Imperial will focus its world-leading scientific expertise on some of the most pressing global challenges through a new Global Development Hub.
The Global Development Hub – launched on 29 April 2021 by Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations – aims to maximise the impact of Imperial’s world-leading research, education and innovation to help the world plan for the challenges society will face over the next 50 years.
It will convene Imperial researchers, academic partners, policymakers, NGOs and industry collaborators to accelerate society towards a more resilient, sustainable future and engage with the United Nations Sustainable Agenda 2030.
Building resilient societies
Agreed by world-leaders at a summit in 2015, the Agenda lays out seventeen Sustainable Development Goals to help achieve a better, more sustainable future for all. The goals span a range of issues including health, education, climate change and human rights.
Amina J. Mohammed, who is also Chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group, delivered a keynote address at the virtual launch event on the role of science and technology in building resilient societies.
Speaking in her keynote address, the Deputy Secretary-General said: "In adopting the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, leaders made a bold promise to transform our world by 2030.
"In the past six years, we have seen the SDGs gain traction in institutions and organisations, in schools and city councils like no international agenda has done. And yet, today, when it comes to the promise that matters most – improving the lives of people and the health of the planet – sadly we are still far from where we need to be."
The Deputy Secretary-General argued that science, technology and innovation is absolutely key in a recovery from the pandemic that "lives up to the 2030 Agenda’s principle of leaving no one behind." Health, energy, food and digital connectivity were listed as areas where science could be game changing.
"The Hub speaks to the need to conduct multidisciplinary research, capacity building, peer-learning and knowledge exchange that brings together institutions and partners across the world, that can help us move decisively towards sustainability and equity."
At the launch event, Professor David Nabarro, the World Health Organisation’s Special Envoy on COVID-19 and Co-Director of Imperial’s Institute of Global Health Innovation led a Q&A session with the Deputy Secretary-General. They discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic has made working towards the SDGs more difficult, but how the Agenda is needed more than ever and the key role organisations such as Imperial can play.
The event also featured a roundtable panel discussion with international leaders from the world of science, technology and entrepreneurship. This included Dr Heide Hackmann, CEO of the International Science Council, Ana Avaliani, Head of Enterprise at the Royal Academy of Engineering and Zein Abdalla, Chair of the MasterCard Foundation and College alumnus.
Innovative solutions to shared global challenges
The Global Development Hub will focus on some of the most pressing challenges of our time, including climate change, air pollution, plateauing crop yields in the face of a growing global population, the continuing epidemics of malaria, tuberculosis and HIV and emerging infectious diseases like COVID-19.
Imperial researchers are driving ground-breaking partnerships in support of international development goals. Imperial researchers have developed a partnership between the University of Moratuwa (Sri Lanka) and the American University of Beirut (Lebanon) to set up a conflict-injury hub, worked to boost South Africa’s self-sufficiency in essential medication manufacture and collaborated with the University of Ghana to create novel rapid malaria diagnostics.
Imperial has an established track record of leading multidisciplinary research collaborations, as well as convening a broad spectrum of external partners to work on societal and industrial problems, particularly through the work of established centres and institutes such as the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment, Institute of Global Health Innovation, Centre for Environmental Policy, and Energy Futures Lab.
In the midst of a pandemic and other growing global challenges, the hub will help to accelerate progress towards the SDGs that our researchers have been working on since their inception in 2015. The hub will help to galvanise momentum and build a community around this effort.
Transcending traditional academic disciplines
Speaking at the launch event, Professor Maggie Dallman, Vice President (International) and Associate Provost (Academic Partnerships) said: "We pride ourselves on being a global institution, with two-thirds of our research involving an international collaborator, from more than 130 countries. We are also proud to be developing the next generation of researchers, scientists and global citizens.
"Yet we are also now more than ever making a concerted effort to be deeply embedded with our own community; developing our new campus at White City to support local access to STEM skills and lifelong learning.
"Our staff and students seek to transcend traditional academic disciplines to tackle major societal issues. Challenges like climate change, future energy supplies and antibiotic resistance, and indeed pandemics like COVID-19, can only be tackled by bringing together highly collaborative, multidisciplinary teams with a diversity of voices."
Professor Michael Templeton from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering added: "As a civil engineer who has collaborated with global partners for many years on schistosomiasis and clean water research, I have seen firsthand the impact that developing long-term, equitable, international partnerships can have.
"Imperial has an unrivalled reputation in STEM education and research, and is therefore in a key position to formally draw together and enhance interdisciplinary contributions towards the United Nations Sustainable Agenda 2030, the SDGs."
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