At our new innovation campus in White City, our Community Engagement team is working with the Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environmental Research Group to engage local residents and community groups in sustainability research and policy development – focusing on the challenges faced by urban areas and particularly for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities.

In recent years, we have been reaching out to community groups and organisations from across the local area and have been holding workshops with residents to enhance our understanding of local sustainability concerns and priorities, as well as sharing findings and toolkits with policy makers in local government. The next stage of our engagement is to develop localised networks that bring together researchers and residents to investigate sustainability issues and develop evidence-based actions and policies that can make a difference to people’s lives.

One action we have taken, in partnership with the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, has been to support the work of Arborea, one of a number of sustainability startups on the White City Campus to develop pioneering ‘BioSolar Leaf’ technology to improve air quality. The technology, the first of its kind in the world, purifies the air through the photosynthesis of microscopic plants, removing greenhouse gases from the environment whilst generating breathable oxygen.

We have been working closely with the SRI Engagement Group, which has been established to develop and implement methods to monitor and assess progress the College is making in influencing fossil fuel companies through its research and collaborations, education programmes and influence as a world-leading university.

Public engagement

We deliver a varied programme of activities to engage and involve young people, adults and families with sustainability issues and research. We will expand and improve on these programmes, with a focus on reaching people typically underrepresented and underserved in this area.

Our Great Exhibition Road Festival (previously known as the Imperial Festival) has regularly featured a Green Zone exploring environmental and sustainability issues, attracting thousands of visitors each year. In 2021, the Festival will include an even greater emphasis on climate change with a new interactive area designed to empower young families to work towards a cleaner and greener future.

In addition, our popular Imperial Lates series regularly features activities focused on sustainability themes, connecting our researchers with adult audiences through creative, memorable experiences. The Greenovate Late in 2018 engaged 700 visitors, with 81% of attendees saying they went away with a better understanding of how Imperial is working to tackle the environmental challenges we face, while 88% of attendees felt they had the opportunity to discuss these issues with researchers. Twenty Imperial teams participated from research areas such as air pollution, ocean plastics and water management.

Schools outreach

Sustainability features prominently in our outreach programmes designed to support science learning for young people at school. We are developing additional opportunities for researchers to work with pupils in our on-campus outreach spaces (at the Wohl Reach Out Lab at our South Kensington Campus and the Dangoor Reach Out Makerspace at the White City Campus) and are providing activities for young people to engage with the College’s sustainability research.

Our two-way engagement practice is designed to empower participants and enhance our research. For example, our Maker Challenge programmes at The Invention Rooms in White City work with school-aged participants to develop creative ideas to solve real-world problems, most of which are linked to sustainability, climate change and waste. We have worked intensively with nearly 500 young people, while more than 2,500 people have taken part in events and taster sessions. We will embed more of our research into these programmes to provide further opportunities for discourse with local young people, their families and teachers.

Global engagement

The United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is one of the most ambitious and important global agreements in recent history. Universities, with their broad remit around the creation and dissemination of knowledge and their unique position within society, are key actors in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As a world leading STEM institution, we recognise our urgent and critical role in accelerating society towards a resilient, sustainable future and we believe that the College has an important role to play in supporting the SDG agenda.

The recently established Global Development Hub showcases Imperial’s global impact on sustainable development and the SDGs.

The Global Development Hub offers:

  • a community-building network to support new multidisciplinary and cross-sectoral research partnerships focused on global development challenges, bringing together academia, government, policy makers, NGOs, civil society and industry;
  • a platform to support education and student experience, linking to and developing programmes that instil in our students a passion for sustainable development, and the skills and thinking needed to rise to the challenge of the SDGs and their legacy;
  • a series of SDG-focused access points to the research and innovation ecosystem at Imperial, covering dozens of research centres of excellence and profiling the mission-driven startups, SMEs and industry research centres constantly emerging from our labs, hackspaces and incubators.