University of Bath sets up special institute to lead research into tackling urgent climate crisis issues

January 19, 2023

A new Institute for Sustainability that will bring together expertise in tackling the most pressing climate and sustainability issues has been launched by the University of Bath.

Led by leading sustainability academics at the university, research at the institute will be focused around two themes: sustainable chemical technologies and sustainable systems. 

The sustainable chemical technologies strand will use chemistry and chemical engineering to develop molecules, materials and manufacturing processes to enable a circular economy with products and materials repurposed or recycled after use instead of being discarded as waste.

Research projects will include developing renewable alternatives to petrochemicals used in materials, fuels and chemicals, and developing high-performance materials that can be recycled or degraded at their end of life.

The Sustainable Systems theme takes a whole-systems approach to measuring and embedding sustainability in decision-making.

This will involve assessing the full environmental footprint of different products and activities, allowing researchers to predict what choices will lead to more sustainable outcomes in practice, and avoiding ‘burden shifting’ or ‘green washing, where one type of environmental impact is reduced but another increased.

The institute, led by Profs Matthew Davidson and Marcelle McManus, will work with industrial partners to apply its methods to develop sustainable products, and use its findings to inform policy, legislation and industrial practice.

It is an evolution of the university’s Centre for Sustainable and Circular Technologies (CSCT), which was founded in 2008 to train the next generation of chemists and chemical engineers in sustainable chemical technologies, and nurture research collaborations with industry that promote the circular economy and help the UK achieve net zero.

Institute for Sustainability (IfS) co-director Prof Davidson said: “We’re very excited to continue building on the research successes of the CSCT by establishing the new Institute.

“The IfS will bring together a unique range of technical expertise in fundamental and applied research in sustainability taking a whole systems approach.”

Co-director Prof McManus added: “The new institute will apply interdisciplinarity across all university’s activities – education and training, fundamental and applied research, international collaboration, policy, public engagement and knowledge exchange activities.

“We look forward to working to create and provide solutions to some of these global challenges.” 

University of Bath vice-chancellor and president Prof Ian White said establishing the institute came at a crucial moment in the global climate emergency.

“Building on the CSCT’s strong foundations, the institute will be able to increase the reach and capacity of this vital work, using an interdisciplinary whole systems approach to help to drive the change needed to tackle the climate crisis,” he added.

Bath MP Wera Hobhouse welcomed the launch of the institute, saying: “With the environmental and ecological crisis being the overarching issue of today, a joint approach between sectors is absolutely essential to tackling them.

“Professors Matthew Davidson, Marcelle McManus and everyone who contributed to the CSCT should be immensely proud of the launch.

“The new Institute is a shining example of what environmental innovation should look like. I wish you all the best of luck in this new endeavour and I will be watching eagerly for the next steps.”


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