Swindon water research centre sold to leading environmental and engineering company

Photo shows: The Water Research Council's Fine to Flush project
Water Research Council

The Swindon-based Water Research Centre Ltd (WRc) and its subsidiary, management information business Cognica have been bought by RSK Group Ltd, a leading integrated environmental, engineering and technical services business which has its headquarters in Cheshire.

WRc, which employs more than 170 people, has more than 90 years of delivering leading, technical research and innovation services to the global water, waste management and energy sectors. Cognica is a leading provider of intelligent information management solutions and services to the construction and estate management markets. The businesses are RSK’s seventh and eighth acquisitions of 2020.

WRc’s services include leakage detection; water management, physical testing and advice on all things water-related. It is also the home of The National Centre for Environmental Toxicology, an expert team of scientists and toxicologists offering a toxicology-on-demand subscription service for its clients.

WRc is currently designing the technical engineering work architecture for the water company that will service the NEOM futuristic desert city project in Saudi Arabia. It has also recently developed a water quality sampling and monitoring programme for Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority in the UAE; and is providing water sector specialist expertise for the Department for International Trade in the UK. In addition, working with Water UK, WRc has developed and is delivering the worlds’ first standard for flushable products, Fine to Flush, to protect UK sewers and water bodies.

(There are many wipes on the market labelled ‘Flushable’ which do not break down quickly when they enter the sewer system, and which would not pass the stringent tests which meet the standard to receive the ‘Fine to Flush’ symbol. The labelling of these products can cause confusion amongst consumers, increasing the problem of sewer blockages. WRc is the designated testing facility for all products wishing to gain ‘Fine to Flush’ certification, having developed the specifications for flushability standards in conjunction with Water UK. If they pass the tests, the wipes manufacturers will receive the ‘Fine to Flush’ symbol from WRc.)

WRc is also working with partners to deliver the Hydro Nation water innovation service, which is helping to drive the uptake of innovative technologies in Scotland.

“This is a unique acquisition for RSK that brings together an exceptional brand that is renowned for independent thinking and delivery to create an ability to address global issues including climate change, green growth and water and sanitation services through applied engineering excellence,” says RSK Chief Executive Officer and Founder Alan Ryder. “WRc’s tagline, ‘Innovation through collaboration’, highlights two of our shared values, so we are delighted to welcome both WRc and its subsidiary Cognica to RSK.”

WRc and Cognica will continue to be led by WRc Chief Executive Officer Mark Smith and will become part of RSK’s agriculture, land and property management division.

“Both WRc and RSK offer world-class engineering and technical services to solve clients’ problems. Both companies employ top-class and passionate people who care about the environment,” Mark said. “RSK’s environmental, scientific and engineering capabilities and global presence combined with WRc’s leading, independent thinking will enable both companies to deliver ever improving and more sustainable solutions to our clients while promoting the circular economy in everything we do.”

Agriculture, Land and Property Management Divisional Director Ian Strudwick added: “I am absolutely delighted to welcome WRc into the RSK group and look forward to working with Mark and his dedicated team. WRc is an iconic brand with an incredible heritage in the water industry and a track record of projects and experience envied across the sector. It is a highly regarded business. WRc carries many synergies with RSK that we look forward to exploring and making the most of. Our plan is to help WRc to grow in the UK and to extend its global footprint, particularly in areas such as Africa and the Middle East where RSK already has a strong foothold in other sectors. I am sure there is going to be a very exciting year ahead.”

WRc and Cognica are the latest acquisitions under RSK’s funding package from Ares Capital Europe and a revolving credit facility provided by NatWest announced in December 2018. The businesses are RSK’s fourth and fifth acquisitions of the 2020/2021 financial year, following the acquisition of asbestos removal specialist PA Group and civil and structural engineering company RoC Consulting in July.

RSK is investing in the development of new businesses and bolt-on complementary businesses, as well as equipment and facilities, to provide end-to-end solutions to a wide, international client base.