Tackling global challenges
Imperial’s pioneering research in sustainability is helping to shape a cleaner future for all. Through our highly-collaborative and multidisciplinary approaches, the College contributes significantly to the science, policy and innovation guiding the transition to a more sustainable society. From fundamental discoveries about our planet’s climate system, to development of low-carbon technologies, the ground-breaking research undertaken in our faculties, centres, networks and Global Challenge Institutes will allow us to develop new insights and knowledge to help make sustainable change.
The Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment sits at the heart of our work on climate change and the environment and is one of six Global Institutes established to promote inter-disciplinary working and to meet some of the greatest challenges faced by society. The Energy Futures Lab is another of our institutes which aims to tackle major sustainability challenges by promoting energy innovation and advancing systemic solutions for a sustainable energy future.
The Environmental Research Group, part of the School of Public Health, is a leading provider of air quality information and research in the UK, combining air pollution science, toxicology and epidemiology to determine the impacts of air pollution on health. In the Imperial College Business School, the Leonardo Centre for Sustainable Business envisions a society where companies pursue profit for societal impact, exploring and experimenting with the transition to sustainable and inclusive logics of enterprise.
The Centre for Responsible Leadership at the Business School will help businesses redefine their approach to leadership through evidence-based research that addresses the key economic, social, environmental and technological challenges facing organisations today.
We are also creating a Centre for Climate Change Innovation which will bring together a critical mass of expertise around climate change solutions technology to catalyse the development of a world leading climate change innovation cluster. All these efforts bring together the science, engineering, medicine, business and policy expertise at the College and foster collaboration with a wide variety of external partners.
Teaching the leaders of the future
We know students are looking for a better understanding of the many challenges we face and of the solutions coming on-stream, many of which are being developed through our own research. A growing number of students recognise that sustainability questions will dominate their careers, whatever professional path they take – including those destined for leadership roles in industry, the public sector and civil society. We will respond to student and societal needs both by building sustainability into the curriculum and increasing the number of sustainability courses. This will also provide access to relevant modules and courses to all students, and increase our focus on the skills required to lead and drive change.
Our diverse offering of courses includes the BSc in Ecology and Environmental Biology which enables students to focus their study on important ecological and environmental topics such as climate change, biodiversity and conservation. The Silwood Park Campus – our global centre for research and teaching in ecology, evolution, and conservation – is home to a variety of postgraduate courses such as the MRes in Ecosystem and Environmental Change. We are also training future leaders in the sustainability field through courses such as our MSc in Sustainable Energy Futures and our MSc in Climate Change, Management and Finance.
The application of scientific knowledge, policy and engineering to solve environmental problems and address sustainability is also a focus of our MSc in Environmental Technology, through which students acquire a diverse range of discipline-specific problem-solving frameworks for tackling contemporary environmental issues. These specialist courses are complemented by a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate opportunities to learn more about sustainability through additional module options, such as our I-Explore STEMM modules on Climate Change – Science and Solutions, and the Horizons Programme for undergraduates. Our suite of free online courses, including our edX courses, encourage our wider community to engage and learn more about sustainability research at the College.
Engaging with policymakers
The Forum, Imperial’s policy engagement programme, has been helping Imperial researchers contribute to key public policy debates around sustainability. On the topic of air quality, The Forum organised for two researchers to brief Department for Transport officials and the Chief Scientific Adviser, and supported the Environmental Research Group in the School of Public Health to respond to the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee inquiry into air quality. The Forum also organises bespoke workshops for civil servants to hear about Imperial research on various topics, including the circular economy, city fires, plastics, and water management and flooding. The College’s multi-faculty networks provide an opportunity for researchers from across Imperial to bring together expertise from their respective fields to address environmental problems and support evidence-informed policy development.
The Ocean Plastic Solutions Network, for example, contributes to the Greener Plastic Future project, which aims to create a technical, socio-economic and policy roadmap for how the UK can prevent waste plastics from entering the environment. A focus on evidence-based policy making is also at the heart of the Centre for Environmental Policy’s mission to provide a unique and interdisciplinary research interface between science and technology, and the economic and policy context in which it is developed and applied.
Promoting the next generation of entrepreneurs through our Enterprise Lab programmes is just one of the many ways in which the College supports the development of sustainable enterprise. Flagship programmes such as WE Innovate, which champions female entrepreneurs, and the Venture Catalyst Challenge provide unique opportunities for Imperial students and alumni to develop innovative ideas for commercialisation.
The Faculty of Natural Sciences Make-a-Difference competition brings together undergraduate students in teams to develop low-cost technology for societal benefit. Companies such as BIO-F Solutions have benefited from Enterprise Lab support to advance their aim of transforming the way our food is produced by developing eco-friendly fertilisers. Welcoming new sustainability startups to the Imperial White City Incubator community also enables our entrepreneurial activity to drive our ambition for a sustainable society.
A number of startups have joined the Incubator community to advance their technologies for renewable energy and sustainable food industries. Multus Media, formed by Imperial students, is developing next-generation growth media to enable the cultivated meat industry to scale production and make more affordable products; RFC Power is developing a low-cost, long-duration battery with the aim of facilitating the transition to 100% renewable energy. The College is committed to working with industry for a greener future, exerting our influence by engaging with wider society through key stakeholders.
The Endowment and other investments are a key part of the College. They support the mission through the income they generate and act consistently with, and as part of, the College’s vision, mission and values. The College’s Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) Policy will ensure that any investment decisions take into account the same social, environmental and governance concerns as the College, including pursuing an active approach to engagement with its investments in all asset classes. This proactive approach is at the core of the College’s mission and an SRI Engagement Group has been established to develop and implement methods to monitor and assess progress we are making to influence fossil fuel companies through our research, collaborations and education programmes and as a world leading university.