A report launched this month (November 2020) by the Arc Universities Group (AUG) highlights the support offered by universities to support environmental and sustainability goals.
The OU is a member of AUG, a network of universities between Oxford and Cambridge, formed to foster collaboration, research, skills and innovation to support the economic growth of the Oxford to Cambridge Arc region.
AUG has just completed a study examining what is currently being done to support environmental and sustainability goals. The study, led by academics at Cranfield University, reveals an extraordinary breadth of capability in research, innovation, and engagement, with examples being selected from all of the universities.
It has already led to improved collaboration between the member universities. This report has been created as a first step in providing focus and a platform to assist in bringing environmental concerns to the fore as AUG sees to support the economic vision of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc. Home to 3.7M people where the Arc generates more than 2M jobs. If present ambitions are fulfilled, by 2050 it will grow by a further 2M people and at least 1M new jobs.
The OU leads the space stream of the Arc and brings a track record in environmental research to the network. Its research into the environment informed the BBC’s programme, Blue Planet and highlighted the impact of plastic in the world’s oceans. Ongoing research projects are looking at how waste management can be improved and its effect on the COVID-19 pandemic. Reducing energy consumption is another important research area and involves trialling the use of electric vehicles and battery technology, as well as addressing renewable energy, energy consumption, insulation, and solar energy. It is also developing sustainable construction methods and reducing carbon emissions from buildings.
Professor Andy Lane OU representative on the Arc Universities Environmental Partnership Board welcomed the report, noting:
“There is a longstanding environmental call to action known as Think Global, Act Local. As a group of universities with global reach it is also important that we collectively pool our strengths in environmental teaching and research to support environmental action across the Arc by all who live and work in it.”
By uniting the distinct universities across the Oxford-Cambridge region, AUG is working alongside business and government to foster research, skills and innovation to support growth, inclusivity and resilience across the region.
Currently hailed as one of the most dynamic and innovative places in the world, the Arc has a record of accomplishment in terms of innovation, contributing c. £110 billion in GVA to the UK economy. The universities that make up AUG are major contributors to this record of achievement; with a combined annual turnover of £5Bn, they contribute £13Bn to the economy every year.
As the world moves towards a lower carbon economy and public demand for tangible exemplars of low carbon living grow, the Arc, supported by some of the best universities in the world, is poised to deliver this in practice.