Norwegian Nuclear Decommissioning (NND), has awarded 123 MNOK over a 12-year contract to international consortium, ICCircle, for the design, development, and maintenance of a bespoke integrated software system to support nuclear decommissioning and waste management.
NND, an agency under the Norwegian Ministry of Trade and Industry, is responsible for decommissioning the research reactors and other related nuclear infrastructure in Norway. NND is also responsible for the safe handling, storage and disposal of nuclear waste.
This contract marks a significant advancement for NND, moving from the planning to the implementation phase of their data-driven nuclear decommissioning process for the Halden and Kjeller sites.
The multi-year project will result in an information and data management system designed to provide the insight and oversight NND needs to ensure safety and efficiency during their nuclear decommissioning and waste management process of key sites, which will run over at least 20 years. Pål Mikkelsen, director of NND commented; “NND has undertaken the strategic planning process for decommissioning and during this phase it was clear that data and information governance would be vital to successfully achieving our project goals. We need a system designed to solve the unique challenges at our sites and fit our exact decommissioning and waste management processes. The ICCircle consortium presented not only a well-designed system with a proven track record that gives a holistic support for our processes, but also the collective technical skills and industry expertise to adapt and inform our solution as we go through the implementation phase.
ICCircle is an international alliance of three specialist firms: Ingecid, Createc and Catenda, established as a legal entity in Norway. Ingecid, based in Spain, is a specialized engineering company which focusses on Nuclear Engineering, Software Development, Design and BIM, Project and Process Management and Structural Engineering. UK-based Createc is an innovative technical consultancy and Research and Development business with expertise in applied Computer Vision, Robotics, Nuclear Measurement and Optics. Catenda is an innovative Norwegian company building a modern lifecycle based common data environment to make the AECO industry data driven for sustainability . With such a unique combination of skills and experience, ICCircle is willing to commence the collaboration process leading to the provision of the most suitable solution for NND’s needs.
Javier Alonso, spokesperson for ICCircle said; “The consortium companies are so delighted to have been awarded this contract, which is the start of a long-standing partnership with NND. We immediately identified with NND’s ambitions to put data and information management at the heart of their new nuclear decommissioning and waste management process. Together, ICCircle’s three organisations have extensive experience in the nuclear industry, BIM, and the development of software systems. We feel it’s an honour to be part of such a cutting-edge project where our innovative solutions can be applied to improve both safety and efficiency. We’re particularly excited that this project includes not only the creation of a product that can significantly improve the efficiency of the process, but also the on-going support, maintenance and consultancy required to ensure that the solution remains optimised and effective throughout our long-term relationship with NND.”
NND will begin its implementation phase at Halden and Kjeller sites from March 2022, with ICCircle contract commencing in February 2022.
Matt Mellor, Managing Director
Matt Mellor started his career as an academic working in research and development at Oxford University where his specialist field was in computer vision and robotics with medical application. But in writing papers, which he says were mainly “read by other academics so they could cite it in their research”, Matt could see there was a vital component missing.
“To turn that research into a product I learned that you have got to make that happen yourself to ensure others recognise the value of it,” said Matt. “That started me on an odyssey to learn about the full process of technological development. That means not just learning about technology, but also about business, people, finance – all the parts you need to make something happen which is going to make a positive change in the world.”
With that in mind, Matt moved to Cumbria and joined REACT Engineering. “REACT put the emphasis on entrepreneurship and I joined the company to apply what I had learned in nuclear medicine to nuclear engineering.” In particular, Matt was able to apply his knowledge in medical imaging to provide smart, technological solutions to the nuclear clean-up industry.
In 2007, Matt was the technical lead in setting up REACT’s own spin-out – aerial surveying company, Hi-Def, which gave him valuable experience of the process involved in setting up a spin-out business. Hi-Def went on to be a sustainable, successful business in its own right and in 2016 became part of the BioConsult SH group. Meanwhile, Matt set up Createc in June 2010, and as CEO has led the company to achieve impressive growth ever since.
Createc started out with just three members of staff – Matt, Alan Shippen and Pete Rodgers. The company’s mission was to create a profitable business out of computer vision and robotics research and development, demonstrating the value such a service adds to industry. Building on technological expertise in the nuclear sector learned from REACT Engineering, Createc developed its N-Visage® technology which went on to be used in the clean-up following the Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan.
Closer to home, Createc used its intellectual property in computer vision to build a business opportunity and set up spin-out company, Sportlight. Earlier this year, it launched a second spin-out from its robotics expertise creating Createc Robotics.
Looking ahead, as society and industry move out of a Covid-19 lockdown, Matt sees robotics playing an ever more important role – but warns those who think it will be an overnight change, to be more patient. “Society has always overestimated what technological development will take place over a two to five-year period. But it has always underestimated what development will take place over 20 years,” said Matt.
“Technological development is an accumulation of small goals which build on top of each other. It creeps forward so that over a 20-year period people then look back and are amazed at how much the world has changed. In 20 years’ time we are going to have a lot more robots, and we will have improved collaboration between human and machine. In some areas that might involve helping to remove people from having to carry out tasks in hazardous environments. In other areas it might be giving people more senses and more capabilities.”
Createc applies its thinking and technologies to any problem to find a solution, and takes a flexible approach when doing so. This means that it can adapt for a range of industries and a range of situations. “We look at the way we can do something, not where we can do it,” said Matt. It’s an approach which has seen its solutions applied in a range of industries and settings, including nuclear and defence, rail and security. Among future growth areas for Createc are heavy engineering, major industrial and general construction.
Createc has received two Queen’s Awards in recent years, one for International Trade and one for Innovation, recognising the company’s success in developing technology. The company is also proud to have won awards for innovation from The Institution for Engineering and Technology (IET), The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).
Createc’s strategy as it moves beyond its 10-year anniversary is to concentrate on research and development to launch a series of further spin-out companies. Two things Matt is keen to influence in the wider economy to help support the company’s ambitions are funding and leadership. “We need to make sure that the UK is more start-up friendly. And we need more entrepreneurs who want to come and run these businesses,” said Matt. “To me an entrepreneur takes complete ownership and picks their way forward and proceeds confidently in the face of doubt.”
“We have had a sustained growth rate of 40 per cent, and we are focused on continuing to grow at this rate. In the first ten years we have grown from a company with three people turning over £180,000 to 30 people turning over £3.5m. To sustain that level of growth by the end of the next ten years we would have 300 people turning over more than £60m.”
Matt has a clear vision of how the company will keep driving forward, and his motivation and appetite to lead the company to further success is clear. “My motivation comes from bringing something completely new to life which results in the world being a better place,” he said. “Seeing all the pieces come together and creating this thing which creates an economic benefit and also has a positive impact on the world is really satisfying.”