Wood, a global provider of project, engineering and technical services to energy and industrial markets, has received funding for pioneering research into making nuclear decommissioning safer, faster and more cost-effective.

It aims to achieve this through applying new technologies developed in space exploration - including those used in missions to Mars - car production and medicine.

The funding, which totals around £1.5 million, comes from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and Innovate UK.

The Aberdeen-based company has received the money after winning a competition to searching for the best new ideas.

Wood and its supply chain will take new data and control systems and combine them with state-of-the-art robotics in order to design a demonstrator system for cleaning and dismantling highly radioactive rooms or ‘cells’ at Sellafield in Cumbria, UK.

The project will innovate around technologies such as novel material handling solutions to reduce the risks of working at height, mixed reality headsets, a multi-fingered gripper allowing robots to grasp different objects and a navigation system designed for missions to Mars that enables autonomous mapping where human access is impossible.

“Our innovative proposal for a fully remote solution removes the operator from a hazardous environment and is adaptable enough to tackle different tasks, many of which present unique challenges,” said the CEO of Wood’s Specialist Technical Solutions business Bob MacDonald.

“Wood’s role is as an innovation integrator, bringing together ingenious ideas from industry and academia to define a new approach to the nuclear decommissioning challenge.”

Melanie Brownridge, the NDA’s head of technology, reported that the feedback from suppliers and academic institutions had been so positive that the said the total amount available to the five chosen projects has been increased from £3m to £8.5m.

“We were all incredibly excited by the quality and diversity of the submissions, which came from established nuclear organisations as well as industries working with us for the first time – such as space and defence sectors,” she said.

Wood’s research partners are Airbus Defence and Space, Clicks and Links Damavan Imaging SAS, Digital Concepts Engineering, IS-Instruments, I3D Robotics, The University of Lancaster, The University of Salford, Kawasaki UK and TWI.