Professor Lisa Roberts, President and Vice-Chancellor and of the University of Exeter (right) andSusan Davy, Chief Executive Officer for Pennon Group, cutting the ribbon to officially open the CREWW facility

A pioneering new £30 million research facility, designed to explore sustainable solutions to challenges facing the water sector, has been officially opened. The Centre for Resilience in Environment, Water and Waste (CREWW) is a joint facility between the University of Exeter, South West Water and Research England, and based at the University’s Streatham Campus.

The ground-breaking interdisciplinary research that CREWW is undertaking aims to guide the management of our natural resources in sustainable, innovative and resilient ways.

It also aims to future-proof water systems to cope with floods, droughts, and pollutants including microplastics, and make a difference to peoples’ lives and the environment regionally, nationally and globally.

The world leading facility was officially opened on Wednesday 20 March, at a special ceremony, by Professor Lisa Roberts, President and Vice-Chancellor at the University of Exeter, and Susan Davy, Chief Executive Officer for Pennon Group plc, the parent company of South West Water.

The event took place in the lead up to World Water Day 2024 in honour of the global aim to support the promotion of water cooperation for a peaceful and sustainable future.

Professor Lisa Roberts, said: “I am delighted to officially open CREWW with our partners at South West Water and Research England.

“CREWW is bringing together the best minds from across multiple disciplines at the University of Exeter with industry experts at South West Water, to develop a shared understanding of water supply issues, so that we can co-create engineering, nature, economic and behaviour-based solutions that will make a lasting positive impact to communities and ecosystems around the world.

“The state-of-the-art equipment and specialist labs, including a sophisticated microbiology lab, will allow the CREWW team to make huge strides in analysing microplastics in South West Water’s operations, to understand the impact of these pollutants on ecosystems and discover solutions to create sustainable water networks for future generations.”

Co-created and funded in partnership between the University of Exeter and South West Water, with a further £10.5m UKRPIF grant from Research England, CREWW is the first purpose built, Net-Zero-in-Operation research centre in the water sector, building on many years of collaboration between the two organisations.

CREWW also builds on the University’s 10-year strategy aims of creating a greener, healthier, fairer world. Through collaborative research and innovation the University is leading meaningful actions against the climate emergency and ecological crisis, protecting and enhancing our natural environment.

South West Water has invested £21m into CREWW over seven years, and beyond.

Susan Davy, Chief Executive Officer South West Water, said: “Today we have made history by opening this fantastic facility bringing together the best minds across the water sector and academia, and based here in the South West. Seeing the progress already made, I am very clear that if there is a collaboration that can fix even one of the global water challenges we face, it’s this one. I believe, to make a real difference in the world, investments cannot just be about places, and facilities such as this, it’s about the people who make it happen – this is where I know CREWW will lead the way.”

The CREWW facility includes specialist laboratory facilities and designated space to encourage collaborative research and training between academics and experts from the water industry, Government and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

The celebration of the official opening welcomed high profile guests including regulators, government officials, local business owners, alongside academics and water experts.

The facility is a living laboratory, a place in which energy and water efficiency is continually monitored, analysed and optimised via a digital twin to continue to be “Net Zero in Operation”. The building itself will provide valuable insights and offer up discoveries that can help support partners around the world to achieve their own Net Zero targets.

As the only water sector facing partnership to receive support from UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF), as well as being the largest supported RPIF-sponsored project in the South West, CREWW’s official opening signals the start of a pioneering programme of research projects that will make a real, significant difference, with the team becoming thought leaders in our collective plan for water and its environmental challenges For more information about CREWW research, please visit or follow the CREWW team on social media.