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New project set to transform GW4 universities into ‘Living Labs’

New project set to transform GW4 universities into ‘Living Labs’

The GW4 Climate Alliance is launching a six-month pilot project to establish a ‘Living Labs’ network across the four institutions of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter.

The project, funded by a £50K investment from the GW4 Alliance, aims to accelerate the transition towards net zero university campuses – a process that will impact many activities including research, learning and teaching, on-site operations, and supply chains.

The term net zero refers to the target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, by balancing the amount produced with emissions being removed from the atmosphere.

Experts from the GW4 Climate Alliance will focus on using the four universities as ‘living labs’ to test solutions to the most challenging sustainability issues, particularly reducing ‘scope three’ carbon emissions, such as those from purchases and travel.

The project will seek to build consensus on priority challenges and solutions; amplify existing student-led sustainability projects; and hold a Net Zero Transformation workshop with external stakeholders including local authorities, civil society organisations, business and funders.

The GW4 Alliance has already funded a number of research communities, via the GW4 Generator Fund awards, who are keen to engage with the project and net zero agenda.

Seeking solutions

Outcomes will inform change across GW4 campuses, such as scaling work through external funding, supporting pedagogic development, and further innovative working culture and practices.

Professor Pete Walker, from the University of Bath, is academic lead for the project. He said: “The GW4 universities have all agreed ambitious targets to be net zero, which will require transformative ways of working, research, skills training, and engaging students, researchers, operational staff as well as wider stakeholders.

“In this new GW4 Climate Alliance network, we aim to accelerate this process using a living labs approach to connect climate action and academic work with non-academic activities to help solve major sustainability challenges. Universities have an invaluable opportunity to use our research on campuses and with wider communities to co-create, explore, test, evaluate and implement net zero solutions.”

GW4 Alliance Director Dr Joanna Jenkinson MBE said: “I’m delighted to see funding for this pilot programme, demonstrating our commitment to supporting the UK Government’s ambition of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, while also being in line with the 2021 UK Innovation Strategy.

“Climate change solutions require dramatic shifts in organisations, not just communities. By establishing GW4 universities as ‘living labs for change’, we are committed to addressing our own sustainability responsibilities as well as providing exemplary practice to other organisations striving to achieve sustainability and net zero targets.“

  • The GW4 Climate Alliance is looking for student-led projects on net zero and sustainability. Find out more by joining the online community here.
University of Bath
University of Bristol
Cardiff University
University of Exeter