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Jane Robinson, Dean of Engagement and Place, Newcastle University

28 October 2019, 10:04 UTC Share

Tackling climate change together – through partnerships, policy and engagement

As I write this blog, the impact and realisation of climate change becomes ever more apparent. Amid Brexit, climate change dominates the news – from the recent Queen’s Speech to Extinction Rebellion protests across the country.

We simply cannot – and must not – underestimate the scale and urgency of our climate emergency. At Newcastle University we work with a range of partners and have developed opportunities to play our part in tackling climate change.

Place-based response

Working with our regional partners, including the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and North of Tyne Combined Authority, we are leading the way for the creation of a Net Zero roadmap for the North East. Our ambition is to accelerate de-carbonisation in the North East, ahead of the National Net Zero target of 2050. Alongside Newcastle City Council and the Hospital Trust, we also declared a Climate Emergency in April this year.

As a research-intensive university we are also committed to doing all we can to tackle climate change. Our pioneering spirit and our drive to benefit society has always been at our heart – and at the heart of our city sits Newcastle Helix. Newcastle Helix is a unique partnership between Newcastle City Council, Newcastle University and Legal & General – a partnership based on long-term commitment and a long-term vision to create a new sustainable urban space.

A Ł350 million project, Helix is one of the biggest regeneration projects of its kind in the UK. It is home to commercial space for companies of all sizes and offers physical research capabilities for industry and SMEs to innovate, prototype and test. The testbed site will also be home to the National Innovation Centres for Ageing and Data, due to open next year.

The site, and in particular our Urban Sciences Building, is also making the North East the go-to place for innovative energy solutions. It is from here that the region is increasingly recognised as a world-leader in clean energy technologies. Our solutions to the energy crisis involves working and engaging with academics, industry, public sector partners and citizens to develop the skills and technology needed to address the energy crisis.

Energy Solutions

Among our projects we are revolutionising how the UK designs, constructs and operates buildings, including Smart Grid power networks for electricity storage. We are also working in partnership with Engie to provide energy, heat and cooling to the buildings on site and our new ultra-fast electric vehicle charging facility is due to open very shortly. Our Future Homes project is also developing a range of innovations for future living, including low carbon strategies to minimise heat loss and reduce annual energy usage.

We are also planning for the cities of tomorrow. Our facilities are testing flooding defences for cities and extreme weather events and our Urban Observatory provides publicly available real time data to help develop the cities of the future. The Urban Observatory is the largest sensor deployment in the UK and the largest set of open environmental monitoring data in the world; it’s keeping track of data sets as varied as weather, traffic, air quality, power and gas grids, energy generation and consumption data and helped contribute to Newcastle being voted Smart City of the Year 2019.

By working in partnership, we are tackling climate change. The challenges of climate change are real, but so too are the opportunities for our policy and engagement work. By focusing on ambitious and bold ideas for our region, our work is benefiting local communities and future generations both here and across the globe.

Professor Jane Robinson joined Newcastle University in 2019 as its first Dean of Engagement and Place, focusing on building partnerships to enhance the University’s contribution socially, economically, environmentally and culturally.

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