A new Natural Environment Research Council funding programme aims to address two of the biggest environmental science challenges in urban areas across the UK today. Air quality and water management innovation projects will have a regional focus as part of the Regional Impact from Science of the Environment (RISE) initiative.
RISE has funded two regionally-focused projects for up to £4 million each over five years, with each institution providing a further £1 million each towards their projects.
The projects will see two of the UK’s top universities working with businesses, civil society organisations and policymakers in their area to generate a range of economic and societal benefits. The aim is to translate excellent NERC-funded research into actions that improve performance, resilience and sustainability, and support local growth.
RISE aims to bring research organisations together with businesses, policy bodies and other actors contributing to economic development specific to their location, to deliver significant regional impact from NERC environmental science.
Professor Duncan Wingham, NERC’s Executive Chair said “The societal and economic benefits of the RISE innovation programmes will be specific to their region, and this NERC research has the potential to provide lessons that can be applied much more widely.”
Community Water Management for a Liveable London (CAMELLIA)
The growing population of London, and its planned housing, require water to be supplied and flooding to be reduced as far as possible. However, the region is vulnerable to water shortages (droughts) and floods. This challenge is likely to worsen with climate change alongside the expected economic growth of London and associated increase in population.
Led by Dr Adrian Butler of Imperial College London, the programme aims to transform collaborative water management to support the provision of lower cost and better performing water infrastructure in the context of significant housing development, whilst improving people’s local environments and their quality of life.
Dr Butler said; “CAMELLIA will bring together environmental, engineering, urban planning and socio-economic experts with governmental and planning authorities, industry, developers and citizens to provide solutions that will enable required housing growth in London whilst sustainably managing water and environment in the city.”
Project partners include Peabody, one of London’s oldest and largest housing providers, responsible for one of the largest single development sites in London, Thamesmead. Capitalising on the developments’ green and blue assets, they hope to benefit from an integrated approach to the water systems to help them make the right decisions.
Other project partners include Thames Water, London Underground, Greater London Authority, and Affinity Water, plus a number of local communities and housing estate residents.
West Midlands Air Quality Improvement Programme (WM-Air)
Poor air quality is a major environmental threat to Public Health in many urban regions across the UK. Air pollution in the West Midlands affects some 2.8 million people, reducing average life expectancy by several months, and is responsible for direct and indirect economic costs of several hundred million pounds.
Led by Professor William Bloss of the University of Birmingham, WM-Air will provide improved understanding of pollution sources and levels in the region, and new capability to predict air quality, health and economic impacts of potential policy measures. It will support the application of these to specific case studies across the West Midlands, ranging from major infrastructure projects such as HS2, to making effective use of Green Infrastructure (urban vegetation) across the city.
Professor Bloss said “Improving air quality will bring direct health benefits to millions of people, reduce direct and indirect economic costs and enhance quality of life across the West Midlands. WM-Air will bring together the latest environmental science from air pollution, health and economic research experts, to support policy makers, key industry bodies and businesses to help reduce the impacts of air pollution in the region, and support clean growth.”
Project partners include the West Midlands Combined Authority, Transport for West Midlands, local authorities across the region including Birmingham and Coventry City Councils, HS2, Arup, Temple Group, Ricardo Energy & Environment, Network Rail, Natural England and the Birmingham & Solihull NHS Sustainability & Transformation Partnership, plus a number of sector organisations and local businesses.
The RISE projects commence in October 2018.