A new £3.9million research project involving Newcastle University and Northumbrian Water will ensure the UK maintains a clean, sustainable water supply for the future. The project will help the UK water sector tackle key challenges, including population growth, ageing infrastructure and climate change and is part of a £21 million ‘Engineering Grand Challenges’ that benefits from funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), announced recently by the Universities and Science Minister, Jo Johnson who said: “We want the UK to be the best place in Europe to innovate and this £21 million investment will bring together the nation’s researchers to address some of the most pressing engineering challenges we face.

“From ground-breaking work with robotics to advanced air-flow simulators, this investment will help tackle our aging water infrastructure and air pollution in cities to improve the lives of millions of people around the world.”

Named TWENTY 65 (Tailored Water to ENsure sustainabiliTY beyond 2065), the project will ensure flexible and adaptive water systems by developing multiple solutions and technologies that can be ‘tailored’ to suit specific circumstances. The academic partners – led by Sheffield University and involving Newcastle , Exeter, Manchester and Reading Universities as well as  Imperial College London - will undertake research across eight technical themes, focusing on demand-based technologies, social practices, water energy systems to minimise carbon emissions and the use of robotic autonomous systems for infrastructure inspection and repair.

The project will also create a Hub involving Northumbrian Water and nine other water companies, their supply chain and academic researchers to encourage shared idea generation, strategic roadmapping, networking, innovation stimulation and research leadership.

This combination of multi-disciplinary academic research and collaborative work with the UK water sector will enable the TWENTY 65 project team to lead UK and international transformation in the sustainable supply of safe water.

Purewater

Professor Richard Dawson, Professor of Earth Systems Engineering at Newcastle University and EPSRC Research Fellow, said: “We are delighted to be part of this consortium that will work to ensure there is enough water, for all, for ever. Newcastle are leading work that will develop new computer modelling tools to study the long term pressures on water, to enable development of integrated solutions to tackle future water challenges.  This builds on Newcastle’s recent multi-million pound award in the 2015 Budget to develop new surface water flood management research facilities as part of their involvement in the UKCRIC programme.”

Chris Jones, Northumbrian Water's Research and Development Manager said: "We believe it is important to work with universities to develop innovative solutions to challenges the water industry faces now and in the future.

"We are already collaborating with Newcastle University in many areas including research into low-carbon and energy efficient treatment processes and processes that work better in low temperatures; the recovery of valuable by-products from wastewater; gene sequencing to help improve bathing water quality and reducing flooding from sewers.

"Future focus will help us to improve the quality and appearance of our customers' drinking water and to reduce leakage.  

"Being part of this project will afford us even greater access to innovative ideas and stimulate our own innovation agenda and activities.

"The TWENTY 65 Hub will stimulate collaboration with a wide range of companies and academics, and enable quicker conversion of research ideas to implementation, clearly supporting our vision to be the national leader of sustainable water and wastewater services."

Professor Joby Boxall, Director of Sheffield Water Centre and overall project lead, said: “Water supply is the foundation of society, but a service we are privileged to be able to take for granted in the UK. There is no single solution to the sustainable supply of safe clean water for the future. Our vision is that by 2065, collaborative innovation has generated a water sector that is delivering sustainable tailored water solutions that positively impact on public health, the environment, the economy and society.

“New approaches and models for collaborative working across the water sector are an essential part of the project. We have support pledged from over 50 partners and will be looking to get more organisations on board.”

“This is a truly unique and exciting opportunity to take a long-term view of how we can develop and implement technology to deliver transformative change.”

The project was developed in response to an EPSRC call in early 2015 which set out four Engineering Grand Challenges, developed through a two day event involving academics from many disciplines, representatives from industry and government.

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