MANY of the UK’s major water companies are in talks with an innovative North-East start up following its launch of two niche products designed to quickly locate and fix leaks in underground water pipes.

Brothers Michael and Mark Quinn formed Qinov8 to develop and sell their unique AquaNav and AquaPea systems, which they say will revolutionise the way suppliers deal with burst and leaking pipes, in turn saving money, time and precious water.

Senior contracts manager Michael said potential growth was “phenomenal” and could quickly push revenue through the £1m mark. The firm has moved into large premises on Shildon’s Dabble Duck Industrial Estate as it looks to create at least ten jobs over the next two years.

The two patent-pending inventions have attracted attention from water companies across the UK, which can face heavy fines from regulator Ofwat for missing leak targets.

“The interest we’re getting and the reaction to the products is incredible,” said Michael. “We’re in talks with almost all the major UK water suppliers, including Thames Water, Yorkshire Water, Anglican Water and Scottish Water, as well as with companies in China, Turkey and South Africa. If talks turn to licensing agreements then projected growth will be phenomenal.”

Qinov8 has developed the AquaNav system to locate leaks inside large plastic water mains, at a depth of up to 16 feet underground. With a transmitter encased in a waterproof buoyancy carrier, the AquaNav travels along the pipe at walking pace until it locates and stops at the source of the leak, the whole time sending a signal to a hand-held receiver.

“The current system of locating leaks in plastic pipes is to dig, a lot. It is hard, time-consuming work. AquaNav can revolutionise how leaks are located and then fixed, saving money, time, carbon footprint and, of course water,” said Michael.

Qinov8’s AquaPea system is designed to repair leaks in smaller, domestic water pipes. The pea-sized, formulated material is placed into the pipe and allowed to freeflow, drawn to the source of the leak by the flow of escaping water. On finding the leak, the unique material hardens and repairs the crack from the inside.

Following a number of years of research and development, including putting the AquaPea through rigorous stress tests, the products are now WRAS approved and were launched at the 9thannual Global Leakage Summit in London last month.

With support from Business Durham, the economic development organisation for County Durham working on behalf of Durham County Council, Qinov8 moved to the Dabble Duck Industrial Estate to benefit from the unit’s modern offices alongside a large open space for continual product testing.

Brian Archer, Business Durham’s managing director, said: “Qinov8 has hit the ground running, making an immediate impact in the water industry at a time when the costly disruption of leaks and burst mains is hitting the headlines hard.

“Mark and Michael are prime examples of entrepreneurialism at its finest; they’ve turned their ideas into a reality and found a real niche in the market.”

Qinov8, which secured private investment, is also developing a safety device for high pressure gas cylinders. The GasStop is built into the valve of the cylinder to prevent explosions and is currently being tested by leading gas-equipment company GCE.