Interdisciplinary research hub successes

Tue, 22/01/2019

The School of GeoSciences will pioneer a new £20M UKRI GCRF Multi-Hazard Urban Disaster Risk Transitions Hub

The School has been successful in securing three UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) awards.  The School will lead on the UKRI GCRF Multi-Hazard Urban Disaster Risk Transitions Hub; and will work in collaboration with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology to support a UKRI GCRF South Asian Nitrogen Hub; and with the University of Strathclyde to support a UKRI GCRF One Oceans Hub.  All three hubs will address intractable challenges faced by developing countries.

Professor Simon Kelley, Head of School of GeoSciences, said:

“We are very excited to be leading one of the UKRI GCRF global research hubs, and to be a key partner in a further two hubs. These initiatives will tackle some of our world’s greatest challenges, providing novel, sustainable solutions, putting Edinburgh researchers at the heart of efforts to tackle the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.” 

UKRI GCRF Multi-Hazard Urban Disaster Risk Transition Hub

The School will lead a new £20 million UKRI GCRF Multi-hazard Urban Disaster Risk Transitions Hub aimed at reducing disaster risk for the poor in tomorrow’s cities.  The Hub will coordinate research and policy teams in Kathmandu, Istanbul, Nairobi and Quito, supported by UK and international scientists.

It will address a critical development problem. More than two billion people are exposed to floods, earthquakes, landslides, volcanos and cyclones in cities of low-to-middle income countries and this figure is expected to double by 2050. Cities are home to 55% of the global population, account for 70% of global GDP and many argue that the UN sustainable development goals will be won or lost in those urban environments. Urban systems are expanding rapidly throughout the developing world, and globally 60% of the area expected to be urban by 2030 is yet to be built. This rapid urbanisation, often considered only as a threat, also provides a time-limited opportunity to plan disaster risk out of tomorrow’s cities.

The Hub will enhance sustainable urban development, catalysing a transition from crisis management to disaster risk-informed planning and decision-making in cities in developing countries, through partnerships in and between targeted cities, and globally through collaborating international governance organisations.

The Hub will bring together leading researchers with inspiring community and government leaders and will work at an unprecedented high-resolution to influence planning and to deliver real impact through interdisciplinary research.

Professor John McCloskey, from the School of GeoSciences, who will be leading the new Hub, said:

“The scale of this GCRF research investment allows us to grasp this time-limited opportunity and the Hub brings together over 100 scientists, engineers and policy makers, fielding high-quality, international, multi-disciplinary teams to address this currently intractable global challenge. We will work in four major cities, chosen for their existing commitment to building disaster resilience, but intercity learning and collaborations with UN agencies will ensure that the project will be much greater than the sum of its parts.  Historical compromises need not be repeated. The GCRF Hub provides a generational opportunity to change the future for the poor in tomorrow’s cities. We approach this opportunity with massive excitement, enthusiasm and belief.”

UKRI GCRF South Asian Nitrogen Hub

The UKRI GCRF South Asian Nitrogen Hub will be led by Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, in collaboration with the School and other project engagement partners from the UK and South Asia, bringing together 32 leading research organisations. The new Hub seeks to improve nitrogen management in agriculture, saving money on fertilisers and making better use of manure, urine and natural nitrogen fixation processes.

Nitrogen pollution damages human health, threatens biodiversity of forests and rivers, and leads to coastal and marine pollution that exacerbates the effects of climate change. The Hub will highlight options for more profitable and cleaner farming for India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and the Maldives. India alone spends around £6 billion per year subsidising fertiliser supply. The hub will also consider how nitrogen pollution could be turned back to fertiliser, for example by capturing nitrogen oxide gas from factories and converting it into nitrate.

Professor Dave Reay, from the School of GeoSciences, said:

“This Hub is a game-changer in addressing the global nitrogen challenge. It super-charges an already thriving network of leading researchers and practitioners in the UK and across South Asia, giving us the opportunity to deliver sustainable solutions and to build lasting capacity at scale. The success of our hub proposal is testament to the wealth of relevant expertise in all three Colleges here at Edinburgh, and to our wonderful external colleagues across Scotland, England, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Nepal, and the Maldives.”

UKRI GCRF One Ocean Hub

The UKRI GCRF One Ocean Hub will be led by the University of Strathclyde, in collaboration with the School, and partners from the UK, South Africa, Namibia, Ghana, Fiji and Solomon Islands to tackle the crisis facing our oceans. 

Humans are entirely reliant upon a healthy ocean - it contributes to the renewal of fresh water, absorbs over a quarter of global carbon dioxide, and produces half the oxygen we breathe. The ocean also has the potential to make significant contributions to sustainable development. Many developing countries already depend on their ocean resources for food, work and livelihoods but we are reaching an ocean health crisis through cumulative pressures such as over-exploitation of its resources, ocean plastics and pollution and climate change, all compounded by multiple competing uses, pushing the ocean ecosystem to a tipping point.

The Hub aims to tackle this by providing more integrated ocean governance, ensuring greater balance between ocean conservation and sustainable use. Researchers at Edinburgh will study the implications of global change on deep-sea ecosystems – particularly the implications of ocean warming, acidification and deoxygenation.

Professor Murray Roberts, from the School of GeoSciences, said:

 “Deep corals are among the most sensitive marine ecosystems to ocean acidification. The One Ocean Hub is a wonderful project and a fantastic opportunity for us to build on our 20 years of research into how cold-water corals function and the biodiversity they support.”

The hubs are funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) – which is a key component in delivering the UK AID strategy and puts UK-led research at the heart of efforts to tackle the United Nations sustainable development goals.

Related links

UKRI GCRF Multi-Hazard Urban Disaster Risk Transitions Hub

UKRI GCRF South Asian Nitrogen Hub

UKRI GCRF One Ocean Hub

School of GeoSciences to pioneer new UKRI GCRF Multi-Hazard Urban Disaster Risk Transitions Hub
School of GeoSciences to pioneer new UKRI GCRF Multi-Hazard Urban Disaster Risk Transitions Hub