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Global Research Priorities

Global Research Priorities (GRPs)


Our Global Research Priorities (GRPs) respond to complex global challenges that can only be tackled through interdisciplinary research excellence.

GRPs are networks of researchers from across disciplines who are working collaboratively to address some of humanity’s most urgent questions. Sustainability forms an integral part of this work, and our GRPs are addressing a number of salient areas, including energy storage, food sustainability, minimising the environmental impacts of climate change and supporting the transition to a circular economy. Our research seeks not only to document and understand, but to provide real-world solutions and change behaviours.

How are our different GRPs addressing sustainability challenges?

Brain, Behaviour & Society

Sustainability problems such as climate change, poverty, recycling and economic stability all depend on human behaviour. Researchers in our Behaviour, Brain & Society GRP investigate wellbeing, consumer choices and human behaviour across the lifespan, including how nudge theory can help us make green choices.

Behavioural science is becoming increasingly crucial in the human response to climate change. Our researchers investigate individuals’ attitudes to climate change and while natural science has alerted us to the rise in global temperature - the problem now lies in people's behaviour. We look at how people adapt in a changing world, what decisions they make and why, and what impact this has on our societies and our need for a sustainable future.

Find out more about our Brain, Behaviour & Society GRP.

 

Connecting Cultures GRP

Our Connecting Cultures GRP has initiated and supported a range of research projects and activities that uncover the connections between culture and sustainability.

We bring researchers together to explore these connections, which recently led to the establishment of the cross-campus Environmental Humanities Network. The GRP has funded new research which fosters lasting change through education, knowledge sharing and cross-cultural dialogue about sustainability. This has included research into reducing cultural, health and wellbeing inequalities worldwide as well as research into sustainable cultures closer to home. For our City of Culture year (2021-22), we are also working collaboratively with the Innovative Manufacturing and Future Materials GRP on an exciting project to make large scale outdoor cultural activities more sustainable.

Find out more about our Connecting Cultures GRP.

 

Cyber Security GRP

Our Cyber Security GRP is undertaking work to ensure the resilience of systems that underpin sustainable environments.

Our research falls into four thematic areas. A particular focus of our research is to ensure that technologies and systems that are helping deliver the UK Government’s Road to Zero Strategy are secure and resilient. This includes connected and autonomous vehicles, the infrastructure that they connect to and the energy supplies that power electric vehicles. Our work ensures that the likelihood of compromise is minimised, and if a breach does occur, the impact is minimised through a procedure of detect, act and respond. The work we undertake in Internet of Things (IoT) systems is used to reliably deliver resource efficiency. Our work in power systems ensures that we can identify potential weaknesses in smart grid environments, and proactively protect these systems in rapidly changing circumstances.

Find out more about our Cyber Security GRP.

 

Energy GRP

Our Energy GRP is helping power a sustainable future. Our research explores new ways to create, store and use sustainable energy, including work to bring both a reduction in carbon emissions from the energy system and lower costs for consumers.

A key component of our research looks at how we find and use electricity - from when it is created, to how it comes into our homes and how we use and manage it. This includes work on electrochemical, thermal and mechanical energy storage, as well as electric vehicles, including battery technology and charging points.

Our work is also exploring decarbonisation and associate transition risks, such as how government and business action on climate change is already exposing ‘transition risks’, the broader financial implications of the transition process towards a low-carbon economy. Embedding change at a government level can be complicated, so we are exploring the politics of transitioning energy systems, including how government can act as both an enabler and a constraint on sustainable change.

Find out more about our Energy GRP.

 

Food GRP

Our Food GRP explores the environmental impact of food production and consumption. We are exploring ways to minimise pesticide use without reducing crop yield and quality.

Our GRP is heavily involved in the UK Vegetable Genebank (UKVGB). Run by the Genetic Resources Unit at our Wellesbourne Campus, the Genebank helps ensure genetic diversity in crops – essential if we are all to have access to nutritious food. It comprises a collection of approximately 14,000 samples of vegetable crops such as cauliflower, carrot and kale.

Warwick Crop Centre is an internationally recognised centre for translational research in food security and sustainable agriculture and horticulture. The Crop Centre provides scientific expertise in areas including crop breeding, crop nutrition and environmental research. We host numerous networks and projects to meet the inextricably linked challenges of food and climate change. For example, our Vegetable Genetic Improvement Network (VeGIN) supports collaborations with industry and researchers to address how genetic improvement of crops can contribute to a sustainable food production increase, without causing environmental damage.

Find out more about our Food GRP.

 

Habitability GRP

How does humanity interact with its own environment? Our Habitability GRP considers the interaction between life and the environment. We ask what makes a habitable environment on Earth physically and sociologically possible, and examine how our environments are changing.

Part of our work involves examining the supply of high-quality natural resources, from oxygen to soil to attractive landscapes, including asking what a 'natural resource', is and how we determine its quality? Another area of our research has involved measuring the environmental impact of human activity by using astronomical observations to calculate greenhouse gases. This project explored the potential for using astronomical data to study the Earth's atmosphere and track the concentration of greenhouse gases. Flooding has also been linked to the climate crisis. Our Flood Mapping project explored using state of the art machine learning methods to determine flood extent in satellite images. The long-term aim is to provide a reliable, accurate means of mapping floods to improve disaster relief.

Find out more about our Habitability GRP.

 

Health GRP

Part of our Health GRP’s work includes focusing on employee mental health to deliver sustainable working practices within the workplace and wider community.

The Mental Health and Productivity Pilot (MHPP) project involves various stakeholders from across the Midlands. As part of the MHPP project, the University of Warwick in partnership with the Enterprise Research Centre conducted a survey of 1,900 private-sector employees across the ME region and found that absence of work contributed to over 25% loss of productivity. The pilots, which will launch in June 2021, will deliver evidence-based interventions designed to support the mental health and wellbeing of employees across the region, and increase productivity. This will help deliver healthier and more sustainable workplaces across all sectors of the economy.

We also explore how mindfulness and artificial intelligence can help prevent disease, and aim to support the improvement of public health with digital technology and mindfulness.

Find out more about our Health GRP.

 

Innovative Manufacturing & Future Materials GRP

It’s important that the resources we use are sustainable and kept at their highest value for as long as possible. Our research focuses on a number of areas, including the implementation of a circular economy – which extends the amount of time a resource is used before it is regenerated and reused.

Our research also helps produce innovative fundamental materials – from sensors and coatings, to food and personal care. In addition, we also look at how living cells and/or their enzymes can create industrial products that are degradable, use less energy and create less waste. To maximise and cement industrial and societal change in light of the sustainability drive, we must also consider factors such as changes in human skills and working environments. This area of research emphasises the role of social and humanities, which is vital to ensure sustainability and innovation in manufacturing.

Find out more about our Innovative Manufacturing & Future Materials GRP.

 

Productivity & the Futures of Work GRP

Sustainable working practices are increasingly important, especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Sustainable working and workplace practices can help minimise damage to the environment and reduce resource wastage. For example, less traffic, reduced pollution, reduced operational costs and improved employee health and wellbeing can be both a catalyst and accelerator to improving environmental sustainability.

Sustainability relies on a reduction in emissions, much of which comes from petrol-powered cars and the colossal amount of energy consumed by large buildings. Our researchers are working to use innovation to support the productivity and wellbeing of the workforce. They are considering factors that drive and enable sustainable innovation in workplaces, productivity, products, processes and business models, all of which can help enhance sustainability for society and the environment. We consider how digital technology, demographic change, government policies and labour market institutions shape the future of work.

Find out more about our Productivity & the Futures of Work GRP.

 

Sustainable Cities GRP

How can cities meet our needs without compromising our environment? Our Sustainable Cities GRP support world-class research that addresses the challenges of sustainable urban development. Our research spans many areas designed to enhance and accelerate global sustainability.

Restructuring our built environment and infrastructure to combat climate change is an important part of our work, including how can we improve deprived urban areas globally. We also focus on social, economic and cultural sustainability, including the importance of placemaking, liveability and holistic approaches to the development of cities. Improving air quality in cities is another strong component of our work, as well as monitoring, characterising and mapping natural hazards, delivering sustainable healthcare to slums in Africa and Asia, and creating flood resilient communities. All these areas can help drive urban sustainability and lessen the environmental impact of cities across the globe.

Find out more about Sustainable Cities GRP.