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UK Research and Innovation launches major programmes to tackle climate change and drive clean growth


UK Research and Innovation launches major programmes to tackle climate change and drive clean growth

Leading research teams will join businesses and government departments to tackle the impacts of climate change on our towns and cities and the countryside.

Four research programmes established with £60 million of funding have been announced by Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, today, Friday 19 October, to protect the environment and communities from the effects of climate change and support a move to a low carbon economy by:

  • Producing better data on climate risks to the UK
  • Building a digital picture of our natural environment for greater monitoring and analysis of the impact of climate change
  • Reducing air pollution and protecting vulnerable groups from its effects
  • Ensuring better use of land, for the benefit of the environment and communities
  • Development of options to adapt to climate risks, and understanding behaviour change

Mr Clark said: “Companies are capitalising on the UK’s world leading position in the greener economy as we transition to a greener, cleaner economy and is one of the greatest industrial opportunities of our time.

“The UK is a world leader in tackling climate change, cutting our emissions more than 40% since 1990 while growing our economy.  When you combine Britain’s leadership, innovation and determination it is an unbeatable combination – exactly what our Industrial Strategy and Green GB Week are supporting and encouraging.”

The programmes, will be funded through the Strategic Priorities Fund, delivered by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, said:  

“The recent IPCC report is a timely reminder of the challenges we face in tackling climate change. Storm Callum has highlighted the impact that extreme weather events can have on our communities. 

“It is vital that the evidence generated by research is used effectively to navigate and mitigate the effects of climate change, and new technologies are developed to support a move to a low carbon economy.

“The Strategic Priorities Fund is important in supporting UKRI’s mission, allowing us to bring collective expertise from a wide range of disciplines and sectors to bear on addressing important matters affecting all of society.”

The programmes have been announced during Green Great Britain Week, a week of events and activities bringing together businesses, schools, colleges, universities, community groups and charities to explore how clean growth will change our future and how we can contribute to action on climate change.

They will bring together a broad range of research disciplines, ranging from mathematics and biology to climate science and technology development, with key agencies and government departments including the Met Office, Department for Transport and the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Chief Scientist of the Met Office, Professor Stephen Belcher, said: “These programmes will allow the Met Office and our partners to make real progress in two areas of significant environmental impact: air pollution and climate change.

“Working together with other world-leading scientists from the UK’s academic community, we will be able to deliver tools and services which will benefit the lives and livelihoods of people across the UK.”

The Strategic Priorities Fund will be delivered by UKRI to drive an increase in high quality multi- and interdisciplinary research and innovation; ensure that UKRI’s investment links up effectively with government research priorities and opportunities; and ensure the system responds to strategic priorities and opportunities. Further programmes will be announced in the coming months.

Open and competitive calls will now be run for each of the programmes.

Two of the four programmes announced will be led by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), with another two jointly led by NERC with the Met Office.

Six other UKRI councils - the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Innovate UK and Medical Research Council (MRC) – are partners in the programmes.

Other partners include the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), Department for Transport (DfT) and Cabinet Office; The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) Adaptation Sub-Committee; the National Physical Laboratory (NPL).

Summaries of the projects:

UK Climate Resilience

NERC and the Met Office with EPSRC, ESRC, DEFRA, The CCC Adaptation Sub-Committee

Funding: £18.7 million

The programme will harness multidisciplinary expertise to deliver robust climate risk and solutions research, which ensures the UK is resilient to climate variability and change, and powerfully positioned to exploit the opportunities of adaptation and green growth. Coming together with policymakers and industry, the programme will bring impacts that benefit the UK economy and safeguard the public.

Clean Air: Analysis and Solutions

NERC and the Met Office with EPSRC, ESRC, Innovate UK, MRC, NPL, DEFRA, DHSC, DfT

Funding: £19.6 million

Air pollution is responsible for up to 40,000 early deaths and a cost of up to £20 billion to health services and businesses every year. This programme will develop solutions to air pollution to help policymakers and businesses protect health and work towards a cleaner economy.  The programme will predict future air quality challenges, identify the most vulnerable groups in society, improve new technologies and policies for reducing air pollution, and create a system for providing robust consistent advice to decision makers.

Constructing a Digital Environment

NERC with EPSRC, Innovate UK, DEFRA, Cabinet Office

Funding: £10.4 million

This programme will apply the latest technologies to environmental data from sensor networks across the UK, in order to deliver information in unprecedented detail. This will enable the construction of an integrated, digital picture of our natural environment, bringing benefit to policy-makers and other users by enabling better decision-making across a range of sectors, and increasing the opportunity to gain value from natural resources and mitigate environmental challenges.

Landscape Decisions


Funding: £10.5 million

This project will develop a new understanding to help individuals, communities and country make the best choices regarding land use in the UK. Experts from the environment, biology, health, social, and arts and humanities will research together, supporting real world decisions with solutions for the informed use of land, and deliver improvements to our health, well-being and economy.

Notes to Editors

For further information contact James Giles-Franklin, Media Manager at UKRI on 07808 878276 or james.giles-franklin@ukri.org

Further information on the calls will be available at https://nerc.ukri.org/ in due course.

UK Research and Innovation is a new body which works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. We aim to maximise the contribution of each of our component parts, working individually and collectively. We work with our many partners to benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas.

Operating across the whole of the UK with a combined budget of more than £6 billion, UK Research and Innovation brings together the seven Research Councils, Innovate UK and a new organisation, Research England.

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