EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Engineering for the Water Sector (STREAM IDC)

Lead Research Organisation: Cranfield University
Department Name: School of Water, Energy and Environment


The UK water sector is experiencing a period of profound change with both public and private sector actors seeking evidence-based responses to a host of emerging global, regional and national challenges which are driven by demographic, climatic, and land use changes as well as regulatory pressures for more efficient delivery of services. Although the UK Water Industry is keen to embrace the challenge and well placed to innovate, it lacks the financial resources to support longer term skills and knowledge generation. A new cadre of engineers is required for the water industry to not only make our society more sustainable and profitable but to develop a new suite of goods and services for a rapidly urbanising world.

EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training provide an ideal mechanism with which to remediate the emerging shortfall in advanced engineering skills within the sector. In particular, the training of next-generation engineering leaders for the sector requires a subtle balance between industrial and academic contributions; calling for a funding mechanism which privileges industrial need but provides for significant academic inputs to training and research. The STREAM initiative draws together five of the UK's leading water research and training groups to secure the future supply of advanced engineering professionals in this area of vital importance to the UK. Led by the Centre for Water Science at Cranfield University, the consortium also draws on expertise from the Universities of Sheffield and Bradford, Imperial College London, Newcastle University, and the University of Exeter.

STREAM offers Engineering Doctorate and PhD awards through a programme which incorporates; (i) acquisition of advanced technical skills through attendance at masters level training courses, (ii) tuition in the competencies and abilities expected of senior engineers, and (iii) doctoral level research projects. Our EngD students spend at least 75% of their time working in industry or on industry specified research problems. Example research topics to be addressed by the scheme's students include; delivering drinking water quality and protecting public health; reducing carbon footprint; reducing water demand; improving service resilience and reliability; protecting natural water bodies; reducing sewer flooding, developing and implementing strategies for Integrated Water Management, and delivering new approaches to characterising, communicating and mitigating risk and uncertainty. Fifteen studentships per year for five years will be offered with each position being sponsored by an industrial partner from the water sector.

A series of common attendance events will underpin programme and group identity. These include, (i) an initial three-month taught programme based at Cranfield University, (ii) an open invitation STREAM symposium and (iii) a Challenge Week to take place each summer including transferrable skills training and guest lectures from leading industrialists and scientists. Outreach activities will extend participation in the programme, pursue collaboration with associated initiatives, promote 'brand awareness' of the EngD qualification, and engage with a wide range of stakeholder groups (including the public) to promote engagement with and understanding of STREAM activities.

Strategic direction for the programme will be formulated through an Industry Advisory Board comprising representatives from professional bodies, employers, and regulators. This body will provide strategic guidance informed by sector needs, review the operational aspects of the taught and research components as a quality control, and conduct foresight studies of relevant research areas. A small International Steering Committee will ensure global relevance for the programme. The total cost of the STREAM programme is £9m, £2.8m of which is being invested by industry and £1.8m by the five collaborating universities. Just under £4.4m is being requested from EPSRC

Planned Impact

Widespread and substantive benefits from the STREAM programme have already accrued to a wide spectrum of stakeholders, many of whom are proactively engaged by the programme. Our outreach activities will be targeted to achieve three objectives: (i) maximise awareness and uptake of research sponsored through the Centre, (ii) promote public understanding of the water management challenges facing society and the science behind candidate solutions, and (iii) stimulate curiosity in water engineering careers. We will promote public consumption of science by providing updates on research work through the 'Streamline' initiative (see Pathways to Impact statement). Dissemination of research outputs and other achievements will be pursued through publication, presentation and promotion. A strong identity for the STREAM programme will be delivered through the project website (www.stream-idc.net).

Strong brand marketing for the STREAM EngD programme is guaranteed through our links with a broad range of sector stakeholders from the UK and beyond (see letters of support). A standardised set of informational material for the programme will be available for use by all partners. Particular attention will be given to raising awareness of the programme amongst SMEs and professionals / institutions outside the UK. We will extend our links with analogous water engineering research and training networks outside the UK to build on our recent success in establishing a funded link with the US 'Re-inventing the Nation's Urban Water Infrastructure' programme. We will also continue to play an active role in the Association of Engineering Doctorates and organise joint events with the like of British Water and the Institute of Water to ensure a national profile for the programme. Specific beneficiaries are listed below.

Water supply companies, consultancies, equipment manufacturers and sector SMEs will benefit from being able to leaverage funds to support research, inform the training curriculum, identify promising young engineers for future employment, and coordinate support for both research and training across the sector.

Universities and academic staff will realise significant efficiencies through higher gearing of student/staff ratios. They will also be presented with opportunities to develop new (interdisciplinary) research collaborations and strengthen their relationships with the water sector. A reliable supply of studentships will also provide an environment within which academics can pursue (either unilaterally or across universities) more involved programmes of research that a single studentship would be inappropriate for.

STREAM students are clearly the largest immediate benefactors of the programme. They will have access to a huge range of skills and knowledge across five globally leading academic centres and will develop their professional networks in tandem with their peers and future colleagues. They will benefit from a bespoke programme of activities focused on their career sector of choice and encounter a whole host of development opportunities.

The General Public (initially in the UK but in the longer term elsewhere) will draw advantage from the STREAM programme through the contributions made by STREAM graduates and their research to the effective and efficient operation of a reliable water and wastewater services. We are also providing opportunities for the public to directly engage with the scheme and hope that this will promote wider public understanding of water as a resource and the science and processes that underpin water treatment, distribution and management.

Research conducted under the auspices of the STREAM programme has already generated patentable outputs. Arrangements to exploit future opportunities will be the responsibility of the project host university and the project sponsoring company.


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