Who is Alan Wright

Chartered Engineer
I am a Chartered Civil Engineer, a hydraulics expert, and I have worked in municipal water for 30 years (25 years with Anglian Water). Throughout this time I designed and worked on clean and dirty water projects and was often given the more difficult schemes. I was often sent to make put right the mistakes of others.

Victorian Influence and Beyond
In my early years as a reservoir inspector I saw and was impressed by the superb work of Victorian Engineers who understood water and made things happen without complex electronics. They made things work by making the physics right and not forcing water to do what it does not want to do. Water is like a naughty child but it needs to be encouraged not punished.
After leaving Anglian Water I had a brief period in the ‘Asphalt Industry’ seeing asphalt pumps, this was followed by a time when I undertook plumbing as part of my role as a builder (I even built two houses).

Multiple Inventions
The invention of the ShowerPowerBooster was one of several inventions which spun off from work on solar thermal work at my home in Norwich where I invented a solar collection system. Perhaps one day my best invention, the harvesting of energy from the sun, will come to the fore, but in the meantime I am manufacturing an amazing little pump which is now being sold all over the world. The need for encouraging sales of the ShowerPowerBooster is currently taking priority over innovation.

Eureka Moment
With so much unlimited hot water from my solar thermal innovations I wanted to see if I could save water by getting hot water to a tap without wasting cold water. To achieve this I fitted a pump near a tap. This involved complex changes underneath a sink – my sisters sink. I worked all afternoon and ended up with a solution which meant re-plumbing and my hands were dirty, cut, and bruised. The solution was not practical and I that night I was thinking of other ways to do what I wanted. I woke up at 04.00 am with a picture in my mind which I sketched out. The solution – the pressure enhancing device – the shower power booster.

Getting A Patent
The concept of putting a non return valve in parallel with a pump is novel in the field of plumbing. The showerpowerbooster at first seems illogical – to increase flow and pressure the first thing you do is put in a valve which reduces the pressure, then you add a bypass in order to compensate for the pressure loss, then you add a pump, and bingo you have a device which for the right application can achieve the same effect as much bigger pumps. A pump which does the job of a pump ten or 20 times bigger.

There are many people who professionally advise people on how to get an idea patented and then commercialise it. It must work for some and for me I tried to follow the text book on this.

Verification – Wolverhampton University
The science as I understood it dictated it would work but I had to build it in order to demonstrate it worked. I was concentrating on developing my solar thermal technology and so I tried to get someone to take on the ‘ShowerPowerBooster’ before building a demonstration rig. I thought a University running a technology department would recognise the potential of the pump so I paid a fee for Wolverhampton University to evaluate my invention. The University thought that the effect I was seeing was only a transient effect and getting a pump to achieve the same effect as a pump 20 times bigger defied the laws of physics.

Verification – Cranfield University
After realising that I needed to put my invention into a demonstration rig before seeing the next University I took the precaution of actually building a test rig before I introduced it to Cranfield University. The Professor only invited me to come along because I said I had built it and I think he was expecting to have a laugh.

After demonstrating the invention we had a cup of coffee and then he realised how it worked. I paid for the ShowerPowerBooster to be tested and verified at Cranfield University in the Oil and Gas research laboratories under the direction of the senior research scientists there. It was very funny seeing my little pump the size of a mouse sitting besides pumps the size of an elephant.

The ‘normal route’ for getting a product commercialised is to raise money from investors but my problem was that people did not think that the pump would do what I said it would. An when I demonstrated it did really work the investors thought that the idea was too simple to patent. I needed to get something that I could actually sell but how to pay between $20,000 to $40,000 for the mould to make the brass fitting I needed?

I made a list of the three brass fitting manufacturers in the UK and the first factory I visited was Flowflex in Buxton Derbyshire. Working with someone who knows the market is vital and the fitting I needed required modifications to an existing mould in China at the princely cost of £870.40p. The first SPB had tubes 4mm in diameter instead of 10mm so they all had to be re-engineered at the Buxton Factory but I had something to sell.

Patent Granted and Commercialisation
I was granted a UK Patent in June 2012 but I had run out of money! We had a product, but was it as reliable as it should be, we needed to continue the trials to be sure. My wife continued to sell pumps in Norwich whilst I got a Job near Chester working on Welsh Water Schemes to earn money to pay for patent fees. Wales was such a beautiful principality and the joy of working in a profession I excel in returned (and what a joy to get a regular income again). After 6 weeks into my contract ………. I won top prize of €20,000 as the best water invention 2012 from Imperial College, London.

With my bank balance partially restored I returned to Norwich and immediately spent most of the money on starting work developing the fully automatic upgrade and selling the product.

For over 3 years our own shower pump in our house worked with a simple on off switch, we sometimes left it running all day with no ill effect, and we would not dream of going back to the dribbly showers we had before (or a noisy power shower).

We were selling a great little automatic switch which turned the pump on and off by sensing the temperature but so many people wanted a better automatic flow control.

In trying to add an on/off switch by sensing flow we found that because our pump is different to old fashioned shower pumps, we cannot buy a traditional automatic on/off switch off the shelf. A new automatic switch was finally ready for sale November 2013 but I had to go back to basics and manufacture it myself using some really cleaver electronics (I employ some cleaver electronics engineers – my forte is hydrualics not electronics). The switch is on a par with the most sensitive and reactive in the market and despite my wish for simplicity I have splashed out on a flashy green light.

After many months of field trials the reliability and effect of the pump has been proven. Sales double and redouble and we have sold up to 10 pumps a day and over 600 pumps in total. Customers all over the world see the pump doing its ‘magic’ time and time again. Its not magic its just cleaver physics.

I am proud to say – cleaver physics from a British Invention and ‘Made in Britain’

Since leaving Anglian Water I have had many experiences. 12 hours in Dragons Den studios and the hour and a half in the Den is on a par with my first visit to the dentist, sitting in various board rooms wasting my time trying to introduce the invention by the conventional route is of note. Most people would have folded and so would I if it had not been for my background in material science, physics, and my ability to solve problems.

Alan Wright
BSc (Hons) CEng MICE
12th March 2018