Géninha Lisboa

Science and Innovation Officer, British Embassy Doha.

Part of Global Science and Innovation Network

31st May 2018

UK-Bahrain collaboration on water research

Thousands have lived without love, not one without water

– H. Auden

Water, like religion and ideology, has the power to move millions of people. Since the very birth of human civilization, people have moved to settle close to it. People move when there is too little of it. People move when there is too much of it. People journey down it. People write, sing and dance about it. People fight over it. And all people, everywhere and every day, need it.

– Mikhail Gorbachev

Engagement commenced two years ago, when a series of workshops on water desalination were organised by SIN and the British Council with IAF funds awarded to the Gulf as part of the GSIKE programme (Gulf Science, Innovation and Knowledge Economy Programme). The first four workshops, held in early 2016, were bilateral workshops in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia. By the second half of 2016 it was clear that, given water was a common theme throughout the GCC, it would make sense to organise a Gulf-UK regional Symposium.

Bahrain was chosen as the setting, since the University of Bahrain was keen to host the event and are home to a strong and enthusiastic department working on the engineering of water desalination and renewable energies. At this event, discussions started in earnest between the University of Bahrain and Oxford and Aston Universities on how to establish collaboration in water desalination and renewable energies research. There was already ongoing collaboration between Loughborough University and the University of Bahrain (UoB). However, this developed into an institutional level agreement following the Symposia.

A few months after the regional Symposium in Bahrain, both Oxford and Aston University representatives returned to Manama to sign collaboration contracts with UoB. The resulting project with Aston University includes two Ph.D students, one in Aston and one in Bahrain, and there have been several visits by Professors from both Universities. The Oxford agreement has one student already enrolled at the University in the UK, and a second will start in Bahrain in September, 2018.

The Oxford project focuses on studying how to reduce the environmental impact of water desalination, while also making it more cost effective. As part of the Aston project, researchers are working to optimise the performance of renewable energy-driven reverse osmosis desalination, which would also reduce water production prices and eventually benefit low income countries. Finally, Loughborough University has been working with the University of Bahrain on a computer model to investigate energy storage and flexible demand in the country, as well as the potential to utilise waste water as a source of energy.

On the 22nd and 23rd April 2018, the University of Bahrain organised a Conference on Water and Energy Sustainable Innovation and Industry in collaboration with Aston University, the University of Oxford and Loughborough University, attended by the Sustainable Energy Unit of the Kingdom of Bahrain, and the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism. Attendees included not only members of the College of Sciences of the University of Bahrain, but also other colleges at the University who have subsequently expressed an interest in establishing internal collaborative partnerships, while the three UK Universities also intend to further develop their collaboration with the UoB.

The conference was also attended by the CEO of ALBA (Aluminium Bahrain), one of the largest industrial companies in the Middle East and one of the top producers of aluminium in the world. ALBA has invested large amounts of money in environmental conservation and has developed a desalination plant that utilises waste heat from the calcining process to generate steam for the production of potable water.

One of the UoB’s next projects is to establish a Centre of Excellence at the University to mirror the Centre for Renewable Energy Systems Technology (CREST) at the University of Loughborough. The lab has already been completed and the next step will be capacity building, in collaboration with Loughborough, to train researchers to collect and analyse data from Bahrain’s desalination stations.

Science Collaboration Symposium on Clean and Renewable Energies, Abu Dhabi, October 2018. Attendees included researchers from the University of Bahrain and Loughborough University.

Looking ahead, another collaborative workshop between the UoB and its UK partners is already being planned for January 2019. But thanks to those initial Symposia in 2016 and 2017 on water desalination and renewable energies, a long lasting research collaboration has emerged between Bahrain and the UK, to the benefit of institutions and researchers in both countries.