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Sat June 25 2022

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Vinci takes stake in swarm tunnelling start-up

14 Jun HyperTunnel, a British tunnelling start-up, has received an unspecified amount of investment from French construction group Vinci.

HyperTunnel proposes using a combination of horizontal directional drilling, artificial intelligence and 3D printing.
HyperTunnel proposes using a combination of horizontal directional drilling, artificial intelligence and 3D printing.

HyperTunnel will use Vinci’s money to help pay for trialling its ‘swarm bot’ technology.

The investment strengthens HyperTunnel’s connections with Vinci Construction technical departments. HyperTunnel recently joined Vinci’s innovation platform Leonard as a member of its start-up accelerator programme, Catalyst. HyperTunnel also won a competition last year that Leonard co-organises with Ferrovial and Cemex Ventures.

Hypertunnel was started up in Basingstoke in 2018 by two men with no experience of engineering or construction but with an idea to build tunnels using a combination of horizontal directional drilling, artificial intelligence and 3D printing.

The proposed method involves injecting the lining of a tunnel into the ground and then removing the waste using a swarm of small autonomous robotic vehicles.

Swarms of hyperBots are sent into each bore to build the tunnel’s structural shell, deploying an additive manufacturing process, which uses the same principle as 3D printing
Swarms of hyperBots are sent into each bore to build the tunnel’s structural shell, deploying an additive manufacturing process, which uses the same principle as 3D printing

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“HyperTunnel’s technology can be truly game-changing when it comes to improving the safety and sustainability of underground construction projects,” said Guillaume Bazouin, head of start-up and intrapreneurs programs at Leonard. “It strongly aligns with our goals of rapidly responding to the climate emergency by enabling technological advances that have a substantial environmental impact. HyperTunnel also boasts exceptional leadership and engineering teams, and we are looking to support their great success in the near future.”

Steve Jordan, co-Founder of HyperTunnel, and François Pogu, managing director at Vinci Construction Grands Projects
Steve Jordan, co-Founder of HyperTunnel, and François Pogu, managing director at Vinci Construction Grands Projects

HyperTunnel co-founder Jeremy Hammond said: “Vinci and Leonard are real experts when it comes to construction innovation, so to get their backing in such a concrete and substantial way means we must be doing something right. They can see the huge potential of the technologies we’re developing, and they share our passion for improving how the world works. We’re excited to see what we can achieve together over the coming months.”

Last week the European Innovation Council awarded HyperTunnel a €1.88m grant under its accelerator scheme. The funding will be used to complete the development of HyperTunnel’s swarm robotics underground construction platform.

The HyperTunnel method uses a horizontal directional drilling rig to install a network of HDPE pipes to provide access to the whole tunnel length so that a swarm of multi-function robots can 3D print the tunnel.
The HyperTunnel method uses a horizontal directional drilling rig to install a network of HDPE pipes to provide access to the whole tunnel length so that a swarm of multi-function robots can 3D print the tunnel.

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