The N8 Research Partnership has announced the recipients of second stage awards as part of the Collabor8 Fund, following on from first stage funding awarded in June 2022.
The Collabor8 Fund has been established to mobilise proactive researcher-led communities of scale across the N8 and create a culture shift in collaborative working.
The theme for the first call was ‘The Road to 2050’, which encompasses both technological and societal challenges associated with meeting the UK’s (and world’s) net zero commitments. This also aligns with the N8’s current priority theme, Net Zero North.
The Collabor8 Fund supports the development of vibrant and diverse communities that harness the strengths of the N8 universities and their partners, with new perspectives on meeting the urgent need to transition to a net zero world.
Second stage funding has been awarded to several communities to enable them to continue to grow and realise the potential for multi-institutional collaboration in the areas that play to the distinctive strengths of the N8 universities and where the scale and complexity of the challenge requires an ambitious, pan-university approach.
Of the five communities who were awarded first stage funding, four have been successful in their application for a second stage award. Each community will receive £25,000 in additional funding to continue to expand their network over the next 18 months. The four communities are:
N8 Network for Climate and Health Co-benefits
Led by a collaboration of academics and professional services staff from the Universities of Leeds, Liverpool and York, the N8 Network for Climate and Health Co-benefits is seeking to develop solutions that will help protect human life from the direct threat of the climate crisis.
Professor Andy Morse of the University of Liverpool commented: “’The second phase allows us the cement the relationships made initially between Leeds, Liverpool and York whose interests range across a diverse but connected areas of research.
“A key focus for the network will be on identifying solutions for achieving co-benefits from climate action, maximising the benefits to health and wellbeing, while also protecting the environment, building resilient communities and reducing social injustice.
Professor Piran White of the University of York added: “Building on our joint experience in the UK and elsewhere in the world, we are currently at an early stage of co-producing training materials. We are building our steering structure to encourage and invite participation from other N8 Universities. We plan to refine some of the bibliometric analysis that was undertaken in the first phase to include a wider range of relevant search terms and additional N8 institutes within the scope. Further, within the three Universities the initiative is drawing in a wider set of participants to join in the production of materials.”
Environmental Challenges from Marine Renewable Energy Infrastructure
Led by Dr Pablo Ouro from the University of Manchester, the community is exploring mitigation strategies in response to the anticipated, unintended impacts of marine renewables upon biodiversity.
Dr Pablo Ouro commented: “The second phase of our N8 network will attempt to look out for challenges that may arise from the large-scale deployment of Marine Renewable Infrastructure, including offshore wind, tidal stream energy or floating solar PV.
“Our network comprises experts across different fields and is working with stakeholders, such as the National Centre of Atmospheric Science and The Crown Estate, to deliver research-informed guidelines so that the net zero targets are met with an appropriate integration of renewable energy technologies in the environment.”
Network for Innovative Sustainable Transportation Co-Simulation
The Network for Innovative Sustainable Transportation Co-Simulation (NIST-CS) received second stage funding to enhance its growing network of researchers studying the application of collaborative-simulation (co-simulation) capabilities in sustainable transport applications across the North of England and beyond.
NIST-CS is led by Dr Zhongbei Tian (University of Liverpool), Dr David Golightly (Newcastle University) and Dr Zhiyuan Lin (University of Leeds). Dr Zhongbei Tian commented: “We will organise events to disseminate the nationwide innovation studies to tackle the technical challenges of integrating diverse decarbonisation models.
“This second stage award will allow us to broaden the community to understand a diverse range of factors (behaviour, performance, policy) that need to be understood to maximise the simulation impact.”
Carbon Operational Net Zero
Led by Dr Simon Breeden (University of York), Dr Beth Upex (Durham University) and Mel Leitch (Newcastle University), Carbon Operational Net Zero (CONZ) is utilising the expertise of technicians in laboratories and research and teaching facilities to share best practices for achieving net zero targets.
Dr Simon Breeden commented: “This additional phase two support from the N8 will allow the CONZ team to engage with technicians across the N8 group of universities, and others in the North, around the critical area of net zero to help tackle the climate crisis.
“Technicians in universities have brilliantly innovative ideas to address this challenge and working closely with staff and students we will look at actions we can take now to move towards net zero. Through the N8 and the Technician Commitment, we will build a new vibrant community to share those best practice actions and thus drive behavioural change within current practical teaching and learning spaces to deliver the target of net zero by 2030.”
The Road Map to Success: The Net Zero Carbon Campus (Campus Zero) community, which was awarded first stage funding, opted not to apply for second stage funding, on the grounds that they are planning to progress directly to seek larger external funding to support their work. They have also established strong links with the N8 Campus Decarbonisation Group and will continue to support their work.
Stephen Parkinson, N8 Research Partnership Manager, said: “These communities that have received second stage funding are demonstrating the collective strength of northern universities in addressing climate change and the N8’s priority theme of Net Zero.
“The success of these schemes wouldn’t be possible without the leadership within each community. We would very much encourage any researchers across the N8 who can contribute to any of the communities, but are currently not engaged with them, to do so.”