Alumni in sustainability and climate change
From research to industry, clever new tech and innovative solutions, Imperial alumni are at the heart of the efforts to tackle climate change, protect our oceans, and reduce waste.
How to tackle climate change
"Renewable energy technologies for climate change mitigation and climate adaptation measures that were once novel and being piloted on small scales are now mainstream and competitive with high market penetration rates." Uzoamaka Nwamarah (MSc Environmental Technology 2005) is a sustainable development expert currently working as a Climate Change Adviser at the Commonwealth Secretariat.
"Infrastructure should be at the heart of transforming our societies into ones that can be happy, healthy, and prosperous whilst living in net zero carbon ways." Tim Chapman (MSc Soil Mechanics 1987) is Director at Arup for Net Zero Carbon for Infrastructure. He helped conceive and write the world's first standard for whole life management of carbon in infrastructure systems.
"It was a great experience for me to communicate something that’s theoretical to someone who is not a scientist. This can be a challenge, but it’s important." Dr Gabriele Messori (PhD Atmospheric Physics and Dynamics 2013) is a widely recognised researcher in predicting extreme weather, and winner of the 2021 Emerging Alumni Leader Award.
Single-use plastics, fast fashion and emissions are some of the biggest culprits when it comes to sustainability. These alumni-led startups are providing practical solutions to these issues, developing innovative new materials and processes to minimise waste and harmful byproducts.
Making waves: Alumni startups offering innovative solutions
Tackling harmful emissions: The Tyre Collective
Every time a vehicle brakes, accelerates or turns a corner, the tyres wear down and tiny particles become airborne, producing half a million tonnes of tyre particles annually in Europe alone. Now a group of Design Engineering graduates have won the James Dyson Award for their device to capture microplastic particles as they are emitted.
Creating sustainable packaging: The Shellworks
6.3 billion tonnes of plastic waste has been created on earth to date, and The Shellworks are hoping to make single-use plastics a thing of the past. Their invention turns waste crustacean shells into biodegradable, compostable products which can be used as an alternative to plastic. This group of alumni won Imperial's Venture Catalyst Challenge in 2020.
Challenging fast fashion: Petit Pli
Most children grow up to seven sizes in their first two years of life. Imperial alumni-led Petit Pli are tackling waste and promoting sustainability in the fashion industry with their unique specially engineered fabric that expands to grow with children, and in 2019 they received the H&M Foundation Global Change Award, dubbed the 'Nobel Prize of Fashion'.
Sustainability in agriculture
From sustainable growing technologies to investment and local research, Imperial alumni are combining their technical skills with a passion for the environment to address global food security.
Paul, Manuel, Julian
Dr Paul van Driessche MBE
"The farmer buy-in for a climate-smart approach to agriculture is evident." Paul Van Driessche (PhD Environmental Policy 2018) is working to establish an agricultural research centre in the Maldives which will look at agricultural pollution, context-driven approaches to interventions, and enhanced food security.
Dr Manuel Piñuela
"There are investors that want to invest in nature but don’t know what projects are high quality." Highly commended in the Alumni Entrepreneur Award for 2021, Manuel Piñuela (PhD Electrical and Electronics Engineering 2013) founded Cultivo to bring together benefits for landowners and investors, where capital is used to restore nature and boost the biodiversity of forests.
"Our aim is to create the most sustainable and affordable protein source to feed our future generations." Julian Melchiorri (MSc Innovation Design Engineering 2014) is the CEO and founder of Arborea, whose BioSolar Leaf technology enables them to grow organic, healthy food ingredients with the smallest environmental impact.
Whether it's battery technology, energy storage or innovative renewable energy sources, Imperial alumni are leading the green energy transition.
Dr Greg Offer
"The not-so-humble battery holds the key to the development of electric vehicles - and to the energy revolution." Dr Greg Offer (MSci Chemistry 2001, PhD 2006) is a Reader in Mechanical Engineering at Imperial. Greg's research is based around fuel cell, battery and supercapacitator technology and their application, mostly in transport. He investigates the problems that emerge at the interface between the science and engineering.
"We believe the benefits our technology can offer over current market-leading solutions like lithium-ion will help to accelerate decarbonisation in key sectors such as transport and heavy industry." Mike Simpson (PhD 2021) is the CEO and co-founder of Cheesecake Energy, whose breakthrough system eTanker uses thermal energy storage and compressed air to achieve costs that are 30-40% lower than that of the cheapest batteries currently available.
"We all need to remember that energy transition is a journey that is going to be unique to every country – there will be no one size fits all." Erusa Adizie (MEng Electrical & Electronic Engineering 2008) is an Innovation Engineer for a renewable energy company, working on projects with the potential to reduce the emissions produced at power stations and improve the carbon produced from power generation activities.
Achieving net-zero carbon
Imperial alumni around the world are contributing ideas, funding, passion and technical expertise to the carbon-reduction efforts.
Achieving net-zero carbon
Dr Florence Gschwend
“Decarbonising the world’s economy means more than ditching fossil fuels in favour of renewables like solar and wind energy.” Florence Gschwend (MRes Chemistry 2013, PhD Chemical Engineering 2017) is the co-founder of Chrysalix Technologies and the inventor of a new process - BioFlex - that uses ionic liquids as solvents to turn waste wood into valuable raw materials that can be made into new plastics, glues, bulk chemicals and fuels.
Dr Jeremiah Smith
"The next global crisis will be climate so it’s critical for the world to transition to a low carbon economy to curb climate change." Dr Jeremiah Smith (MSc Computing, PhD 2015) is co-founder and Chief Product Officer of environmental startup CarbonChain, enabling companies in the commodities sector to measure the emissions in their supply chains and helping them to take action to reduce those emissions.
Our Imperial: Working towards net zero carbon
"Every single day since graduating my positive energy has been focused on the need to address climate change, particularly in China." In this Imperial magazine feature, three alumni discuss how they are working towards a zero carbon future through their different roles, including Biqing Yang (MSc Environmental Technology 2014), Energy Policy Officer at the British Embassy in Beijing.
Watch our alumni experts in action
Alumni profile: Dr George McGavin
Dr George McGavin (PhD Entomology 1978) shares his love for insects and the natural world
Dr George McGavin (PhD Entomology 1978) is an award-winning author and academic and a regular on television, including as a co-presenter of the BBC series Expedition, and has had several insect species named in his honour. In this short video he shares his love for insects and the natural world, and recalls his Imperial days.
Ocean Plastics: Tackling the Global Challenge
Alumni experts discuss the issue of pollution by plastics, and the innovations that might help
Without immediate and sustained action, we could see the annual flow of plastic into the ocean nearly triple by 2040. In this panel discussion, alumni experts and award-winning students innovating in the sector talk about the issue of pollution by plastics, and the solutions and innovations across the world that might help.
Alumni Spotlight: Peter Rawlinson
Meet Peter Rawlinson (Mechanical Engineering 1979), CEO of electric car manufacturer Lucid Motors
Imperial graduate Peter Rawlinson (Mechanical Engineering 1979), CEO & CTO of electric car manufacturer Lucid Motors joined us for a candid conversation on the environmental crisis and the challenges and opportunities of designing and building electric cars.
Economic recovery and sustainability
Alumni experts discuss the changes required to become 'net zero', and the impact of COVID-19
Sustainability is rising up the agenda of every business and government. But how will the COVID-19 pandemic change the long-term needs and priorities of businesses in the UK, especially in regards to zero-carbon and sustainability? Alumni experts discuss the changes required to become 'net zero', and the plans that have been developed to make this happen.