New funding announced today will see our 3S Research Group become a core part of the new five-year phase of the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC). As part of this significant investment 3S will establish and house the first ever national observatory for societal engagement with energy and net zero transitions, which is a new core capability of UKERC.
The fourth phase of UKERC will see £22 million allocated to UK institutions to undertake research on the decarbonisation of key sectors such as industry, transport and heat, and explore the role of local, national and global changes in energy systems.
UKERC encompasses 17 universities and is funded through the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Energy Programme by UKRI’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Natural Environment Research Council and Economic and Social Research Council. UKRI is providing £18 million support for the fourth phase of UKERC, with partners contributing £4 million.
Prof Jason Chilvers of 3S will become a co-director of UKERC in its fourth phase and head up the new Societal Engagement Observatory as PI. The Observatory team also includes 3S members Dr Helen Pallett (as deputy lead and Co-I), Dr Tom Hargreaves (as Co-I) and Dr Laurie Waller (as Senior Research Associate).
“We are delighted that our 3S Research Group has become a core part of what is internationally recognised as the UK’s major hub for interdisciplinary whole-system energy research,” said Prof Chilvers. “We are excited to contribute to this £22 million research programme that will help the UK and other countries pursue net zero emissions targets in ways that are sustainable and just.”
The Societal Engagement Observatory builds on pioneering 3S research to remake participation, including our work in the previous phase of UKERC which developed a new approach to mapping diverse ecologies of participation across energy system transitions.
The observatory will map and monitor the many different ways that publics are engaging with energy and low carbon transitions on an ongoing basis, ranging from everyday consumption, citizens’ assemblies and social media through to protests and community action.
Prof Chilvers added: “It will translate this evidence to improve how society is being engaged and how public views and actions are accounted for in addressing urgent problems of energy and climate change.”
UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, said: “Moving the UK to a sustainable, resilient energy system that delivers on our net zero ambitions requires collaboration, better data and expertise across the research and innovation ecosystem.”
“UKERC plays an important role in supporting this transition, delivering world-class research, facilitating national and international collaboration and generating evidence that informs real-world decisions.”
UKERC’s research programme will build evidence to inform decisions that shape the UK’s transition towards a net zero energy system and economy. It will explore the potential economic, political, social and environmental costs and benefits of energy system change, and consider how these impacts can be distributed equitably. UKERC will also host and curate energy data, map and monitor public engagement, carry out systematic evidence reviews and improve the transparency and understanding of energy models.
UKERC has also today announced that Dr Robert Gross, from Imperial College London, has been appointed as its new director. Dr Gross, who is one of UKERC’s co-directors, succeeds Professor Jim Watson, who has been UKERC director since 2015.