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Cambridge Forum for Sustainability and the Environment


Between October 2015 and June 2016, our topic was 'Risk, resilience and response' and each term, we explored a different theme.

First, we focused on food and water supply resilience. We jointly hosted these three meetings with the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission and we are co-producing a brief white paper for EC policy makers identifying future research gaps and opportunities in this area.

Between January and March 2016, we built on the discussions we had during our first topic and focus on resilient cities and ways in which big data and technology will shape the way we view and live in cities of the future. 

In April, May and June we explored energy resilience. Our expert witnesses helped us to explore research questions related to using bioenergy based on photosynthesis as a deployable and sustainable energy source for off–grid situations. 

As in previous years, a panel of three expert 'witnesses' from across and beyond Cambridge joined us each month. They were a rich mixture of policy- and decision-makers from governments and businesses , and technical experts and each of them will provide their perspective on the gaps in our knowledge and burning questions for future research.


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. The aim of this four-month 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. 

It started in December 2016 and employed a Cambridge-based research assistant, Adrià Descals Ferrando, a forestry engineer and remote sensing specialist. 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. A summary of the project's key findings will be available later this year.

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