University of Surrey receives post-Brexit EU grant for smart cities research

The University of Surrey has received a new €762,000 grant from the European Union (EU) to conduct research into the development of smart cities and the environmental impact of a cleaner aeronautics industry, allaying fears of a broken environmental relationship between the UK and Europe after the Brexit vote.

Academics have been awarded €627,000 as part of the EU’s ‘Horizon 2020’ project – Improving the Smart Control of Air Pollution in Europe (iScape) – which aims to develop next-generation environmental living labs in cities across Europe.

The main objective of the project is to improve air quality by developing sustainable and passive air pollution remediation strategies, policy interventions and behavioural change initiatives.

“This is another example that we are committed to working with European countries as part of our international engagement strategy,” said the University of Surrey’s president and vice-chancellor Max Lu.

“The University of Surrey continues to secure research funding for projects that address global challenges – these projects are significant initiatives tackling air pollution and improve the environment for future generations.”

The project will run for three years and will concentrate on over six European cities, including Guildford in the UK. Directing a particular focus on low-cost pollution sensing and modelling, the project will provide policy-makers with local test-cases, evidence and readymade solutions to improving air quality in their city.

‘Aerospace world leader’

Meanwhile, a further €135,000 has been granted to research the potential socio-economic and environmental impacts of the Union’s ‘Clean Sky 1’ project, which sets green performance targets for the European aeronautical sector.

Funding for Clean Sky 1 – the EU’s largest ever aeronautics research programme – will allow researchers to assess the programme’s current progress and ability to meet the Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe’s 2020 objectives for emissions abatement, noise reduction, and lifecycle design.

New aeroplane designs, components and operations, as well as engines, loads and flow control, configurations, mission management and lifecycle materials use and disposal will all be assessed as part of the project.

University of Surrey’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management reader Dr Scott Cohen said: “The aeronautics industry is a significant sector within the European economy and a growing provider of mobility. This research programme will help to reduce emissions, maintain Europe as a world leader in aerospace and spur innovation.”

State of flux

This announcement of new funding marks one of the first environmental funding packages granted to the UK by the EU following the recent Brexit vote in June.

Green businesses have been in a state of uncertainty regarding the impact of Brexit on the UK’s commitment to established environmental policies, with many arguing that an exit from the bloc will weaken the UK’s climate progress and further strain relationships with its European neighbours.

Diplomatic relations could be diminished if experts are correct that Brexit will force the remaining 27 EU countries to spend billions of Euros on cutting carbon emissions deeper to compensate for the UK leaving.

In the immediate aftermath of Brexit, Ex-Energy Secretary Amber Rudd was quick to assure that Britain would not lower its green economy ambitions. However, the scrapping of Rudd’s former Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) has only heightened fears that the nation’s climate change strategy will be “swept under the rug”. 

 Alex Baldwin

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