Climate Solutions Catalyst aims to boost innovation from academic research


Collage - man looks skywards surrounded by a stormy purple sky and innovations

Unique programme aims to untap the potential of academic research to accelerate the efficiency and deployment of climate innovation.

A £1.6 million philanthropic donation from Quadrature Climate Foundation (QCF) has enabled Imperial’s Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment to launch two new initiatives using leading edge research to deliver climate action – the Climate Solutions Catalyst and a Research Fellows programme.

We’ll be asking the question: are UK universities a hotbed of hidden climate innovation? If so, how do we bring to light and nurture this exciting potential to deliver the greatest possible climate impact? If not, why not? Alyssa Gilbert Director of Undaunted & Director of Innovation at the Grantham Institute

The Climate Solutions Catalyst – now actively recruiting – is a novel two-year programme that aims to unearth promising yet untapped climate solutions from the UK’s research community. It will then test how these solutions might best be supported to scale up and make significant impact on our global fight again climate change.

"We are testing the hypothesis that the UK research community has already made discoveries and inventions that can help tackle climate change, if only they can be identified and supported effectively,” says Alyssa Gilbert, Director of Undaunted and Director of Innovation at the Grantham Institute. “We’ll be asking the question: are UK universities a hotbed of hidden talent and solutions in the climate innovation space? If so, how do we go about bringing to light – and nurturing – the exciting potential that exists across our academic institutions to deliver the greatest possible climate impact? If not, why not?"

"As a science-led climate foundation, we are committed to support initiatives accelerating the emergence of innovative climate solutions from research labs," says Jess Ayers, CEO of QCF. "We are also extremely excited to support young researchers to develop their careers while giving them a unique opportunity to participate in our strategic thinking."

The challenge

In the face of climate change, as the window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable existence for future generations rapidly closes, innovation and investment in cleantech has been growing year-on-year. Though many of the solutions needed to tackle climate change are already available there are areas where significant innovation is still required to help us meet global climate objectives.

Innovative ideas come from a diverse range of people and institutions. Established settings such as universities and research institutes play a significant role in knowledge discovery.

In the UK, universities largely operate as disaggregated, independent organisations where scientists have autonomy to explore their ideas, seek funding sources and build teams over their careers. This structure creates a powerful engine of innovation by enabling the essential freedom and creativity required to push the boundaries of research.

It also means that there is a large degree of variation in the support structures available to help people develop innovations with great impact potential. It can also make it challenging to surface ideas that have significant potential in terms of solving global problems through commercialisation or other impact routes.

The challenge is to identify and access the most promising pre-innovation ideas as quickly as possible, wherever they may currently exist in the research ecosystem, and then to help clear a pathway that enables them to have meaningful impact on climate change.

The Climate Solutions Catalyst

The Climate Solutions Catalyst takes a unique, experimental and action-oriented approach to tackling the gap between research and usual innovation funding, with a specific focus on deep-tech science and engineering solutions to climate change.

As well as discovering untapped innovation ideas, the two-year trial phase aims to test the approach and level of support required to help them grow. Interventions to support innovation potential may include securing funding at the end of a research discovery to test its potential beyond lab scale in timely way, or finding the right people to take ideas from an academic setting into a commercialisation context.

A further key dimension of the project will be building relationships with the wider UK research community and other funding and support partners that could make a larger programme a success in future. The findings from the test phase will inform the development of a programme that might offer more substantial support to promising would-be climate innovators.

As well as the development of tools and approaches that can be widely shared with the international academic community, the trial aims to lay the groundwork and community to develop a larger programme which would enable more comprehensive and sophisticated approaches to the initial problem.

Join the team

We are now actively recruiting the Climate Solutions Catalyst team and have four roles available:

We are also keen to hear from potential stakeholders and partners. If you are interested in finding out more about partnership opportunities please contact the Undaunted team.

Find out more about Imperial’s climate innovation-focused programmes, and stay in-the-loop on future vacancies by signing up to Undaunted’s newsletter.

About the collaboration

The Climate Solutions Catalyst builds on the Grantham Institute’s Undaunted initiative, which focuses Imperial College London’s climate innovation activities across academic science, industry, and business.

The initial phase of the project will include sandpit brainstorming exercises with actors across the UK climate, research and innovation ecosystem (e.g. UKRI, university partners, founders, ARIA.) Deep Science Ventures (DSV) and the Imperial co-ordinated UK Universities Climate Network (UUCN) are groups already directly involved in advising or helping to deliver the programme.

Research Fellows in Climate Innovation

QCF's generous philanthropic funding is also enabling a new pair of postdoctoral research positions based at Imperial's Grantham Institute. These new post-docs will be encouraged to carry out their usual academic research, but will also have a role in identifying and assessing priorities where new research is required strategically to move the dial forward in our understanding of climate challenges and solutions. The fellows will work closely with its Director of Innovation, Alyssa Gilbert, and Director of Research, Joeri Rogelj, alongside QCF and other partners across the climate innovation landscape.


Claudia Cannon

Claudia Cannon
The Grantham Institute for Climate Change

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