SUE Research Dialogues - Workshop

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Civil Engineering


The Sustainable Urban Environments Programme is now in its fifth year and 15 consortia funded under SUE1 have undertaken a wide range of sustainability research. There now exists a sufficient body of work for it to be imperative that the researchers exchange knowledge between each other, to produce a step-change advancement in the academic research on sustainability by engaging in visionary thinking on long-term research needs and developing ideas and research teams around novel topics and projects. Without such strategic thinking the enormous potential for impact will be compromised. Indeed, as the SUE Programme develops it becomes increasingly important to build the research community, i.e., to broaden and improve the research experience through improved academic collaboration and knowledge exchange, thus avoiding the perhaps inevitable duplication of effort evident in the early stages of the SUE Programme. This need is distinct from the knowledge transfer activities that aim to implement the research from the SUE Programme, which is being facilitated by the creation of ISSUES (Implementation Strategies for Sustainable Urban Environment Systems). Currently within the SUE Programme there is no similar facility for sharing academic knowledge and growing the portfolio of funded research beyond SUE. Standard dissemination strategies, partly driven by the Research Assessment Exercise, are leading to widespread dispersal of the results of the SUE Programme. While this dissemination remains necessary - we should be influencing the research thinking in our own discipline areas - a major opportunity is being lost by the lack of a single forum for SUE researchers and outputs. Indeed, this is a unique opportunity to capture, at exactly the right moment, the essential findings from SUE1 alongside the recently awarded SUE2 projects. Furthermore, now that SUE2 grants have been awarded, it is critical to provide a forum for improved communication and collaboration; this bid seeks to develop the necessary forum for providing the above opportunities, bringing together investigators and researchers from SUE1 and SUE2 as well as complementary research and EPSRC-nominated industry representatives (following EPSRC's SUE stakeholder workshop).Standard dissemination strategies are leading to widespread dispersal of the results of the SUE Programme. While this dissemination remains necessary and valuable, a major opportunity is being lost by the lack of a single forum for SUE researchers and outputs. EPSRC will shortly launch SUE3, with outline proposals expected by March 2009. Thus, there is now a unique opportunity to capture, at exactly the right moment, the essential findings from SUE1 (while the outcomes are still fresh and researchers are seeking to build new research programmes on this strong foundation) alongside the recently awarded SUE2 projects. This bid seeks to develop the necessary forum for providing the above opportunities, bringing together investigators and researchers from SUE1 and SUE2 as well as complementary research and industry representatives.This project envisages three opportunities for academic dialogue/knowledge exchange: (1) Month 3 - a Workshop - mature outputs from SUE1 meet new ideas from the SUE2 teams with a view to generating strategic thinking and novel proposals-the focus of this proposal (Lancaster possible venue); (2) Month 15 - Seminars - mature outputs from SUE1, and work underway in and first outputs from SUE2, meet new ideas from new teams from SUE3-future proposal (Birmingham possible venue); and (3) Month 25 - an International Conference - with a prior or subsequent meeting of the research community to continue the discussions and ensure continuity-future proposal (venue yet to be decided, but it will be selected to ensure a suitable focus on sustainability issues with local buy-in for stakeholder engagement and possible site visits).


10 25 50
Description The following major points emerged from both the desk research and the Workshop:

1. There was little shared ground in terms of vocabulary or locus of attention for the research amongst the research consortia funded as part of SUE as they embarked on the EPSRC-funded Programme. In a positive sense this might illustrate that the consortia were covering a full breadth of sustainability issues and there was no duplication of research. However there is a greater degree of convergence in the language of the final report summaries. This convergence of language could indicate that during the intervening period there was more common understanding of the critical issues arising from the research activity, and thus the development of a common vocabulary.

2. There appears to be only limited evidence of common approaches to 'scale' used by research teams, the units of analysis for the research ranging from individual property, to development and to city and suburbia.

3. The stages of the production and operation of the built environment upon which the consortia concentrated spanned the whole range from initial concept and appraisal through to remediation and re-use. However one stage - design - was embraced by nearly half of the consortia, and 'appraisal and planning' by about a third of them.

4. The focus of concern by the consortia was very broad - not to be unexpected over a complex field - although analysis of the data illustrated that transport, land use, and technologies were topics most discussed in award statements, whereas transport, technologies and infrastructure arose in the final report summaries.

5. It is around the creation of 'practical' outputs that the most clustering and coherence of the SUE Programme begins to appear, especially as reported on research teams' websites. All of the SUE 1 consortia claim to have produced at least one type of tool. Some consortia have produced multiple types of tools, with WaND, VivaCity2020 and AUNT-SUE leading here. Nearly half of the research teams have produced an assessment tool, with a third developing models of some sort as well.

6. There are indications that a heavily applied research area such as that embraced by the Sustainable Urban Environment Programme, produces very closely aligned academic and practice-based work.

7. Holistic approaches to reporting research on sustainable urban environments remains a challenge for the academic community, whose members readily fall back into the comfort zones of their traditional disciplines.

8. There is a reasonably well developed 'collective consciousness' amongst those who self-selected to attend the Workshop which could be built upon. However, as further discussion at the Workshop indicated, this collective consciousness lacks stability and is potentially vulnerable.

9. The SUE 1 priorities for research in the field, as set out in 2001, now constitute less than 30% of current priorities in sustainable urban environments identified by the Workshop delegates. This reflects the intervening ten-years of research and the increased exposure of the research teams to the many disciplines involved in research on sustainable urban environments.
Exploitation Route The outputs of this research project have been used to create sustainability training modules for organisations and could be used by other organisations in the same way. The SUE Research Dialogues Workshop was designed to bring together the academics funded under the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Sustainable Urban Environment (SUE) Programme. The Workshop sought to determine what the future of the research capacity developed by the SUE Programme might be. The study of sustainability and urban environments separately or together is not, in and of itself, a recognised academic (or practitioner) discipline. Instead, such study falls under other disciplinary headings such as engineering, geography, environmental sciences, sociology, history, architecture and design, and many more. On the practitioner side delivering sustainable cities is the joint responsibility of the local council, planners, architects, developers, government agencies responsible for encouraging regional development and others. This is, perhaps, one of the great strengths of such study that it brings disciplines together to tackle the 'wicked' problem of creating and maintaining sustainable cities. As the field matures, however, the question must be asked: at what point could/should sustainable urban environments become an academic (and practitioner) discipline of its own? The Workshop delegates attempted to locate their research in the context of larger sustainability and research landscapes. This was naturally closely tied to the question of where the boundaries of scientific study into sustainable urban environments lie. The Workshop was preceded by desk research to analyse the breadth of the SUE Programme and the topics covered.

The outputs of this research project can be (and, indeed, have been) used to create Masters study modules.
Sectors Education

Description They informed the SUE programme going forward
First Year Of Impact 2010
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Environment
Impact Types Societal,Economic

Description KTS with CH2M HILL
Amount £53,000 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/H500294/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2011 
End 07/2012
Description Professor Chris Rogers delivered a presentation entitled "Future Proofing City Systems, and the UK's System of Cities" to Resilience and Growth for Future Cities international conference, Civil Engineering Triennial Summit, Institution of Civil Engineers, 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Reaching an audience of approximately 100 delegates from the UK, US and Canadian practitioner communities.

To follow
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015