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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.

UKRI Sustainability Advisory Group

As a body, UK Research and Innovation is funding world leading research which seeks to develop innovative solutions to some of the most pressing global sustainability issues, such as micro plastics and the use of palm oil. With this in mind, it is essential for the organisation to review its own sustainability policies and enhance its own sustainability credentials.

UKRI is in the process of developing an ambitious environmental sustainability strategy. Efforts are not only limited to direct operations, but are working with stakeholders and wider research community to ensure a holistic, joined up approach.

In July 2019 UKRI set up the Sustainability Advisory Group, the group provides strategic direction for the development and prioritisation of objectives to meet the UKRI sustainability commitment, by advising UKRI officials on what its sustainability strategy will be.

The advisory group is chaired by Professor Duncan Wingham, NERC Executive Chair and the UKRI champion for Environmental Sustainability.  The group is made up of a diverse mix of ‘Sustainability Leaders’ from the research community, business, prominent NGO’s. A full list of external membership can be found below.

  • Dave Gorman, The University of Edinburgh, Director of Social Responsibility and Sustainability

  • Juliet Osbourne, University of Exeter, Chair of applied ecology/ Director of Exeter environment and sustainability institute

  • Marcus Gover, WRAP, CEO

  • Andrew Morlet, Ellen Macarthur Foundation, Chief Executive

  • Shaun Spires, Green Alliance, Executive Director

  • Dr Sally Uren, Forum for the Future, Chief Executive

  • Niall Dunne, Polymateria, CEO

  • Michael Lewis, E.ON UK, CEO

  • Benet Northcote, John Lewis Partnership, Partner & Director, Corporate Responsibility

  • Dominic Virgine , Arm Holdings , Head of Sustainability

  • Louise Ellis, University of Leeds, Director of Sustainability

  • Professor Anthony Ryan, The University of Sheffield, Professor of Physical Chemistry

  • Judith Batchelor, Sainsbury's, Director of Brand

  • Kirsty Britz, RBS, Head of Sustainable Banking

  • Kirstie McIntyre, HP, Global Head of Sustainability

  • Caroline Laurie, Kingfisher, Head of Sustainability

  • Robyn Skerratt, DFID, Team Leader – 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals

The group offers independent advice and challenges and to advise to ensure that UKRI environmental sustainability strategy matches our ambitions.  The terms of reference for the group can be found here (PDF, 377KB).

If you would like to learn more about the Sustainability Advisory Group, and the wider work of the Sustainability team as a whole, then please contact us at responsbility@nerc.ukri.org