University of Oxford Impact Accelerator Account (IAA) Application, October 2013

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Central Admin - Research Services


The University will, with the aid of this funding, boost and expand its strong work in collaborating with user communities such as industry, policymakers, and public bodies and groups.

The University aims to accelerate impact across the stages which lead to the beneficial use of research and teaching for society. We will further enhance awareness of the importance of impact, and the opportunities to achieve it. We will encourage and support more, and more focussed, meetings and events with user communities. We will use the funding to expand our existing communications and sharing of opportunities to partner on solutions to regional, national and global challenges pertaining to the natural environment. Collaborative opportunities will be explored, pursued, and realised, with enhanced progress in the understanding of natural environment challenges and solutions - and the value of collaborative partnerships in accelerating such achievements.

We will establish a funding scheme to welcome and encourage a broad range of activities to promote and strengthen further the University's impact, and will support the strongest proposals within the funding available. These will include workshops to draw together the user and the academic community, to explore research which addresses specific user challenges, including with a view to innovation and technological advances of practical and economic benefit to society. We will hold events for specific areas of enterprise to share information about facilities and expertise, and build on areas of compatibility with potential for high impact mutual benefit. We will further encourage and support the sharing of expertise in the University and in companies and public organisations, through flexible exchange schemes both into and out of the University, for example hosting visitors from industry, and supporting placements in companies and organisations. These expanded interactions will be encouraged across disciplinary and sectoral boundaries, for example a researcher in marine biology may work with companies concerned with risks of pollutants reaching coastal waters during extreme floods (note: this example is presented as a scenario of cross-disciplinary and cross-sectoral collaboration between University researchers and user communities, and is not proposed as a specific example to be pursued).

We expect to enhance our impact across a range of areas including, but not limited to:
+ Earth Observation applications, technological innovation, and development of data analyses and models for user applications.
+ The application of atmospheric composition analyses for aviation.
+ The development of land and waste management policy and practice in relation to climate change-related biodiversity assessment, such as classifying and monitoring species which characterise effects of climate change and changes in the biome.
+ Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems in relation to the economy and management of fisheries.
+ Water Security and Enterprise, such as membrane technologies for desalination; corporate water risk and disclosure; flood risk and insurance, and climate change and floods;
water trading and water use policy and regulation reforms in the UK.
+ Energy Systems.
+ Food security and food systems along the production chain and into supply chain. For example, soil quality, agricultural pollutants, and pollinators.
+ User community applications for assessment techniques such as radiocarbon dating.
+ Environmental data and health. For example, environmental determinants in NHS admissions to inform NHS practice.

We will communicate about work undertaken. For example, through the events we will hold and host, and by publishing videos and accounts of collaborations' progress and outcomes. Materials will also be used to promote collaborative opportunities, benefits and impacts, at events such as open days, conferences, careers fairs, and engagement events with venture investors and innovators.


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Description 18 new species of sweet potato (previously undocumented, unrecorded or otherwise unknown) have been identified in Bolivia, and their descriptions published.

Weed species prevalences and characteristics have been identified and catalogued as indicators of soil quality and crop resilience, as management tools for organic farming.
Exploitation Route These two findings are both of use to farmers. The first pertains primarily to farmers in Soth America; the second to France and UK and similar climatic regions.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink

Description This is a report of the NERC Impact Acceleration Account (IAA) at the University of Oxford 2014-2015. The IAA is for non-research activities that speed up and/or target the generation of non-academic impact from NERC-funded research. The funding was distributed to a portfolio of specific projects across various parts of the University. All projects included working directly with non-academic partners. Disclaimer: Impact is a pathway. In many cases the funded activities are yielding impact but have not necessarily yet yielded all the impact they are capable of. In many cases the project is one step of several, in achieving substantial impact. There are often interdependencies with the timings and priorities of external parties, and with subsequent funding contingencies to support further stages in the impact pathway. The IAA supports the acceleration of impact. It does not necessarily expect that all impacts will be fully achieved within a year of acceleration projects' completion. Here is a summary of progress of projects supported through the IAA. Robert Scotland built upon taxonomical work funded through the SynTax (NERC & BBSRC) funding stream. Taxonomical drawings of Ipomoea (sweet potato species) were made from samples gathered, mainly in South America. Partners include the Natural History Museum in London and the International Potato Centre in Lima, Peru. A main purpose is to help local farmers identify species and to inform their crop breeding. Vitamin A deficiency is a challenge in many parts of the world. For example, it threatens an estimated 43 million children under the age of 5 in Sub-Saharan Africa. As little as 125 grams of orange-fleshed sweet potato can supply the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A, and many native species are very rich in beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A. Breeding programs of sweet potato have two immediate aims, to breed varieties which are weevil-resistant and varieties with a combination of traits suited to cultivation under diverse environmental conditions and with improved nutritional value. 18 new species have been identified in Bolivia, with their descriptions published. ("New" here means that they were previously undocumented, unrecorded or otherwise unknown, rather than necessarily being only recently existent). This discovery and recording process continues for other regions. Jeremy Thomas is the winner of the inaugural NERC Impact Awards 2015 in the Societal Impact category. Working with various Trusts including the Butterfly Trust, and Natural England, the project has improved the management of Large Blue Butterfly sites. The Large Blue's ecosystem is unusual for a butterfly in that it is co-dependent upon a particular species of ant, and on specific plants, as well as soil and drainage specificities. The Large Blue, native to the UK, became extinct in the UK in 1979 and was reintroduced from populations in Sweden. The Large blue has spread to 35 UK sites, mainly in Somerset, which today support its largest known populations in the world. Maintaining habitats supports ecosystems and biodiversity, and reduces fines incurred on organisations if habitats are adversely affected by land management and development. In many cases the research-informed management practices have benefited organisations regardless of the issue of environmental fines. There are additional reputational and tourism benefits. A project improved the visibility of rigorous, research-led information on specific scientific topics that had been informed through NERC funded research. By working with Wikimedia on areas of atmospheric physics, where wiki content was weak, information was greatly improved, and web hits to underlying research information increased by between 5% and 25% for about 18 months. A project was led by Roger Street on engaging UK Climate Service Providers, collectively with European providers and stakeholders, to increase the representation and value of European climate services capabilities. Workshops created an active, effective community of climate services providers and stakeholders, which yielded strong collaborative interest and action in improving the UK's role in European climate services, and beyond the UK. A main achievement to date has been to inform the EC's Roadmap for Climate Services, to be implemented through Horizon 2020. It has strongly boosted UK stakeholders' and providers' participation in EC climate services planning. It has also convened Europe-wide collectives, now working together and suited to make best use of H2020 funding pertaining to climate services. The community is considered useful by participants, such as the UK Environment Agency. While difficult to quantify benefit, if we were to assume that the input to European planning could have improved the use of European funding (in climate services terms) by perhaps 0.1%, then within a European funding pot of EUR800Million, that would be equivalent to an efficiency gain equivalent to the value of £600,000 across Europe, of which the UK might benefit by about 10%. An improvement of just 0.03% efficiency gain in policy and use of funding around European climate services would mean that this project had doubled its investment for the UK alone. Agile-Ox project builds upon a portfolio of research across adaptation & risk management; floods, droughts, extreme events; ecosystem dynamics; energy technologies, efficiency, demand management, local energy governance; food systems; pollution control; resource efficiency; transport technologies & planning; climate change science; water science, technologies, & planning. Oxfordshire has the capability to become an international leader in the fast growing cleantech and green economy sector. Over the last few years the county has undertaken significant initiatives to improve its ambitions in the sector. These offer an opportunity for the University to make a timely, strategic contribution to mobilising the county's environmental enterprise, so that the latter can benefit from a town-and-gown collaboration. Agile-Ox promotes access for local partners to the University's scientific research, policy, planning and management insights in the environmental sector, and networks stakeholders through the research lens. The many partners include CAG Oxfordshire; Good Food Oxford; Local councils, NGOs, civil society groups; Oxford City Council; Wild Oxfordshire Local Nature Partnership; Oxford Flood Alliance; Low Carbon Oxford; Oxfordshire County Council; Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership; Blake Morgan Solicitors; Cherwell District Council; Bicester EcoTown; Royal Meteorological Society; Wolvercote Neighbourhood Forum. Collaborative work to date includes: development of new cheaper and mobile-enabled sensors for monitoring local air pollution; Aerial drone monitoring to assess impact of restoration work on a river catchment in Oxfordshire; Production of Joining the Crowd, a synthesis of the Oxfordshire's Low Carbon Economy report; business breakfast hosting of 'Welcome to the Anthropocene' Lecture series with about 70 average attendance of business representatives and practitioners, particularly in the financial and legal sectors, to help inform their practice through underlying research and priorities; Development of low carbon education package for new residents of Bicester EcoTown; local energy hackathon based on challenges in solving local fuel poverty; synthesis of 200 years of local observations of temperature and rainfall. Agile-Ox: Access to Global environmental science Insights for Local Enterprise in Oxfordshire David Pyle's project titled 'Volcano! Past eruptions and future hazards on St Vincent' is a case study of how to create and manage a crowd-sourced digital archive of the past records of activity at an active volcano; and a practical example of creative ways to communicate risk and hazards with local communities and other stakeholders. Collaborative engagement has begun with Nicarnica Aviation, Easyjet and Rolls Royce regarding the volcanic ash threat to aviation. His excellency, the High Commissioner for St Vincent and the Grenadines visited the project's exhibit with his team, and is working with Pyle's team on 'volcano awareness day' events on St Vincent. Materials produced for London Volcano have been used on the websites of a number of Caribbean disaster management organisations (including NEMO, St Vincent, and Kitts and Nevis). Pyle's team has subsequently successfully applied for a NERC urgency grant to investigate the impacts of a recent eruption in Chile on ecosystems and infrastructure in Chile and Argentina, with academic and government collaborators in both countries. Some projects were to develop toolkits and web-based services and interfaces that make databases and analyses accessible and usable for industry, policymakers, NGOs, think tanks and public groups and stakeholders. Kathy Willis and team have further developed the Local Ecological Footprinting Tool (LEFT), including refining it with potential users. Using multiple databases it generates reports on user-specified land areas to inform land development. Patrick McSharry has produced It uses publicly generated environmental and weather data to the benefit of end users and their customers. It provides a readily understandable and useable form of summary statistics, extreme values, trends and distributions over each month for 33 stations across the UK (with between 50 and 100 years of data for each). The website enables one to select multiple weather stations, start and end dates and different weather variables for analysis. Several business and policy partners have worked with McSharry to inform and refine the interface to suit user needs. Sarah Whatmore and team have developed toolkits to assist local stakeholder groups and policymakers in using their 'Competency Groups' model of local engagement for effective land management (primarily flood prevention and increasingly drought planning and mitigations), as used in Kennet and Pickering ( Michael Charles and Amy Bogaard have progressed a unique collaboration among farmers, ecologists and archaeologists, and produced a new resource for organic producers and conservationists: an on-line guide for using crop weeds to assess the effect of land management practices. Using surveys of weeds in organic cereal systems, the Oxford-based group has produced an easy-to-use guide that enables farmers and conservationists to interpret weed composition as evidence of growing conditions, including soil fertility and tillage efficiency. A related initiative is the development of a network between farmers, isotope scientists and archaeologists for assessing water availability and soil nitrogen content. Their impactful work enables farmers and conservationists to monitor growing conditions of field crops using functional weed ecology and crop stable isotope analysis. The initial application region was Haute Provence, France, where there is large-scale organic farming of cereals, pulses and aromatic crops. The model is proving effective with keen interested involvement and uptake by bio-farmers, whose time to engage in such initiatives is very precious and not given easily. The NERC IAA grant leveraged a grant of 20K from the British Council's Research Links programme to run a workshop in Morocco, entitled, 'Agrobiodiversity present and past: ecological and archaeological perspectives on traditional farming regimes in Morocco'. The model is thereby being expanded to other areas where organic farming and organic crop management and interventions are a priority for business and sustainability and, in many locales, a way of life.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Energy,Environment,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Transport
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

Title Climate Frontier 
Description Making it easy to visualise, explore and obtain climate data, ClimateFrontier uses publicly generated environmental and weather data to the benefit of end users and their customers. It provides a readily understandable and useable form of summary statistics, extreme values, trends and distributions over each month for 33 stations across the UK (with between 50 and 100 years of data for each). The website enables one to select multiple weather stations, start and end dates and different weather variables for analysis. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Several business and policy partners have worked with the PI to inform and refine the interface to suit user needs. The source data custodians have become more conscious of the potential and quality of the data for climate and weather for stakeholders, and the need for applicable formats and outputs.