BEWISe Biological Engineering: Wastewater Innovation at Scale

About Us

About Us

Who we are

An international centre of research excellence and experimentation for wastewater management technology.

Newcastle University’s new Biological Engineering: Wastewater Innovation at Scale (BEWISe) facility is the first of its type in Europe in large-scale wastewater treatment research using bacteria. The facility is based at Northumbrian Water’s sewage treatment plant at Birtley, near Gateshead.

Download the BEWISe Brochure‌ to find out more about the equipment available at BEWISe.

It will play a key role in improving how sewage is treated. It will do this by speeding up the transition from existing energy-intensive treatment processes to low carbon alternatives with lower running costs.

It allows experimental investigation of water engineering innovations across a range of scales. It allows work that is scientifically rigorous and credible. We are setting a new global standard for wastewater research.

We are a world-leading research space. We are developing cutting-edge solutions for sustainable wastewater treatment. We are delivering:

  • the ability to reduce the costs and timescales of designing novel biological treatment processes
  • innovative technologies that harness biology to clean wastewater
  • demonstrations of sustainable approaches to wastewater treatment never tested before

We are reducing barriers to innovation by:

  • sharing the costs
  • offering control at scale
  • accounting for uncertainty by allowing variation to be studied

At BEWISe, Newcastle University and Northumbrian Water Group are working together to:

  • speed up innovation in sustainable wastewater treatment
  • experiment with low-energy biological treatment technologies
  • develop low-cost ways to generate energy from waste

Equipment available at the facility:

  1. Activated sludge
  2. Trickling filter
  3. Upflow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB)
  4. Microbial electrochemical fuel cell
  5. Adaptable Polishing Tanks (e.g wetlands)
  6. Research Van - the Van is available to hire via the School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences (

Download the BEWISe Brochure for more information.

Risk assessments and induction times will be confirmed at application process.

Apply here

What we do

We speed up the translation and uptake of new innovations by the water sector.

We undertake experimental investigation of water engineering innovations across a range of scales which is scientifically rigorous and industrially credible. We are setting a new global standard for wastewater research.

Pilot scale studies of wastewater treatment

Many successful lab-scale innovations never see practical application because they are rarely trialled at the pilot scale. Scale-up is costly and uncertain. It can be difficult to fund and risky to carry out.

Pilot-scale studies are often conducted without replication. They can fail without understanding the underlying causes. When they fail, they are unlikely to be repeated or published. We offer replicated pilot-scale wastewater treatment plants.

We use real wastewater at a scale that reflects the complexity of wastewater treatment.

Testing innovative ways of treating wastewater

Microbes are key to creating sustainable pathways for clean water and sanitation. There are 1018 individual bacteria and thousands of species in a treatment plant. BEWISe makes it possible to validate new simulations of how microbes interact within a treatment plant.

We explore different types of bacteria and identify how they behave in different sewage treatment processes.

We provide the resources to reduce the costs and timescales of designing novel biological treatment processes.

We investigate sustainable approaches to wastewater treatment that have rarely been tested before at this scale. We test and replicate different elements of the wastewater treatment process. This allows us to develop new ways of treating wastewater with greater confidence.

We are speeding up the transition from existing energy-intensive treatment processes to low-carbon alternatives with lower running costs.

We carry out research on low-temperature wastewater treatment for renewable energy generation.

BEWISe: About Us - working in a lab at the BEWISe facility

Meeting challenges

The global challenges for wastewater treatment are significant for industry, for the environment, and for society.

Meeting challenges in the water industry

We need to do more, at lower cost, and with minimal ecological impact.

Wastewater treatment plays a vital role in the circular economy by recycling water to the natural environment. However, it is energy intensive. It accounts for 1.5% of total UK electricity use. But there is nearly ten times as much chemical energy in wastewater than the energy we use to treat it. In the future, wastewater could become a source of low-carbon energy generation.

Besides energy reduction and nutrient recovery, society faces additional challenges to protect the aqueous environment. We must ensure the safety of water and prevent burdens on existing infrastructure.

In response to these and other challenges, we are developing a new suite of beneficial sustainable technologies. These technologies are:

About Us: Meeting Challenges - washing hands in splashing water from a tap

Meet the team

BEWISe logo
Northumbrian Water Group - Living Water: logo
EPSRC Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council: logo
United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation