Businesses are set to battle it out in a Dragons' Den-style competition for a multimillion pound contract at Sellafield.

A total of 15 ideas have been put forward to find new ways to clean up highly radioactive rooms or ‘cells’ at the west Cumbrian site.

The winner will be awarded a contract worth £3m.

This contest is being run by the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency (NDA), and the Government’s innovation agency, Innovate UK.

An initial £750,000 was awarded to the 15 consortia to help them develop their ideas. The exact details of the projects are being kept under wraps until the winners are announced and they begin to build their prototypes.

Many of the firms involved are based in Cumbria. These include Barrnon, which is based in Appleby, Createc of Cockermouth, and James Fisher Nuclear and Rovtech, both of which are headquartered in Barrow.

Others - including Amec Foster Wheeler and Westinghouse Electric - have offices in the county.

They have three months to develop their ideas for a chance to move on to the next stage.

Melanie Brownridge, the NDA's head of technology, said: "This competition is an amazing opportunity for creative, forward-thinking and innovative companies to collaborate and come up with cutting-edge solutions for cleaning up some of the UK’s most complex nuclear sites.

"The NDA is continually seeking the best ways to encourage new ideas from the supply chain and ensure everyone has an opportunity to get involved. The response we have had to this competition has been fantastic. We’ve been really impressed by the standard of proposals and the healthy numbers of applicants."

"I’m also extremely encouraged by the high level of interest from organisations outside the nuclear sector, offering highly innovative solutions from industries such as the oil and gas sector, defence industries and even space exploration," she added.

The cells contain pipes, vessels and steelwork, all of which are highly radioactive. The competitionis designed to find and fund technology that will clean up these cells as safely, quickly and efficiently as possible while minimising risks to the workforce.

Winners will need to find ways of safely accessing the cells, surveying them, cleaning them and putting the radioactive waste into packages for safe storage.

Technologies including artificial intelligence and virtual reality are being employed by the entrants.

Derek Allen, innovation lead at Innovate UK, said: "We are delighted to be working again with the NDA as they continue to support innovation to deliver their programme.

"We are looking forward to seeing the integration and demonstration of some of these technologies that will ultimately lead to safer, faster, cheaper nuclear decommissioning. This has the potential to open up significant business opportunities for UK organisations both nationally and globally."

Lead contractor

Project title

A.N. Technology Ltd

A Flexible Measurement and Waste Led, Robotics-Based Decommissioning Project

Amec Foster Wheeler

Integrated Innovation for Nuclear Decommissioning

Barrnon Ltd

Barrnon Integrated Decommissioning System

Cavendish Nuclear Ltd

Sellafield In-Cell Decommissioning System (SIDS)

Costain Oil, Gas and Process Ltd

Stabilisation, Excavation and Segregation


Elephants to Ants: Innovation in Integration

Davy Markham Limited

Integrated & Transferable Decommissioning Toolkit

Eadon Consulting Limited

Versatile Decommissioning System (VDS)

James Fisher Nuclear Limited

Hot Hatch Cell Recovery

MDA Space & Robotics Ltd


Nuvia Limited


Oliver Crispin Robotics Ltd


Rovtech Solutions Ltd

Integrated Keyhole Remote Decommissioning System

University of the West of England

Integrated robotic system for characterisation and decommissioning

Westinghouse Electric Company UK Limited

Integrated Innovation for Nuclear Decommissioning