Director, Ofwat said: “There are big challenges in the water industry that must be solved, some are well known, and others are less so. In our fourth Water Breakthrough Challenge we called for solutions with potential to deliver wide-scale, transformational change for customers, society and the environment – and that’s exactly what today’s winners have done. From raingardens to prevent flooding to green energy from treated sewage, innovations to cut the water sector’s carbon footprint to robots that patrol the pipe network, the winners are all helping shape a more sustainable and efficient water sector.” 

Welsh Water is also partnering with others in the industry on other innovative projects including rainwater harvesting, robotic solutions for rising water mains and no-dig leak repair.

The Water Breakthrough Challenge is part of a series of competitions from Ofwat, run by Challenge Works with Arup and Isle Utilities, designed to drive innovation and collaboration in the sector to benefit individuals, society and the environment.  

It supports initiatives that help to tackle the biggest challenges facing the water sector, such as achieving net zero, protecting natural ecosystems and reducing leakage, as well as delivering value to society.

For more information, visit: https://waterinnovation.challenges.org/breakthrough4/

Business

Cardiff Airport secures £206m investment for expansion

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CARDIFF AIRPORT is set to receive more than £206 million to enhance its passenger numbers and facilities, as announced by the economy minister, Ken Skates. This substantial investment aims to increase annual passenger traffic to two million and improve the airport’s maintenance, cargo, and sustainable aviation infrastructure over the next decade.

The airport has been under public ownership since 2013. However, Mr Skates emphasised that the management would have the autonomy to utilise the funds “with commercial freedom”. He highlighted the airport’s importance, stating it contributes £200 million annually to the Welsh economy and serves as a critical gateway for tourists, investors, and visitors attending various events in the region.

The investment forms part of a long-term strategy to attract aviation businesses and expand passenger routes, focusing on European hub airports, North America, the Middle East, and South Asia. In 2023, Cardiff Airport handled approximately 840,000 passengers, half the number seen in 2019, reflecting the slower recovery from pandemic-related travel restrictions compared to larger airports.

Mr Skates noted that the new funding would not only bolster passenger numbers but also drive job creation and economic growth in the wider region. “The airport, along with the neighbouring Bro Tathan business park, are at the nexus of the cluster of successful aviation and aerospace businesses in the region,” he said.

Despite the positive outlook from the government, the investment has faced criticism from opposition parties. Conservative Shadow Transport Minister Natasha Asghar condemned the move, calling it a “vanity project” and urging the Welsh government to sell the airport. She criticised the substantial public spending, stating, “The people of Wales have been well and truly fleeced with this vanity project, one of Labour’s most costly to date.”

Ms Asghar argued that the nearly £200 million already invested had yielded diminishing returns and that doubling this amount was an imprudent use of taxpayer money. “Cardiff Airport should be sold to finally give Welsh taxpayers some respite,” she added.

The government maintains an open stance on the airport’s future ownership, indicating a willingness to consider various options.

Cardiff Wales Airport Chief Executive Spencer Birns welcomed the investment, expressing optimism about the economic benefits and job creation it would bring. “This investment would enable us to continue providing economic benefits, creating more jobs across our country, being a gateway to the UK and Wales, and ensuring global connectivity,” he stated.

Mr Birns underscored the airport’s value as a national asset, noting that 98% of airports worldwide are community-owned. He reiterated the airport’s role in facilitating over 4,000 aviation-related jobs in the Vale of Glamorgan and its significant economic impact on Wales.

The government’s plan, however, requires approval by the Competition and Markets Authority, as it would be classified as a “subsidy of particular interest” under the UK subsidy regime, according to Mr Skates. This regulatory step is crucial to ensure compliance and transparency in the allocation of public funds.

Cardiff Airport has received substantial financial support since its acquisition by the Welsh government, including loans and grants amounting to £179.6 million. The new £206 million commitment marks the next phase of investment following the end of the government’s three-year Covid rescue package.

The long-term vision for Cardiff Airport includes not only boosting passenger numbers but also strengthening its role in the aviation sector, ensuring its position as a vital element of Wales’ economic infrastructure.

Qatar Airways: Awaiting Return

A significant factor in Cardiff Airport’s future success is the return of Qatar Airways. Despite being the airport’s largest player pre-pandemic, the airline has not yet resumed its Cardiff to Doha service. The return of this route is seen as vital for the airport’s recovery and growth.

Qatar Airways has announced the resumption of its Birmingham to Doha route this July, raising hopes for Cardiff. However, the exact timeline for restarting Cardiff operations remains unclear. While some reports suggest a possible return in 2024, the airport and the Welsh government are keenly awaiting confirmation from the airline.

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Pembrokeshire Creamery launches Blas y Tir Welsh milk brand

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AS the only BRCGS-accredited liquid milk facility in Wales, it is exclusively producing 100% authentic Welsh milk for retailers in Wales – milk from Welsh cows, fed on Welsh pasture then processed and bottled in Pembrokeshire.

The Blas y Tir (Welsh for ‘Taste of the Land’) brand is owned by sister-business Puffin Produce under which it supplies Welsh produce, such as Pembrokeshire Earlies PGI and Welsh Leeks PGI grown by local farmers and packed in Wales.

The new Blas y Tir Welsh milk will be available in 2 litre, 1 litre and 1 pint bottles with options for skimmed, semi-skimmed and whole milk for sale in supermarkets throughout Wales. Pembrokeshire Creamery is in discussion with a number of retailers and hopes to see Blas y Tir Welsh milk on supermarket shelves from September this year.

The bottle design reflects the strong connection to Wales and the Welsh landscape, featuring cows grazing on coastal pastures, the Red Dragon flag and ‘Llaeth Cymraeg’, Welsh Milk in Welsh.

Huw Thomas, CEO of Pembrokeshire Creamery and Puffin Produce said: “We are proud to be extending our Blas y Tir brand to another grocery staple, giving consumers in Wales the opportunity to support Welsh farmers and producers. We know from experience with the Blas y Tir brand, that shoppers in Wales are much more likely to put a product in their basket if it has a clear, authentic Welsh provenance.

“Since we opened Pembrokeshire Creamery, Welsh milk is now being produced here in Wales for Welsh supermarkets, instead of being sent over the border to be processed, offering customers a more sustainable option which is authentically 100% Welsh.

“The launch of Blas y Tir is the latest step in our mission to deliver sustainably sourced Welsh milk to supermarket shoppers in Wales, while also offering a fair and transparent price to farmers.”

Pembrokeshire Creamery launched the new Welsh milk to consumers and retailers at the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show, one of the largest events of its kind in Europe.

Commenting on the launch at the Show, Huw Irranca-Davies, Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs, said: “I am proud to see another great product from Wales being launched under a strong Welsh brand today. The new Pembrokeshire Creamery, supported by Welsh Government Rural Development investment, provides Welsh consumers with another great opportunity to support Welsh farmers and farming communities every time they visit the supermarket.

“This is further evidence of the innovation in production and sustainability which the Welsh Government supports throughout our Food and Drink industry, alongside the creation of strong Welsh brands which appeal to retailers and resonate with consumers in Wales and throughout the world.”

Pembrokeshire Creamery started production in May 2024, with the creation of around 80 new jobs. Currently it has the capacity to bottle more than a million litres of milk a week and, with additional investment already planned, it will be able to increase production to two million litres of milk a week in the future.

Around £20 million has been invested in the new state-of-the-art creamery. The development of Pembrokeshire Creamery was supported by the Welsh Government and Pembrokeshire County Council with the development of the Pembrokeshire Food Park site and with additional funding from Welsh Government grants and HSBC.

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Project HELIX reaches £491m milestone in support of food and drink industry

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A WELSH GOVERNMENT backed project that offers Welsh food and drink companies technical and commercial support has delivered over £491m impact to the sector since its launch in 2016.   

Project HELIX is delivered by the three food centres across Wales that make up Food Innovation Wales. The project offers a range of funded support in response to the needs of the sector, including help with process operations, new product development and food safety certification.

Since July 2023, Project HELIX has been funded solely by Welsh Government and has delivered the following benefits to the Welsh food and drink industry:

  • £119 million financial impact
  • 101 jobs created and a further 3208 safeguarded
  • 193 businesses supported with 60 businesses supported for the first time
  • 384 training days delivered for 276 participants
  • 52 new businesses assisted
  • 87 new markets accessed, and
  • 214 new food and drink products developed

One company to have benefited from Project HELIX support is Carmarthenshire-based Do Goodly Dips, a vegan and gluten-free dip manufacturer who was supported to develop a new meal pot range.

Richard Abbey, Founder, Do Goodly Foods, said:  “Food Innovation Wales provided invaluable support for us right the way through the development process and enabled us to make some great tasting products whilst also ensuring we meet our Do Goodly health credentials criteria. This new range has also opened doors to several new customers whom we wish to work with.’’

Meanwhile, Anglesey-based Charcuterie Môn, was supported to diversify their family farming business to produce a range of charcuterie.

Mark Parry, Owner, Charcuterie Môn, said:“Working with Food Innovation Wales under Project HELIX has given us the confidence to develop our business, knowing we comply with the relevant legislation and food safety standards. Without this support, we would not have had the confidence to begin producing charcuterie with consistent and safe results.”

Finally, Pontypool-based gluten-free bakery Juvela, was helped to develop a model that could streamline their recipe development process and reduce waste. 

Speaking about the benefits of Project HELIX support, Nathan Hodges, New Product Development Manager at Juvela, said: “Through sharing their knowledge and expertise, we now have a system that not only saves us time but also reduces wasted raw materials, something that is critical in food production and new product development.”

Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs, Huw Irranca-Davies, said: 

“Food plays a key role in supporting our economy and it is wonderful to see the impact Project HELIX is having on food and drink businesses in Wales.

“I am pleased to share that we will shortly be launching our Agri-Food Technology Challenge Fund to encourage agricultural and food businesses across Wales to develop technology-based solutions to challenges that affect their businesses.

“This fund will provide a total of £500,000 worth of support for projects, and I look forward to seeing how they benefit and innovate the sector.”  

Commenting on the impact of Project HELIX, Professor David Lloyd on behalf of Food Innovation Wales, said: “Project HELIX continues to offer invaluable support to the Welsh food and drink sector. Over the past year, there has been a particular focus on new product development targeted at growth markets and the evaluation of waste and processes to improve efficiency.

“With ongoing funding from the Welsh Government, Food Innovation Wales will continue to support the Welsh food and drink industry in addressing challenges and capitalising on opportunities.”

To find out more about the range of funded support available through Project HELIX, visit:
https://foodinnovation.wales/

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