Imperial College London

7 ways Imperial made the world a greener place in 2018


Queen's Tower viewed from below with yellow flowers in the foreground.

Imperial researchers are advancing our vision for a sustainable, resilient, zero-carbon future.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which launched its Special Report on 1.5 degrees Celsius at Imperial College London in October, warns of the dire consequences of allowing global warming to reach 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. International negotiations that took place in Katowice, Poland continue to send a clear message that drastic measures must be taken to cut emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

The Grantham Institute is at the heart of Imperial’s activities on climate change and the environment, bringing together cutting-edge research in science, technology and medicine; education and training for future leaders; funding and opportunities for start-ups and entrepreneurs; and translation of evidence-based information to those outside the research world. Details of our work is published in the latest edition of our annual magazine, the Grantham Institute Outlook 2018-19.

“The Grantham Institute’s education, research, engagement and advocacy mission is hugely important for the world today and for future generations”, said Professor Alice P. Gast, President of Imperial College London. “The Institute is building on strong research foundations and informing policy by engaging audiences, from local communities to global leaders”.

Here are 7 ways researchers at Imperial are contributing to world-class research, training and innovation towards effective action on climate change and the environment:

Pushing forwards climate action

Person on a scooter going past the sign for COP24Imperial experts were directly involved in the preparation of the IPCC Special Report. Dr Joeri Rogelj, Grantham Institute's Lecturer in Climate Change and the Environment, coordinated and led a chapter on climate change and sustainable development, and Professor Jim Skea, co-chair of Working Group III, had responsibility for the report and its dissemination. Many more, from across the college are working to understand the climate system, what the future could look like and how society can transition to a sustainable, zero-carbon world. A delegation from Imperial consisting of 12 academics, students and communication professionals, made up some of the official ‘observers’ of the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Find out more about their activity at COP24.

The Imperial startup helping farmers cope with climate change

Imperial researchers James Alden and Paul Baranowski and alumnus Gabriel Brueckner have designed a pioneering low-cost weather station to help small-holder farmers in tropical countries like Uganda in east Africa, where coffee growing is big business. Their creation, ‘Climate-Edge’, can be placed among crops to monitor factors such as temperature and humidity. This information will help the farmers to boost crop quality in the face of climate change.

Transforming Imperial into an exemplar of sustainability

Graphic with the words "Drink Refill Repeat"Grantham Institute staff, students and affiliates are leading the Greening Imperial initiative to improve the College’s sustainability credentials. An early success has seen single-use plastic cups removed from dining areas, significantly reducing the estimated 850,000 that were given away last year across the College. Aspirations include increasing the amount of biodiversity and green space across the campuses and appointing a Director of Sustainability.

Leading the way on tackling ocean plastic

Sky Ocean Ventures will work with the Grantham Institute to protect the environment by supporting promising business and scientific innovations and sharing inspiring messages about the benefits of eliminating plastic waste. Skipping Rocks Lab, whose pioneering plant-based water bottle replacement Ooho! was developed at Imperial, is one of the first start-ups to benefit from a £25 million commitment by global media company Sky plc. The partnership also harnesses academic expertise from the College’s Ocean Plastic Solutions Network.

Boosting crop resilience to climate change and disease

3 members of Phytoform Labs holding a cheque for 8000Phytoform Labs, a start-up founded by PhD students Will Pelton and Nicolas Kral, claimed first prize in the White City Incubator Innovators’ Programme, winning £8,000 and membership to the White City Incubator hub. Participants in the Climate-KIC Accelerator programme, Phytoform Labs use gene editing technologies to hone plant breeds in months rather than decades. Their work could increase yields and improve the economics of breeding valuable vegetable crops, as well as boost resilience to climate change and diseases.

Revolutionising the future of plastic recycling

A team of four undergraduate students won the Faculty of Natural Sciences Make-A-Difference competition for their work using infrared spectroscopy to develop a low-cost tool to identify different types of plastics. Hans Chan, Martin Holicky, James Kung and David Dai make up Team Matoha, and hope that their tool (named PlasTell) will improve how plastics are sorted and lead to more waste being recycled rather than going to landfill. Matoha have since joined the Climate-KIC Greenhouse programme at Imperial.

Developing next-generation batteries

A consortium led by Grantham Affiliate Dr Greg Offer will receive funding worth £10 million from the UK’s national energy storage institute, the Faraday Institution, to develop next generation batteries through multi-scale modelling. Seven universities and seventeen industry partners aim to equip industry and academia with new software tools to understand and predict battery performance in order to extend the lifetime and performance of electric vehicles. The Imperial team also includes Professor Aron Walsh, Dr Billy Wu, Dr Sam Cooper, and Dr Monica Marinescu.

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Lottie Butler

Lottie Butler
The Grantham Institute for Climate Change


Environment, Strategy-multidisciplinary-research, Climate-change, Strategy-decision-makers
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