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Creating a Hydro Nation

University of Stirling campus with Wallace Monument in background.

9 Dec 2020

Scottish Water and the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) have announced a unique partnership with the University of Stirling to turn Scotland into one of the world’s leading hydro nations.

The publicly owned water and waste water company and SFC have appointed the University of Stirling to host and lead a £3.5m initiative to make Scotland a global leader in water research.

The initiative, which is funded by Scottish Water, will be a catalyst for academic research and innovation led by the newly-created post of The Scotland Hydro Nation Chair.

The Chair, hosted by the University of Stirling, will provide the leadership to forge collaborative partnerships across the sector to deliver solutions for sustainable water management in Scotland. The University has an extensive track record of delivering impact and innovative solutions in water research.

The University’s leadership and research expertise will play a pivotal role in the Hydro Nation partnership, supporting the ambitions for Scotland to transition to a net zero economy. It was chosen following a competitive bid process involving a number of Scottish universities.

Funding to support the Hydro Nation Chair in Water post and its associated activities will be spread over six years from April 2021.

Professor Maggie Cusack, Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences at the University of Stirling, said:

“We are proud to be host institution for Chair of this partnership that will use the expertise, technologies, services, and natural opportunities present in Scotland to attract new investment and position the country as a world-leading Hydro Nation. That ambition can only be achieved by bringing the research community together with industry, regulators, and citizens.

“By transforming our relationship with the environment and through responsible commercial leadership, the Hydro Nation partnership can improve health and wellbeing, support economic development, and tackle the climate and biodiversity emergencies. The role it has in promoting a green recovery can be a global exemplar of best practice for sustainable water management.”

The University will now lead the international recruitment process for the appointment of the partnership’s Chair, and other key roles.

George Ponton, Head of Research and Innovation at Scottish Water, said:

“Scottish Water’s strategic plan has set challenging objectives to go beyond net zero emissions, deliver service excellence and great value for our customers.

“The Scotland Hydro Nation Chair will provide thought leadership and research excellence from across the academic sector to enable the transformation required to meet these ambitions.

“This is a great opportunity to build on the great reputation that the Scottish research community has and for Scotland to become internationally recognised as a leader in water research and innovation.”

He added:

“Research and innovation will be a key enabler for the transformative change required to the way the water sector operates, to make a positive contribution to Scotland’s net zero ambition, to deliver service excellence and to live within the means of our planet’s resources.”

Dr Stuart Fancey, Director of Research and Innovation at the Scottish Funding Council, said:

“As the host university for the Scotland Hydro Nation Chair in Water, the University of Stirling will play a fundamental role in the future of Scottish research and innovation in this area.

“By being the lynchpin for future collaboration between universities, the University of Stirling will help to catalyse new discoveries in water technology and will consequently play a crucial role in helping to tackle the climate emergency. The Scottish Funding Council is really pleased to support Scottish Water as it creates this exciting new leadership opportunity.”

Environment and Climate Change Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said:

“I am pleased that Scottish Water have partnered with Stirling University. This is a hugely significant development that will consolidate Scotland’s place as a global leader in water research and make good on our Programme for Government commitment to support Scottish Water’s journey to net zero by 2040.

“The recently published annual Hydro Nation report shows how innovation and research excellence are central to our vision of Scotland as a Hydro Nation. I am proud that the water sector not only continues to flourish but is playing such a significant role in ensuring our future is green, just and sustainable.”

Scotland’s Hydro Nation Chair will complement the existing relevant research and innovation initiatives and infrastructure in Scotland and will play a leading role in maximising Scotland’s academic water impact, international reputation and engagement with wider sectors to deliver the knowledge and capability required to enable transformative change and to attain net zero carbon emissions by 2040.

New research and innovation stimulated by the creation of a Scotland Hydro Nation Chair will include the recycling of waste-water and ways of enhancing the natural environment. Importantly, it will also work towards ensuring that people across the whole of Scotland will continue to enjoy access to high quality drinking water.