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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/H023488/1
Title: Deploying Synthetic Biology in the Water Industry
Principal Investigator: Biggs, Professor CA
Other Investigators:
Tait, Professor S Boxall, Professor J Wright, Professor P
Molyneux-Hodgson, Professor S
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Chemical & Biological Engineering
Organisation: University of Sheffield
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 January 2010 Ends: 30 April 2011 Value (£): 200,696
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Synthetic biology Water Engineering
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Water
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
11 Sep 2009 Cross-Disciplinary Feasibility Account Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Urban water systems are key foundations of any modern society, impacting on the quality of life of millions of people. The key challenge is to continue to maintain the provision of safe water supplies, hygienic sanitation and good environmental management in a sustainable manner in spite of increased urbanisation, aging infrastructure and changing climate conditions. To achieve performance targets, current management strategies often focus on chemical or physical based techniques - which are expensive and energy intensive. In this cross disciplinary feasibility account, we aim to study the feasibility of engineering novel biological solutions ( Synthetic Biology ) to generate more sustainable solutions to these challenges without the need for large infrastructure investment or energy use. Synthetic biology is an emerging scientific field that applies engineering principles to biology. In essence, synthetic biology's main concept is to design and construct new biological parts and devices, using biological knowledge and engineering design principles, to manufacture new biological systems with features not found in nature, as well as re-designing or re-engineering existing biological systems for more useful purposes. Therefore, success in this new area requires communication, cohesion and collaboration from engineers and scientists within an appropriate ethical, social and legal framework. An overarching aim is to make things for the benefit of mankind. Synthetic biology's use in the water industry is highly speculative and so we will focus on testing the scientific feasibility of addressing two significant issues - pathogen detection and sewer flooding. The associated social interactions will also be investigated as these may result in barriers to uptake of this novel technology by the water industry, which, given its regulated nature is not normally associated with the implementation of potentially controversial technology. The activities supported by this outward looking and collaborative feasibility account will consolidate the core and emerging strengths of the Pennine Water Group (PWG) with expertise of the BBSRC funded Sheffield Synthetic Biology network MATEs. Interconnected research themes include (1) pathogen detection throughout the potable water supply (2) performance enhancement within existing sewer network infrastructure and (3) social contexts of technological developments and applications. These themes will be addressed through a series of activities based around workshops, scientific programmes and dedicated periods of dissemination and proposal preparation to extend the application of synthetic biology in the water industry beyond the lifespan of this account.
Key Findings
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Summary
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Organisation Website: http://www.shef.ac.uk