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As outlined in our Strategic Prospectus UKRI is committed to ensuring that sustainability is ‘embedded in everything we do’.  We aspire to drive positive environmental and social change within our organisation, ensuring we deliver world leading science and innovation in a world leading way.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has responsibility for ensuring it promotes sustainability within the seven Research Councils (RCs), Innovate UK and Research England.

In December 2018 the UKRI Executive Committee set the ambition for our Sustainability activities across UKRI. Our initial focus will the development of an Environmental Sustainability Strategy over the next 12 months, considering not just our direct activities but where through funding decisions we can influence change.

We have established a UKRI Sustainability Forum to assist with policy development but also to allow for cross-UKRI collaboration, sharing sustainability successes and allowing partners to learn from each other. Together we will innovate to find new solutions to common sustainability challenges, placing UKRI firmly as a leader in this area. Once approved our new policy will be communicated to all UKRI staff, be made available through the UKRI website and will be reviewed annually.

This year UKRI has a dedicated sustainability section in its annual report. A breakdown of our environmental performance split by NERC, MRC, STFC and other parts of UKRI can be found here (PDF, 999KB).

Some of our sustainability successes over the last year include:

  • UKRI has invested over £100,000 in the customisation of a few environmental database allowing harmonised environmental reporting and benchmarking between UKRI partners.
  • UKRI is working with its procurement provider, UK SBS, to encourage sustainable procurement practices down the supply chain. This includes tracking activities against ISO BS 20400:2017, the international guidance standard for Sustainable Procurement, and delivery of Sustainable Procurement training to category buyers in February 2019.  
  • MRC continues to reduce energy costs and carbon emissions by trialing running -80 freezers at warmer set points and reducing the number of air changes in specialist buildings.
  • NERC in ensuring that all future scientific programmes on its research vessel are subject to environmental impact assessments and its new Polar Research Vessel (RRS Sir David Attenborough) has fuel efficiency built into design.  
  • Research England is improving office campus biodiversity by planting pollinator-friendly flowers and creating wildlife habitats.
  • STFC has developed an innovative Helium Recovery System for ISIS at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. Thanks to the hard work of the local project team the system is already saving £35,000 per annum.
  • Innovate UKs project with NVP Energy has developed a technology that cleans wastewater, whilst recovering valuable high quality biogas that is 100% available for heat & electricity production on site.
  • MRC institutes are undertaking biodiversity enhancement activities, including the provision of bat and bird boxes, meadow grass planting and hedgerows to provide sustainable habitats for wildlife.
  • All major NERC Centres have biodiversity action plans and the the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton a new area for beehives and a wildflower meadow has been established. 
  • STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory has a number of areas managed to promote bee orchids and Research England is improving office campus biodiversity by planting.

UKRI contribution to the UK National Voluntary Review against the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

UKRI funded research and innovation directly contributes to the UK delivery against all 17 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. UKRI specific contributions were highlighted in the first UK National Voluntary review which can be found here.

UKRI was directly referenced as contributing to SDG Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure through its commitment to raise spend on research and innovation to 2.4% of GDP by 2027.

NERC's contribution to Goal 9 though its ‘Unlocking the Potential of Groundwater for the Poor (UPGro)’ programme and Goal 13: Climate Action through it’s ‘Engaging Environments’ initiative'.

Please contact us for further information or feedback, responsibility@nerc.ukri.org.