GatesheadA new European research centre in the North East (Britley, Gateshead) is set to focus on the lifestyle of thousands of species of bacteria, a European first in large-scale wastewater treatment research. It is anticipated the centre will improve how sewage is treated, by accelerating the transition from existing, energy-intensive treatment to low-carbon alternatives with fewer running costs.

The Facility

The new wastewater treatment plant is the largest facility of its kind in Europe and is jointly funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Newcastle University and Northumbrian Water.

Performing as a mini sewage treatment plant, the £1.7M Biological Engineering Wastewater Innovation at Scale (BE:WISE) research facility works with a quadrillion microbes, more than 10,000 times as many than can be used in the laboratory.

BE:WISE will give researchers the opportunity to better understand how complex biological interactions work at a range of scales - allowing them to test and replicate a range of elements of the treatment process, enabling new methods of wastewater treatment to be developed with higher confidence.

The Experiments

Sewage treatment plants embody trillions of types of bacteria which break down and treat wastewater. The uncertainty and costs connected with upscaling lab research needed has resulted in there being little change to the significant technologies used to monitor the process of wastewater treatment.

The initial experiment, aiming to identify the behaviour of thousands of species of bacteria, will start as soon as possible, using wastewater from the Birtley sewage treatment centre which manages a population equivalent of almost 30,000 people. The facility will be accessible to other researchers and academics across the globe and aims to lead to a number of new international collaborations involving Newcastle University.

The experiment is believed to be internationally significant and the facility demonstrates Northumbrian Water’s environmental leadership, showing how vital partnership working is in order to enable innovation of advancing technologies.

Newcastle University

The new plant will be one factor of the wider research project at Newcastle University’s Frontiers in Engineering Biology - a project that aims to gain an understanding of the rules in which determine the dynamics of complex biological communities in order to apply them in real-life to engineer new systems using synthetic or natural organisms.


Belmar Technologies design, build, install, commission and service complete industrial wastewater treatment systems for a wide range of sectors. For more information or to discuss our services further, please feel free to get in touch either by email to mail@belmartechnologies.co.uk or by calling +44 (0) 1327 586 008.

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