Posts tagged: Environmental Sustainability

THINKlab secures new Disaster Management Project

1 July 2020

The University of Salford THINKlab has been awarded almost £1 million from the UK Research and Innovation Collective Fund to develop an advanced digital platform which can be used by various government agencies and communities to work together to analyse, forecast, visualize and debate disaster risk and to choose development plans that ensure sustainability and equitable resilience which will help guide climate change adaptation and decision making.

This project which aims to promote a participatory approach that supports the transparent and democratic involvement of all the relevant stakeholders (known as TRANSCEND) builds on the THINKlab’s groundbreaking research on digital platforms for sustainable cities and on the disaster community resilience research from the Centre for Disaster Resilience at the University of Salford. It will also include experts from the University of York (UK), University of Moratuwa (Sri Lanka), University of Peshawar (Pakistan), Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia and the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, thus bringing together their research expertise in social science, urban planning and community engagement.  The project is supported by an international advisory committee and key government organisations such as disaster management centers, urban development authorities and community-based charity organisations.

This project builds on the MOBILISE project, which is another UKRI funded project that has successfully worked with government organisations in Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Malaysia to develop an advanced technology platform for risk assessment using satellite technologies, drones, sensor data and social information. The new research will take a different approach; rather than focusing on how to manage a disaster, it will look at the urban planning of risk-sensitive areas.


Professor Terrence Fernando, Director of THINKLab said: “The transformation of current urban development and disaster management practices is at the heart of this project. Our challenge in this project is to study how current practices can be transformed by establishing new partnership models and introducing participatory methods that empower vulnerable communities through advanced digital solutions.”

Professor Bingunath Ingirige, Director of the Centre for Disaster Risk Reduction: “TRANSCEND will study the narratives that need to be developed, presented and discussed to establish a comprehensive understanding of the impact of proposed developments on the community, economy and environment.  TRANSCEND will study approaches to communicating the conflicting narratives and discussing the trade-offs that need to be considered in promoting a new form of development practice that is equitable and resilient.”

Dr. Kaushal Keraminiyage, one of the Co-Investigators, said: “There are many examples around the world which indicate that vulnerable communities are facing the consequences of risk insensitive urban development’s firsthand. In TRANSCEND we intend to tap into their knowledge and experience in promoting a risk sensitive urban development strategy.”       

The project will establish three Living Labs in Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Malaysia creating an ‘Experimentation and Learning Environment’. These Living Labs will involve academic experts and government organisations in co-creating solutions and partnerships to try out new methods and tools to explore a digitally enhanced participatory process for urban development.

The project’s consortium held an initial project launch in Sri Lanka in December 2019 in collaboration with relevant government organisations. The project brings together public and private partnerships between a host of organizations in the UK and in Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Malaysia.

Key messages and notes:

The University of Salford has been awarded funding of almost £1 million to promote risk-sensitive urban development to reduce the impact of natural disasters on vulnerable communities around the world.

The goal of the project is to transform current “silo” based urban development and risk reduction practices in disaster prone countries (such as Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Malaysia) to a participatory approach that promotes cross-organisational collaboration, openness, adaptability, learning, impartiality, power sharing and public participation.

The project will take a proactive approach by setting up three Living Labs as experimental and learning environments in Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Malaysia which will work collaboratively with a range of government organisations, NGOs and marginalized communities to transform current practices.

Evidence-based decision making that exploits the power of data, modelling, urban simulation and visualisation is at the heart of this project.

This work is based on the digital expertise in the THINKlab and on the disaster risk reduction expertise within the Centre for Disaster Resilience at the University of Salford.

The funding has been awarded to the research facility THINKlab that undertakes leading research in advanced technology platforms for smart city applications.

The TRANSCEND project builds on the previous GCRF funded MOBILISE project that focused mainly on developing digital capacity for understanding risks and risk governance in disaster-prone areas.

Notes to editors:

* The project is a 3-year programme funded by ESRC and GCRF.

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is part of UK Research and Innovation.

The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a £1.5 billion fund announced by the UK Government in late 2015 to support cutting-edge research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries.

THINKlab ‘think’ sustainably to receive silver award under national Green Impact Initiative

6 December 2019

This year the THINKlab decided to take part in the Green Impact Initiative; an environmental accreditation scheme which inspires teams to reduce their carbon footprint and environmental impact. 

Led by the University’s forward-thinking Environmental Sustainability department (which works with university wide teams to identify sustainability issues in their office, laboratory, catering area or grounds) the scheme is a nationally run behavioural change programme set up by the National Union of Students and is recognised by the United Nations.

Teams work through a comprehensive tool kit which gives hints and tips as to how individual teams might challenge perceptions and influence staff to make small and unique changes for a more positive environmental impact. Teams can undertake additional special projects dedicated to their environment and must document their activities so a full audit can be undertaken at the end of the scheme.

With it being the first year, in order to gain a better understanding of the programme and to work through the programme’s toolkit, the THINKlab formed a small staff steering committee to meet monthly and to consider a range of questions and actions in the toolkit’s six key areas; energy and water, waste and recycling, travel, procurement, communications, and health and wellbeing.

As well as simply encouraging staff to take the stairs more often, not leaving computers on overnight, or ensuring that they are using the correct recycling bins, the tool kit also challenged behaviours which might have impacts on wider stakeholders such as minimising meeting handouts, reducing plastic use in the lab, social areas and at events, and communicating ways to travel to the University other than driving.

After submitting the documented work for the toolkit, the THINKlab team met with a team of auditors to speak about their achievements and challenges. The results were announced at an afternoon presentation at the Old Fire Station where the team were presented with a silver award from the Environmental Sustainability team and Lord Keith Bradley (Chair of the University Council and former Member of Parliament).

The Green Impact auditors summarised the THINKlab’s first year involvement: “This team is new for this year and they have made a fantastic start. The auditors thought the team were very passionate about Green Impact and improving the THINKlab’s environmental performance, and that Simon demonstrated evidence of going the extra mile to encourage thoughtful discussions with the team on these issues. The team have encouraged staff to use reusable items and staff regularly have remote meetings with local and international stakeholders, reducing the need for travel. They have also started using the THINKlab Twitter account more actively to raise awareness of their Green Impact work and demonstrate the benefits with their stakeholders.” 

Simon Hadfield, THINKlab Facilities Co-ordinator said: “This is the first year we’ve been involved with the Green Impact Initiative and we’ve made a really great start. After forming our monthly steering group, all our colleagues have really got on board with the different parts of the toolkit and shown their support with making positive changes to reduce both our team and individual carbon footprints. There’s a lot more we can do in the Lab and we’re really excited about demonstrating this further with our different stakeholder groups.”