New global centre of air pollution research as Frank Kelly group joins Imperial


polluting cars

Imperial is to become the world’s leading centre for the study of air pollution, as Frank Kelly becomes the inaugural Battcock Chair.

A top advisor to the UK government, author of 350 high-impact research papers and leader of the London Air Quality Network, Professor Kelly’s work spans air pollution research from toxicology to science policy. 

Professor Frank KellyHaving served as Chair of Environmental Health at King’s College London, Professor Kelly joins Imperial’s School of Public Health on 1 April, with his 68-strong Environmental Research Group transferring to the College on 1st July. They will occupy a new custom-built research lab in White City

The move creates a global focal point for air pollution research, bringing together one of the largest clusters of expertise in the field anywhere in the world. 

The new Battcock Chair of Community Health and Policy at Imperial, Professor Kelly is renowned for advancing our understanding of air pollution. His Environmental Research Group is a collective of 68 researchers working on air quality. All major air pollution strategies in London use emissions and air pollution models developed by the group. They shaped London’s pathbreaking congestion charge and Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ), charging vehicles in central London that do not meet emissions standards and contributing to emissions estimated at 30% lower than they would be without the policy. 

Scaling-up expertise

Imperial plans to scale-up this extraordinary concentration of expertise, building on, and collaborating with, the College’s existing world-class groups in the field. 

Dr Audre de Nazelle is among the existing air quality experts at Imperial

Imperial’s Air Quality Network already includes multidisciplinary experts such as health economist Dr Laure de Preux, who is helping local authorities quantify the ‘hidden costs’ of air pollution, Dr Audrey de Nazelle, whose work at the intersection of environmental sciences, health behaviour, transportation and urban planning is helping develop health-promoting built environments and policies, lung cell biologist Professor Terry Tetley who is an authority on pulmonary diseases related to inhaled toxicants, and Professor Fan Chung who has demonstrated the scale of the negative impacts of urban air pollution on cardiovascular and respiratory health. 

Air pollution researchers investigating the impact of wildfires in Imperial's Data Science Institute

Professor Kelly already has significant collaborations with Imperial researchers, including through the MRC Centre for Environment and Health, which he co-leads with Professor Paul Elliott, Chair of Epidemiology and Public Health Medicine.

Prioritising air quality

Humphrey Battcock’s vision and generosity in funding this chair will lead to better science, smarter policymaking and enable us to develop healthier cities for generations to come. Professor Alice Gast President

Air pollution has become central to scientific and policy concerns, as 91% of the world’s population now lives in places where air quality exceeds World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, with around seven million people dying from the effects of air pollution annually. 

The news comes a week after Imperial launched a set of major initiatives in the fight against climate change, including the Transition to Zero Pollution research and education programme. 

The Battcock Chair in Community Health and Policy is endowed by a £2.5 million gift from Humphrey Battcock, the philanthropist and investor.

Professor Frank Kelly, the new Battcock Chair at Imperial College London, said: “With bold, realistic and moral leadership, there is enormous potential to reduce air pollution and end its toll on our health. We have never been so well equipped to tackle this profoundly important set of challenges. Imperial is the ideal place to reshape research and policy to improve our quality of life.  I am very much looking forward to working with colleagues at Imperial to further advance our ability to examine the health impacts of air pollution and devise policy options to improve air quality for all.”

Professor Alice Gast, President of Imperial College London, said: “We are thrilled to have Professor Frank Kelly and his brilliant Environmental Research Group join Imperial. They build on a very strong set of foundations in air quality research, as Imperial’s expertise empowers scientists and policymakers to work towards a world without pollution. 

“Humphrey Battcock’s vision and generosity in funding this chair will lead to better science, smarter policymaking and enable us to develop healthier cities for generations to come.” 

Humphrey Battcock said: “Pollution is one of the biggest public health threats of our time and is causing huge damage to the environment, people’s health and quality of life. It is also less well understood by the general public than, for example, the threat from smoking notwithstanding that recent research indicates that it is of similar detriment. There is a very real risk to the sustainability of society unless we start making radical changes based on the research of world-leading experts. Funding this vital research will enable us to understand even more about this global threat. Imperial is well placed to carry out this research and get results.”


Andrew Scheuber

Andrew Scheuber
Communications Division

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