Two University of Southampton academics have been appointed as inaugural Clean Air Champions as part of an ambitious new programme to improve air quality in the UK.
Launched by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the Champions will bring together the UK’s world-class air quality research base to develop practical solutions for air quality issues, as part of the Clean Air programme. The champions representing the University are Stephen Holgate, MRC Clinical Professor of Immunopharmacology, and Dr Jenny Baverstock, Senior Collaboration Fellow.
In a joint statement, alongside fellow champion Professor Martin Williams, Head of Science Policy and Epidemiology team at King’s College London, they said: “We are delighted to be chosen as the UKRI Clean Air Champions.
“Recognising that atmospheric pollution in the UK is responsible for about 40,000 early deaths and costs of about £20bn pa to health services and business, our role is to be thought leaders, flag bearers, and strategy owners for the new Clean Air programme.”
“We will bring together outstanding researchers in atmospheric, medical and social science in joined-up thinking and ground-breaking solutions to help create a sound health-based policy, innovative business and trusted public information for the benefit of current and future generations.”
The Clean Air programme aims to develop solutions to air pollution to help policymakers and businesses protect health and work towards a cleaner economy. The programme is a £19.6m collaboration funded under the Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF), involving multiple workstreams managed by organisations within UK Research and Innovation, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Met Office. The programme is running for three years from 2018.
In addition to the appointment of the Champions, major activities that will take place under the SPF Clean Air programme have been announced.
These include the launch of five exciting new research projects funded by UKRI. The projects include the development of improved tools and technologies for measuring and predicting emissions, investigation of the factors underlying individual exposure to pollution and disease, and methods to understand how a broad range of policy changes might affect air quality. These are the first projects commissioned under the programme with further calls expected.
Duncan Wingham, who is leading the SPF through his role as Executive Chair of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), said: “The Clean Air projects will create the foundation for interdisciplinary research to understand and tackle air quality issues, drawing on the existing strengths of the UK’s world-class research base. This is a timely programme that will enhance our capability to respond to current and future threats to public health and build a more resilient, cleaner economy.”
The Clean Air programme follows the University’s commitment to tackling air pollution by leading the Clean Air Partnership in Southampton, which brings together academic and professional services colleagues from across the University, with local and regional stakeholders in air quality in the Solent region, to understand how different stakeholder groups view the future of clean air.
In March, the University Clean Air Partnership held its inaugural symposium at St Mary’s Stadium. The symposium brought together technological and scientific know-how and capacity to acquire, analyse and interpret data to contribute the evidence base for improve air quality in the city.