Climate change and other anthropogenic impacts on the environment are a persistent and growing threat worldwide. Whilst medical and life sciences research and innovation have direct social, economic and cultural benefits, they have ecological burdens and environmental impacts through waste and energy use.
MRC wants to fund practical research to achieve some or all of the following:
- look at aspects of research and medical practice that are not environmentally sustainable and seek to improve our understanding or provide practical solutions
- consider the ongoing impacts associated with the creation of new innovations in medical research
- engage stakeholders and promote knowledge exchange
- develop pump-prime initiatives or feasibility studies into promoting sustainable research or medical practice.
This encompasses not only the development of new research but the business models, processes and policies (within the public, private and third sectors) that support the life sciences and medical care. The research could also focus on where these have environmental and social impacts, as well as economic benefits.
New forms of governance and new types of supply chain may be needed. This is to enable organisations and societies globally to implement new and more sustainable processes, whilst ensuring all members of society have agency with regards to sustainability.
To be within remit, applications must:
- present a strong team of investigators
- propose innovative approaches with the potential to lead to practical applications in a year
- support attainment of net zero carbon emissions or a net positive environmental impact.
Proposals should encourage collaboration at all levels and provide improved uptake of sustainable practices, strengthening engagement and knowledge exchange between:
- health care teams
- local, regional and national leadership teams
- relevant research, science and technology and business groups.
The focus is on environmental sustainability, including achieving net zero carbon emissions alongside promoting a net positive environmental impact.
It is recognised that social and economic sustainability are interconnected with environmental sustainability. Therefore, exploration of these aspects of sustainability is welcomed, provided environmental sustainability is the primary focus.
We are inviting proposals that seek the re-imagining of current life science research and medical practice into alternative, more sustainable arrangements in all aspects of operations and research.
Research in this area may require an interdisciplinary and global approach, combining technical research with research across, for example:
- social sciences
- environmental sciences
- the arts.
Action research approach
We are interested in finding out what can be achieved within grants to promote environmentally sustainable research and medical practice, whilst still ensuring high quality research outcomes.
With the above in mind, we would promote an ‘action research’ approach (putting into practice) to provide already tested measures. However, applicants should propose the methodology they wish to apply.
The total fund available is £1 million. We anticipate funding up to 10 projects over a funding period of up to 12 months.
We aim to explore opportunities for a larger initiative across councils to further build on this investment.
What we won’t fund
We won’t fund studies focusing on facilities or facilities management and travel arrangements.
The output of the work needs to be made available to researchers and practitioners across the country, not all of whom regularly read academic journals.
Whilst the research outcome should be published through open access (essential requirement for funding by UKRI), it is important that:
- the results of the work are easily accessible for everybody
- awareness is raised on how to reduce the environmental impact of this sector by publishing on websites accessed by practitioners and consultants and present to organisations, such as:
- Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework (LEAF)
- Association of University Directors of Estates (AUDE)
- Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS)
- government departments (for example, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)).
With the funding allocation, the NHS, DHSC and ourselves will retain the rights to disseminate outcomes of these research activities to government departments and organisations (such as the aforementioned) for non-commercial purposes.