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This investment forms part of South West Water’s continued support of the region’s economy

Pioneering new collaborative research centre a step closer with 25-year agreement

South West Water and the University of Exeter have marked major progress towards a new collaborative research centre with the signing of a 25-year partnership agreement confirming more than £20 million of funding from South West Water.

Designed to solve some of the most pressing global environmental challenges of our time, the Centre for Resilience in Environment, Water and Waste (CREWW) will be based on the University’s Streatham Campus and will conduct world-leading research into the provision of safe and resilient water services in the UK and overseas.

Susan Davy, Chief Executive Officer of Pennon Group, which owns South West Water, said: “The world is facing a genuine climate emergency and urgent action is needed now to protect our planet. We have ambitious plans to transform the way we do business not just to reduce but reverse our emissions while protecting the places people love across our region. Climate change will also have potentially serious impacts on the water cycle, presenting a number of risks for us and the communities we serve, in terms of floods, droughts and rising sea levels.

“We are determined to stand shoulder to shoulder with other organisations who share our ambitions and through creating partnerships we have already supported wildlife habitats, restored wetlands, and improved over 91,000 hectares of land. CREWW marks the next chapter of our long-standing partnership with the University of Exeter. The collaborative research and innovation that will be developed and deployed through this new centre will help us play a leading role in protecting and enhancing our natural environment for generations to come. We will continue to benefit from the University’s academic expertise and use of state-of-the-art field monitoring equipment to aid research and help us pilot, test and deploy innovations to help mitigate the risks of climate change.”

Central to CREWW’s focus will be how to manage natural resources in ways which are sustainable and resilient in the face of climate change and population growth. The impacts of floods, droughts and changes to water distribution are already being felt by both people and wildlife. CREWW research uses environmental intelligence to develop nature, circular economy and behaviour-based solutions that deliver multiple benefits to the environment, communities, and the economy.

Professor Lisa Roberts, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Exeter, said: “The University of Exeter is a globally-recognised leader in research and innovation in the quest to tackle the climate and environment emergency. Our Green Futures Campaign highlights the pivotal role the University is taking in driving action on climate change in partnership with governments, businesses and communities.

“CREWW is built on many years of collaboration and represents a step change in our part-nership with South West Water. The new Centre will lead the way in providing solutions to a wide range of challenges facing the water industry, to deliver environmental improvements while safeguarding water supply. I am delighted that our flourishing relationship with South West Water will, through this unique facility, provide innovative new solutions and exciting and crucial environmental research.”

As well as supporting South West Water’s ambitions to become Net Zero by 2030, the centre’s work will build on the company’s long-standing relationship with the University. This includes work on South West Water’s award-winning Upstream Thinking project which has restored and protected over 91,000 hectares of land across the South West in partnership with over 1,700 farms.

The two organisations have also worked collaboratively to design and deliver innovative projects as part of a new multimillion pound national scheme, funded through the Ofwat Innovation Fund, which will apply and develop this learning across the South West and eventually, at a national scale. These will deliver, among other things, sector-leading research in data, AI and machine learning and nature-based solutions to water and wastewater management.

Work to begin building the new centre, which is being established through a £10.5 million grant from Research England and more than £20 million of funding from South West Water, is due to start in January 2022.

This investment forms part of South West Water’s continued support of the region’s economy. The organisation has plans to recruit 500 apprentices by 2025 and has already met 30% of this target. South West Water was also one of the first companies to sign up to participate in the Government’s Kickstart scheme, offering 16-24 year olds deemed at risk of long-term unemployment, six-month paid work placements. Of the first group recruited, around 55% now have permanent jobs. Earlier this year, the company also welcomed a new intake of 27 graduates as part of a wider programme to recruit 100 over the next 5 years.

Date: 17 December 2021

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