Topolytics wins £500,000 contract to build the UK’s first digital waste tracking system

8th November 2019

Award-winning data analytics business Topolytics has won a £500,000 contract to build the UK’s first digital waste tracking system.  The system will monitor and analyse all waste transactions across the UK every year.  The system will enable DEFRA and the environmental regulators in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to generate an up to date view of patterns of waste movements, enable better oversight, drive improvements in the waste system and support efforts to counter waste crime. 

The contract is administered by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) under the UK GovTech Catalyst programme.   It builds on a Phase 1 feasibility study undertaken by Topolytics in early 2019 in which the company collaborated with the Ordnance Survey to define how the waste tracking system could work.

Commenting on the project, Dr. Michael Groves, Topolytics Founder and CEO said:

“This is a truly ground-breaking project and one that we are proud to be working on.  It will transform waste regulation and the industry in the UK and has significant international potential.  It further validates our use of machine learning, mapping, sensor systems and cutting-edge software to enable the waste industry to maximise the utility of materials and enable the circular economy. “

In this Phase 2 project, Topolytics will work again with the Ordnance Survey and new partners Google Cloud and SAP, to build a working version of a data driven tracking system, based around the company’s WasteMap analytics platform.  The system will track all inert and hazardous waste from households, local authorities, businesses and the construction sector.  It will ingest, normalise and analyse data from many sources, including invoicing records, weighbridge and bin weighing systems, vehicle telematics, ‘internet of bins’ sensors and smart labelling systems. 

A key collaborator will be PragmatIC, a world leader in ultra-low cost flexible electronics, who also participated in Phase 1.  PragmatIC will be deploying Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) labels, based on its unique flexible integrated circuits, to track the movement of waste via item-level digital identities.  PragmatIC will be deploying its labels to track the movement of used tyres, a significant waste stream and focus of waste crime.

In May 2019, Topolytics’ approach was further validated by winning the Google Cloud and SAP Circular Economy 2030 contest.  Chosen from more than 250 applicants worldwide, Topolytics impressed both companies and a stellar judging panel with the scale if its ambition to take big data into the global waste industry.  Topolytics has since been working with both companies and will be combining their AI and machine learning technologies in WasteMap.

WasteMap is used by a growing number of corporate waste producers and recyclers in Europe, USA and Asia to support better commercial and environmental outcomes for waste materials and assets.

The waste tracking project forms part of the landmark Environment Bill, which embodies the Government’s ambition to move towards a circular waste economy. The suite of measures also include: extended producer responsibility; new charges for other single-use plastic items; and clear product labelling to help consumers make purchasing decisions that support the market for more sustainable products.

About PragmatIC

PragmatIC is a world leader in ultra low cost flexible electronics, enabling the potential for trillions of smart objects that can engage with consumers and their environments. Our unique technology platform delivers flexible integrated circuits (FlexICs) that are thinner than a human hair and can be easily embedded into everyday objects.

PragmatIC’s solutions provide the opportunity to add new functionality, as well as extending proven applications such as RFID and NFC into mass market use cases previously prohibited by the cost of traditional silicon ICs. Our novel, differentiated products are being adopted by a growing base of global companies across diverse markets, including consumer goods, games, retail, pharmaceutical and security sectors.

PragmatIC is headquartered in Cambridge, UK, with a new billion-unit production facility in NETPark, Sedgefield. Shareholders include Cambridge Innovation Capital, Arm Holdings and Avery Dennison.

About GovTech Catalyst

GovTech Catalyst is a £20 million fund to help tech firms deliver innovative fixes to public sector challenges.  It encourages small, emerging technology businesses to create and develop innovative solutions to public services, that once proven can move to scale both to the advantage of markets and society. GovTech Catalyst is run by Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government. 

The need for digital waste tracking was made clear in last year’s Independent Review into Serious and Organised Waste Crime.  The report found that the lack of digital record-keeping in the waste industry is frequently exploited by organised criminals, as it provides opportunities to hide evidence of the systematic mis-handling of waste.

During Phase 1 of the competition, five companies were selected to prove the feasibility of using emerging technology to record and track individual movements of waste through the economy.  Following a review of Phase 1 prototypes, two companies, Topolytics and Anthesis, have been successfully shortlisted, to continue to develop their digital solutions for tracking waste. Both companies now have a year to produce beta products ready for commercial procurement and incremental implementation.

Picture of Alastair Hanlon, Chief Commercial Officer, PragmatIC (left) and Michael Groves, CEO, Topolytics (right)

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