Case study by Cranfield University

Cranfield’s strategic partnership with Severn Trent has been in place for over seven years, and covers multiple challenges.

Cranfield is a specialist university, focused on technology and management, with over 40 years’ experience in the water sector. Its Water Science Institute works with government and industry – from helping to ensure safe, clean supplies for domestic consumption, to assessing agricultural needs for food production and improving process engineering for manufacturing and industry.

Severn Trent is responsible for water management and supply, and waste water treatment and disposal, in the catchment areas of two of Britain’s largest rivers – the Severn and the Trent. It supplies water to over eight million people in a water supply area of 19,000 square kilometres.

Severn Trent’s vision is to be the most trusted water company by 2020 and to deliver a lasting legacy for its customers and its stakeholders. In practice, this means driving continuous innovation and being an environmental leader.

Keiron Maher, one of Severn Trent’s Innovation Managers, explains: “We have a number of key challenges – delivering safe drinking water, treating wastewater to excellent environmental standards, and reducing our carbon footprint – which is both more environmentally friendly and economic for our customers.

“Cranfield’s technical know-how and depth of understanding is impressive. It’s not just about science, however; it’s their translation of science that is so beneficial for us.” Keiron Maher, Severn Trent Innovation Manager

At Packington sewage treatment works in Leicestershire, the two partners are working together to address the issue of phosphorous removal from wastewater. Such a move is necessary to meet stricter legislation and is important for wider society as phosphorus is a non-renewable resource, required by all living organisms for cell growth.

Five technologies were trialled at Packington, including two world firsts, to help Severn Trent identify the most suitable systems which, ultimately, could lead to a more sustainable way of treating wastewater. The benefits are environmental protection and potentially lower prices for customers, if the wastewater can be treated in a more sustainable way.

Cranfield is also supporting Severn Trent in developing its rural strategy. The ambition is to transform small wastewater treatment plants so they become a net provider of societal value. One of the technologies is being tested at Hulland Ward in Derbyshire, where full treatment of the wastewater is done by vertical flow constructed wetlands. The potential for this environmentally-friendly approach for sewage treatment is enormous – wastewater treatment plants could represent an active society asset and become educational and recreational areas for local communities.

Professor Paul Jeffrey, Director of Water at Cranfield, said: “Our activities are underpinned by our world-class facilities but the real benefit comes in the application of our research and thinking to benefit society. We are proud of the work that our academics and PhD students are doing to support Severn Trent and its important role in protecting and sustaining water as a natural resource and the environment as a whole.”

Published: 25 September 2018


This article first appeared in the 2018 State of the Relationship report, commissioned by Research England and compiled and published by NCUB.