Researchers from the University of Oxford have been awarded funding from the Research Councils UK's Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) GROW Call. The GCRF is a £1.5 billion fund announced by the UK Government in late 2015 which has been specially designed to stimulate research on the challenges faced by developing countries. Over the next four years, through 17 delivery partners, including the Research Councils, this new challenge-led funding will be invested in innovative research that will strengthen capacity, provide an agile response to emergencies and ensure local communities' voices are heard in outlining the issues and shaping the solutions.
The PEAK Project – Mathematics
Professor Peter Grindrod and Dr Neave O'Clery from the Mathematical Institute are partners in PEAK, an £8 million project which aims to build capacity for the future city in developing countries. The project is led by Professor Michael Keith from COMPAS in the Department of Anthropology at Oxford. As people across the globe move to build new lives in the metropolis, cities are emerging as complex organisms that can only be understood by considering them through many lenses. Mathematics, medicine, transport, engineering, anthropology, geography, law and history all have a role to play - so the PEAK team includes researchers from all four divisions. The aim of PEAK is to grow a new generation of interdisciplinary urbanists and a network of smarter cities working together across Africa, China, India, Colombia and the UK. By getting involved hands-on with the people who develop and manage cities it is hoped to bring about fundamental changes in our approach to cities as the demands on them change and grow.
The Mathematical Institute's involvement in this exciting project was assisted by an EPSRC Institutional Sponsorship Award, "End user engagement in Urban Analytics". This enabled Dr Neave O'Clery to develop new alliances across Oxford departments, with a view to engaging in urban development projects and programmes, as well as making links with new external partners who might fund mathematical research of urban analytics. Through this award, Dr O'Clery was able to build relationships with a wide range of departments and academics across the Social Sciences Division.
The SENTINEL Project - Zoology
Researchers from the Department of Zoology and the Environmental Change Institute are partners in a £6.3 million project to investigate how to achieve food security whilst protecting biodiversity and ecosystem services and promoting social equity. The project partnership, entitled 'Social and Environmental Trade-offs in African Agriculture' (SENTINEL), is being led by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and involves a range of higher education institutions and stakeholders in the UK and across Africa.
The University of Oxford component is being led Professor Nathalie Seddon (Department of Zoology) and Dr Monika Zurek (Environmental Change Institute), and will focus on building agricultural development scenarios and strengthening capacity of UK science to address development challenges. The project aims to address systemic development challenges in African agriculture. It will draw on the challenges outlined by UN Sustainable Development Goals 2 (Zero Hunger), 15 (Life on Land) and 10 (Reduced Inequalities). Focusing on three African countries (Ethiopia, Ghana and Zambia), it aims to improve our understanding of the different ways of developing agriculture without impacting negatively on the natural environment and depriving people of the goods and services it has historically provided and on which their health, wealth and well-being depends. The project will bring together researchers with government, development agencies and private firms, and in this way help to inform policy-makers and the civil groups that lobby them.