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The CREWW Partnership

The Centre for Resilience in Environment, Water and Waste (CREWW) was formalised by a Joint Venture Agreement signed between the University of Exeter and South West Water on the 15th November 2021.

The beginnings

The first conceptions of the Centre starting as whispered conversation between Professor Richard Brazier (UOE) and Dr Stephen Bird (SWW), with a vision to formalise a joint centre of excellence that would host world-leading water research. This led to the submission of a grant bid to Research England, then titled the “Exeter Centre for Water, Waste & Environmental Resilience”. Awarded in round 6 of the UK Partnership Research Innovation Funding, the proposal now called CREWW received £10.5M to incorporate specialist laboratory facilities and space to facilitate collaboration between academic experts and water industry colleagues. Professor Richard Brazier has since become the co-Director of CREWW.

In recognition of the weight of the partnership, both sides of the partnership created a dedicated CREWW Programme Manager role to aid with the development of the centre – the signing of the JVA was overseen by then-Programme Managers Oliver Raud (SWW) and Nicky Cunningham (UOE). These roles are now filled by David Baldock (SWW) and Josephine Butcher (UOE), who lead a collaborative CREWW Management Group which sits across the two organisations.

The project pipeline

With the development of the JVA, the partnership through CREWW required governance and routes of approval for projects. This led to the creation of the CREWW Executive Board (registered as a limited company) and Research Steering Group in order to dictate the strategic direction, financial investment, and resource management around the centre. They also sign off on all the projects that come through the pipeline to ensure they have high research impact and an environmental challenge or business need at SWW. Within SWW, the CREWW programme has also influenced the launch of a new Innovation and Commercialisation committee who reviews investment into projects such as CREWW.

CREWW as a capital investment

Construction of our research centre began in January 2022, contracted to AECOM and Morgan Sindall. Read more about the construction here. The CREWW Executive Board signed off over £1.5M investment project around kitting-out the labs with the necessary tech and equipment called the Enabling Infrastructure: Phase One project. We anticipate future phases to be completed to ensure our labs are future-proofed and can support a wide range of research activity in priority areas.

Within the first month of the building’s competition, CREWW received sign off for its first new projects: the development of a bespoke Microplastics Lab with Prof Tamara Galloway and Dr

Ceri Lewis (£1.4M) and a pilot project on Ground Water Infiltration Risk Mapping supervised by Prof Akbar Javadi and Dr James Webber (£96k). You can learn more about these projects on our Project page.

Stronger ties...

The university has since identified South West Water as one of its key Strategic Partners, with CREWW later receiving recognition as one of 6 Exeter Research Centres in 2023. CREWW has also featured in the Business Plan for 2025-30 AMP period for South West Water and has been heralded as part of its innovation branch of activity. 

In Spring 2024, the CREWW research centre will launch officially to the public with a ceremonial ribbon cutting event followed by a series of roadshows and launch events.

This partnership will help find solutions to some of the most pressing issues our region faces and mitigate risks from challenges such as climate change.

Through collaborative research and innovation we will together play a leading role in protecting and enhancing our natural environment.

Susan Davy, Chief Executive Officer for Pennon Group, which owns South West Water.