We're delighted to welcome to Cranfield Professor Chris Fogwill the new Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the School of Water, Energy and the Environment.

In this article Chris introduces himself, tells us why he's excited to be joining Cranfield, and highlights some of the key research that the School of Water, Energy and the Environment is undertaking.

"As incoming Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the School of Water, Energy and the Environment it is great to be able to introduce myself and send my warmest regards to our Cranfield alumni community."

First a quick introduction...

As a climate scientist and glaciologist much of my working life has been spent in the polar regions, drilling ice cores and reconstructing climate change to better understand the feedbacks between carbon dioxide, temperature, ice, climate and sea level. My research has helped underpin our understanding of climate change and brought the subject of climate tipping points to the front door of governments internationally through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) report on The Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, and the recent sixth assessment report. For me, my research has highlighted the urgent challenge we face in tackling anthropogenic climate change, the ‘world’s greatest experiment’.

These insights have highlighted for me the need for sustainable solutions and led me to return from Australia to build a new research institute at Keele University in Staffordshire. As Director of the Institute for Sustainable Futures I was able to help coordinate research on three major ‘at scale’ smart energy demonstration projects: the Smart Energy Network Demonstrator (SEND), HyDeploy and Zero Carbon Rugeley. These multimillion-pound projects are world-leading in terms of research on multi-vector distributed energy systems, and crucial to unlocking a zero-carbon future for the UK. Additionally, these programmes are key to the UK’s ‘levelling up’ agenda, with regional jobs and green growth enabled through partnership with commercial and third sector partners, that includes leading technology and power companies including Siemens, ENGIE, Cadent Gas and Progressive Energy and not-for-profits including REGEN, the Sustainable Housing Partnership (SHAP) and Chase Solar,  not to mention over 400 small enterprises and start-ups across the region.

Why Cranfield, why now?

This experience has led directly to my move to Cranfield. The opportunity to join the School of Water, Energy and the Environment, a School that is focused on accelerating our path to net-zero and achieving sustainable growth, is truly exciting. I join a team of world-leading researchers and educators who are not only pivotal to addressing each of the challenges outlined in the UK’s ‘Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution’, but who are also crucial to building sustainable growth for communities globally.  From advancing offshore renewables, to driving new directions in hydrogen production and storage, and from understanding carbon capture, usage, and storage to providing the solutions we need to maintain food security and safeguard critical resources such as water, SWEE is exceptionally well placed to make an impact nationally and internationally. Through our broad range of postgraduate programmes and research we are addressing the crucial skills gap that is already apparent as the world emerges from the pandemic and looks to the challenges of the future.

Driving research despite the challenges of Covid-19 

Whilst this is my first month at Cranfield, researchers across SWEE have continued to build and drive their research over the summer, despite the challenges of Covid-19, recent funding highlights include:

  • Professor Jim Harris and team from the Environment and Agri-food theme have been awarded £2 million from NERC to undertake a four year research programme to tackle the biodiversity crisis.
  • Professor Phil Hart and the Energy and Power theme are collaborating in the recently announced Clean Maritime development Fund for Freeport East: working with the Department of Transport and project partners Hutchinson Ports (Felixstowe and Harwich - Freeport East), EDF and Sizewell C to explore the concept of maritime ports as energy hubs, specifically centres for the distribution of hydrogen.
  • Dr Anil Graves and team from the Environment and Agri-food theme working with partners at the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), the University of Liverpool and St Andrews University are to develop environmentally sustainable solutions for future coastal and shoreline management. The £1.6 million UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)-funded Co-Opt project will develop new tools to allow better decisions to be made to both protect coasts from changing climate and help deliver net zero ambitions.
  • Dr Dawid Hanak and team from the Energy and Power theme have won and successfully delivered a contract working with Connecting Places Catapult and South Western Railway. In the race to zero, organisations across the world develop innovative strategies that will help them meet their net-zero targets.
  • Dr Nazmiye Ozkan and team from the Energy and Power theme are leading a project titled Low carbon energy demand scenarios for aviation (LOCESA) funded via Department for Transport’s Zero Flight Infrastructure programme.
  • Professor Jeremy Knox and team from the Water theme in collaboration with the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) have received funding from the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) for a Knowledge Transfer Partnership that will launch a new website aimed at saving water in the garden.
  • Professor Ewan McAdam and team from the Water theme and a consortium that includes Northumbrian and Anglican Water, Warwick University and Wood Group UK Ltd, have been awarded £250,000 to investigate the potential of ammonia recovery from wastewater treatment to develop it as green hydrogen fuel, a first for the industry.

I am immensely proud to join SWEE at this exciting time; building on the strong foundations built by Professor Simon Pollard and the team, the potential for growth of the School over the next five years is remarkable. We are exceptionally well placed to take a central role in not only our net-zero ambitions, but also in building a more resilient world, learning from the challenges of the pandemic to provide a more ‘connected resilience’ as described by SWEE’s Professor Jim Harris in his excellent recent blog post ‘Why we need connected resilience’.

Clearly, to address society’s grand challenges we need to move away from the siloed approach many have taken up to now; research and design in isolation cannot address the multifaceted challenges we face collectively. We must draw upon multidisciplinary approaches, as championed across SWEE and Cranfield’s other School’s. Working together, our researchers and our graduates have the capacity to really make the difference, and help the world ‘build back better’. As Cranfield and SWEE Alumni you have a crucial role here, and as established and emerging leaders across the UK and internationally you are our ambassadors so please stay in touch, and keep us updated on your activities.