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University of Hull’s Flood Innovation Centre helping SMEs plug flood resilience skills gap

Small and medium-sized businesses in the Humber may lack the knowledge and expertise required to tackle the growing flood risk facing the region.

The Flood Innovation Centre at the University of Hull has joined forces with local authorities and key stakeholders in the Humber region, with the aim of increasing flood resilience in the city and surrounding areas.

Together, the collaboration has identified a major challenge facing flood resilience – SMEs and larger businesses often lack the knowledge needed to deliver on the Natural Flood Management (NFM) schemes needed to tackle flooding.

In a bid to plug this skills gap, the University’s Flood Innovation Centre has launched a series of free, interactive workshops which cover a range of innovative flood response methods in both urban, rural and coastal environments.

Starting on May 12, the five-week-long programme will bring together businesses with experts in flood resilience.

Professor Dan Parsons, Director of the Energy and Environment Institute at the University of Hull said: “Nature-based solutions have a crucial role to play in making our places more climate resilient.

“Natural Flood Management techniques can support flood and coastal resilience and improve water supply and have become a hot topic with rural communities and agencies.

“This workshop programme provides an overview of the key services that businesses need to develop, if they are to capitalise on the growing demand for contractors to build and maintain these schemes and to help our communities become more flood resilient.”

At the workshops, businesses will be introduced to experts in the development, implementation and maintenance of NFM schemes and with commissioning organisations and potential partners for collaborative working.

The specialist courses are fully funded – meaning there is no cost to businesses – and will be delivered online.

Dr Jessica Fox, Senior Flood Risk Officer at Hull City Council has first-hand experience in commissioning of NFM schemes and found a major stumbling block in the tender process.

She said: “A challenge we face is finding contractors that have the expertise to design and deliver natural flood management techniques, whether that be in new developments or retrofitting onto existing sites.

“Essentially, we ask for an engineered flood scheme to be delivered so that it can function ‘naturally’. There is a shortage of knowledge of how to deliver NFM measures and build them into new designs.

“This leads to NFM solutions acting as a stand-alone measure when we actually want them to be incorporated into an overall site design. This is key for long term sustainability and flood resilience so there is a real opportunity here to develop knowledge and expertise in this area.”

The Humber region is the most flood-prone in the country, outside of London.

In recent years, the region has become a hotbed for flood innovation and advancements, with initiatives like the Living with Water partnership bringing together local authorities, the Environment Agency, Yorkshire Water and the University of Hull to increase community flood resilience.

The recent completion of flood defences along the River Humber will protect against tidal surges, but the region also faces ongoing threats from surface water and fluvial (river) flooding.

The UK Government has plans to invest £1bn per year in flood defences over the next five years and much of this will go on NFM schemes, which make use of natural environmental processes to store excess water, slow the flow of water downstream to towns and cities and improve water quality.

The workshop programme will be delivered by a combination of experts from the Flood Innovation Centre and the wider University, as well as experienced figures drawn from the workshop stakeholder panel, such as the Environment Agency, local authorities, DEFRA and Yorkshire Water.

Find out more and apply here.

There are limited places available, so businesses are encouraged to apply now.

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