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Cambridge Forum for Sustainability and the Environment


Our third topic was 'risk, resilience and response', we explored a different theme each term, including food and water supply resilience, resilient cities and energy resilience. 

Forum meetings

Over the course of the year, researchers from 32 University of Cambridge departments, institutes and centres joined a rich mixture of policy- and decision-makers from governments and businesses, and technical experts to explore these three themes. Most of the witnesses came from outside Cambridge and this year, they included technical experts from the Joint Research Centre (JRC), Ofgem and the Met Office and companies such as Google Deepmind, Microsoft Research and Willis Group, and academics from University College London and the University of Bradford. 

Each month, a panel of three of them provided their perspective on the gaps in our knowledge and burning questions for future research.  These introductions acted as a springboard for the discussion during the rest of the meeting and over an informal working dinner. Between 20 and 30 people take part and Forum members formed the ‘core’ of each meeting. Internal and external guests and early career researchers who work in the area under discussion also provided specialised input. 


Three reports highlight key ideas and future research questions generated during the Forum meetings under each of these themes.

Public events

More than 300 people came to two events to explore how our perception of extreme environmental risks influences the actions we decide to take, and to question a panel of eminent mountaineers, a glaciologist and two Tibetan scholars about the changes they have seen in the Himalayas over their lifetimes, what those changes indicate and the future challenges surrounding environmental stewardship of these extreme environments. 


The first three meetings of the year were co-hosted with the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission under a new MOU to enhance inter-institutional collaboration, signed in September. These formed the core of a pilot study to explore common interests related to sustainability and the green economy and was the result of inviting Dr Alan Belward, the Head of the Land Resource Management Unit, to be a witness at the Forum in December 2014.

The Forum is currently acting as a key contact point to explore potential research opportunities between researchers at Cambridge and JRC. This ‘bridging’ role has resulted in a joint report: 'Making resilience work: JRC & University of Cambridge perspectives on research and education opportunities for Europe’s sustainable future'. A second co-produced report entitled ‘Opportunities and next steps for collaborative research between the Joint Research Centre & the University of Cambridge’ further explores complimentary themes and collaborative potential, and outlines mechanisms to facilitate this work. This has just been submitted to the Director General of JRC and our Vice Chancellor to ask for their continued support to explore a broader range of areas, under the evolving relationship between the UK and the EU.

To help facilitate this collaboration, an EPSRC Institutional Sponsorship Grant of £20,000 was given to a joint project between the Forum (led by Prof. Paul Linden, Prof. Alan O’Neill and Prof. Ian Leslie) and the Global Security and Crisis Management Unit at JRC. This four-month project started in December 2016 and employed a Cambridge-based research assistant, Adrià Descals Ferrando. He worked with two of JRC’s remote-sensing datasets which describe the location of urban settlements and changes in global surface water resources over the last 30 years. The aim of the project was to explore ways in which combining these two data layers could provide information to inform policy and provide faster responses to environmental extremes and acute threats. 

If you would like more information about Forum meetings or these themes, please contact Dr Rosamunde Almond () and Dr Konstantina Stamati ()

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The meetings about food and water resilience were jointly hosted with the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Commission's in-house science service.

Find out more about their work