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The power of partnership is highlighted as newenvironmental research programmes are unveiled at the BAFestival of Science

10.09.2007
Issued by the Natural Environment Research Council on behalf of the Environment Research Funders' Forum.

The power of partnership is highlighted as new environmental research programmes are unveiled at the BA Festival of Science in York.

The power of partnership is helping the UK research community respond to the environmental issues we face today. By joining forces, the members of the Environment Research Funders' Forum (ERFF) have produced the first comprehensive survey of environmental research funded through the public purse in the UK.

The 'Strategic Analysis of UK Environmental Research Activity', published today (10 September 2007), provides a one-year snapshot of who is funding what. As a result of cooperation between ERFF members, another new partnership research programme, 'Living With Environmental Change' (LWEC), is about to begin.

Professor Howard Dalton, Chief Scientific Adviser for Defra, said, "We are currently facing serious consequences from the global effects of climate change and natural resource depletion. If we are to live in a more sustainable way in the future, we need to focus our research activities towards finding long-term solutions and I would therefore like to see part of the UK's increase in research funding targeted towards environmental research."

He added, "The UK is ranked second in the world in terms of environmental research activity and the gap with the leader, the United States, is closing in some areas. ERFF now needs to consider how world class environmental research translates into economic benefits for society and quality of life."

The analysis provides an overview of public spending by ERFF members during 2004-05, looking in particular at 12 priority areas. In all, around 6,000 projects totalling £260 million were identified, categorised and analysed. The results give an idea of the amounts being spent on research and training in the 12 categories.

For example, the analysis shows that the largest proportion of funding (£104 million) went on natural resources research, followed closely by farming, fisheries, food, forestry and land use (£95 million) and climate change (£68 million). At the other end of the scale, human health (£6 million), and flooding and flood defence research (£6 million) received the lowest amounts of funding.

Environmental issues have moved up the agenda in the two years since this survey began and we are already seeing some changes in the prioritisation of research to reflect this. For example, the Research Councils have set up a major energy programme (Towards a Sustainable Energy Economy), which includes the (now established) UK Energy Research Centre.

Steve Killeen, Chair of ERFF, said, "The funding analysis is the first demonstration of how vital ERFF is in bringing together public bodies with a common goal. It will help the partners to refine their research strategies and fill the gaps where more research is needed. The first stage in this joining of strategies is a new 10-year partnership programme 'Living with Environmental Change', which will provide decision makers with the best information to effectively manage and protect vital 'ecosystem services'."

Building on the UK's world-leading strengths in climate modelling and prediction, the research programme will bring together a wide range of people and skills. Environmental scientists, engineers and medical researchers will work alongside social scientists and economists to look at the complex and interconnected relationship between societies and their changing environments.

Professor Alan Thorpe, the Natural Environment Research Council's Chief Executive, said, " We depend on clean air and water, food, and fuel in our lives but these resources are under increasing pressure. The LWEC programme will identify opportunities for more sustainable ways of using them. It will also help us to learn how the Earth's complex systems that sustain economic and social development are likely to respond to change. That knowledge will help us to adapt and become more resilient, and will enable businesses and governments to make the right decisions and choices about the future."

The LWEC partners are the main funders of environmental science in the UK and many of them are also members of the ERFF. Over the next few months they will design a set of common objectives to build a research strategy based on both the UK's policy needs and its strengths in research and policy development.

More information:

NERC press office, tel. 01793 411727 / 01793 411561 or email pressoffice@nerc.ac.uk Julia Short, RCUK press office, tel. 07917 557215 (Julia will be at the BA Festival in York) Mary Barkham, Secretary, ERFF tel. 01793 411583

Notes for editors:

1. The ERFF are unveiling the environmental funding analysis and the LWEC programme during a networking lunch on Monday 10 September. The event is being held in the Vanbrugh Restaurant at the University of York, on 10 September, starting at 12.30pm and running until 2.00pm.

2. Journalists are invited to join the lunchtime event or can arrange interviews with Professsor Dalton, Professor Thorpe and Steve Killeen by contacting Julia Short, Research Councils UK press officer on 07917 557215

3. ERFF brings together the UK's major public sector sponsors of environmental science, aiming to make best possible use of funding. ERFF concentrates on activities that:clearly add value, could not be done by a single member acting alone and have the potential to advance environmental research in the UK and internationally.

4. The members of ERFF and LWEC are: Arts and Humanities Research Council**, Biolotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Department for Communities and Local Government**Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs, Department for International Development, Department for Transport, Environment Agency, Economic and Social Research Council, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Forestry Commission*, Food Standards Agency*, Health & Safety Executive*, Joint Nature Conservation Committee*, Medical Research Council, Met Office*, Natural England, Natural Environment Research Council, Scottish Executive, Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, Welsh Assembly Government.

** LWEC only * ERFF only

| NERC
Further information:
http://www.nerc.ac.uk

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