Project overview

The ADVOCATE project developed innovative in-situ remediation concepts for the sustainable management of contaminated land and groundwater, as required by the Water Framework Directive.



Global water consumption has increased sevenfold since the start of the 20th century. Water resources are likely to start to run out due to population growth, agricultural demands and reduction in recharge with climate change. Alternatives such as desalination are costly and energy demanding.

In Europe, groundwater provides up to 98% of potable water supplies in some countries. Consequently, it will become more important to protect and enhance groundwater resources both in Europe and around the world.

There is chronic and widespread contamination of European land and aquifers from industrial, agricultural, mining, military and other activities. The European Environment Agency (EEA) estimates that there are around 130,000 instances of groundwater contamination in Europe alone, while 3 million sites have potentially polluting activities. Considering the typical costs to remediate each site, the replacement value of that unusable groundwater is around €39 billion.

This liability is set against the ambitions of the Water Framework Directive, which aims to protect and restore water resources across Europe and to ensure their long-term sustainable use. Linked to this are significant socio-economic pressures from brownfield redevelopment within urban regeneration programmes, which aim to return this asset back to good use for communities and reduce consumption of greenfield land. This philosophy is central to sustainable development.

Within this framework, there is a need to develop sustainable approaches for the remediation of contaminated groundwater resources. Traditional remediation methods for contaminated land and groundwater are widely acknowledged to be unsustainable in many cases, considering environmental impacts, costs, performance and treatment timescales.

Sustainability can be increased during all phases of contaminated site remediation, but sustainability concepts have historically not been fully considered within management decisions and practice.

Sustainable remediation practices integrate all relevant technical, environmental, economic and social indicators to identify an acceptable balance which delivers net benefits. It allows sustainable development criteria to be formally incorporated within contaminated land and groundwater management strategies at all stages of decision-making, scales of operation and site development phases.

In-situ remediation (ISR) is often the most sustainable management approach for soil and groundwater contamination. This field is relatively new, but with many innovative ISR concepts which offer tremendous potential to manage complex contamination problems which would not be possible with traditional methods.

However, the practical implementation of sustainable ISR in Europe and beyond is significantly underdeveloped. This can only be improved by cross-disciplinary applied research that integrates the various scientific, technical, environmental and socio-economic aspects (e.g. fundamental process understanding, performance assessment, engineering design and cost-benefits) that affect decision-making, management strategies and technology applications for contaminated land and groundwater across different scales.

ADVOCATE (Advancing Sustainable In-Situ Remediation for Contaminated Land and Groundwater), aimed to address this challenge.

The project

ADVOCATE developed innovative ISR concepts for the sustainable management of contaminated land and groundwater, as required by the Water Framework Directive.

Its research links lab-scale studies of processes with field-scale evaluation and demonstration of novel technology applications, using state-of-the-art methods. It aimed to develop new scientific understanding, performance assessment tools and decision-making frameworks which advance the use of sustainable ISR for contaminated land and groundwater.

The aim is for more sustainable treatment, to optimise resource investment in environmental restoration.

The network creates a comprehensive training environment for early-career scientists and engineers in this field. As well as formal graduate-level instruction and directed research, there is an innovative package of training initiatives. These include workshops, summer schools, web-based sharing of research and key outputs across the network, complementary training at partner institutions, practical work secondments with industry partners, and participation at national and international conferences.

As a Marie Curie Initial Training Network, ADVOCATE will provide advanced training to early stage and experienced researchers in scientific, technical and practical skills related to the research of sustainable in situ remediation techniques and applications for contaminated land and groundwater.

Aims and objectives

The specific objectives of ADVOCATE were to

  • train a group of highly qualified professionals in state-of-the-art approaches for in situ land and groundwater remediation
  • research innovative processes and techniques for the sustainable remediation of contaminants in situ
  • develop process-level understanding and appraise technology concepts at laboratory-scale through to field-scale application
  • develop a decision-making framework for the use of in situ remediation in the sustainable development of groundwater resources, considering relevant technical, environmental, social and economic issues
  • deliver a programme of knowledge transfer and public outreach on sustainable in situ remediation for contaminated land and groundwater for researchers, practitioners and other end-users
  • develop collaborative links with other science-based networks and industry forums within Europe and overseas, which are involved in sustainable remediation research, knowledge transfer and training to identify new initiatives in these areas

Project review

The review of training progress for each research fellow in ADVOCATE occurred in several ways.

At the project level, each fellow contributed to regular review meetings with their supervisory team, where day-to-day management of their project, research progress and coordination of training were discussed.

At the network level, there were biannual meetings of the Network Management Committee with research fellows to review the progress of individual projects and training undertaken. Formal evaluation of the overall scientific achievements and training provision delivered by the network, training progress of research fellows and career development was undertaken at annual meetings of the Project Advisory Board.

At these meetings, research fellows discussed research and training activities, organisation of the network-hosted workshops, summer schools and secondments, and presented their work to their peers, supervisors and industry partners. Fellows receive structured feedback, linked to their individual training and development needs.

Training programme

The training programme provided by the academic and industry partners in ADVOCATE was tailored to meet the specific needs of each research fellow. It included both formal and informal components to develop scientific, technical, complementary, interpersonal and transferable skills to prepare the fellows for a wide range of career opportunities in the academic, commercial, industry and regulatory sectors represented by the organisations in the network.

This training was available to all research fellows across the network. Skills were developed through a comprehensive and flexible programme of academic and industry training, including the following integrated components:

  • Formal taught modules provided by the academic partners, which covers the multiple disciplines required within the project. These included units which developed scientific and technical competencies for individual research topics, in addition to units which developed more generic and complementary skills (e.g. research management, effective communication, leadership, team working, career management).
  • Network-hosted thematic workshops and summer schools, which covered training in scientific and technical areas that provided core knowledge, practical skills and experience in analytical methods, investigation techniques and data interpretation to support the research undertaken by fellows. These events were delivered jointly by the academic and industry partners with contributions from external scientists.
  • Network-hosted supervised secondments, work placements, job-shadowing and in-house training provided by the industry partners. This training provided practical experience of working within various business functions, to enhance the development of scientific, technical, management and transferable skills. It covered all sectors of the field, from problem holders to regulatory agencies covering the commercial, non-governmental and research arenas, and from SMEs to multi-national companies. The training could be tailored to cover technical and non-technical aspects that suited the specific interests and development needs of each research fellow.

The training was structured to focus on formal tuition and attendance at network-hosted events delivered by the project partners in the first year, with greater emphasis on independent research linked to specific topics in work packages and experiential training through secondments with industry partners in subsequent years.

Links with external organisations

ADVOCATE coordinated with other science-based networks and industry forums within Europe and overseas, that were involved in sustainable remediation initiatives, knowledge transfer and training.

The aim was to develop collaborative training activities (eg technical workshops and short courses) and promote research dissemination via this association, and contribute to working groups with them. These forums included:

  • ChloroNET (, involved in disseminating cross-sector experience on solvent-contaminated sites, developing coordinated management strategies and cost-effective remediation
  • Network for Industrially Contaminated Land in Europe (NICOLE:, which promotes industry-academic co-operation on the development and application of sustainable technologies
  • EURODEMO ( which was established through the European Commission's Environmental Technology Action Plan (ETAP) to host international information sources and a web inventory on remediation technology demonstration, share knowledge and practical experience between countries
  • Sustainable Remediation Forum-UK (SuRF-UK:, a network of UK-based industry and regulatory bodies set-up to develop sustainability within soil and groundwater remediation
  • Sustainable Remediation Forum-USA (SuRF-USA:, with the same focus as SURF-UK
  • Sustainable Remediation Forum Australia (SuRF-Australia:, with the same focus as SURF-UK
  • TIMBRE (, which supports brownfield regeneration in Europe by providing stakeholders and end-users with tailored packages of state-of-the-art technologies, management tools and information for reuse planning and sustainable remediation of megasites
The ADVOCATE project logo


ADVOCATE developed innovative in situ remediation concepts for the sustainable management of contaminated land and groundwater.