Interdisciplinary challenge themes

The Sustainable Earth Institute (SEI) brings together researchers from natural and social sciences, engineering, arts, humanities, health and business. The SEI is introducing annual interdisciplinary challenge themes that transcend disciplinary research group structures. These themes provide a focus for SEI activities, including our Small Collaborative Funding scheme and bring together a critical mass of interdisciplinary expertise.

Four interdisciplinary challenge themes have been identified with examples of some current activity:

Healthy landscapes

Global pressures of climate change and population growth are putting unprecedented pressure on the planet’s natural capital that supports food, water and energy security, the foundations of societal health and wellbeing. We need to deliver more food from the same amount of land without triggering environmental and climatic catastrophe. 

While there are multiple entry points into research in this field from One Health concepts (environmental health, animal health, human health), to systems thinking across soil-crop-water or people-land-water connectivity, it is clear that collaboration across disciplines is essential to deliver the credible evidence base required to support land management decision making and future policy. 

Environmental intelligence and sensors

Regulators and stakeholders are demanding more real-time data. We are increasingly becoming data rich and information poor. Within this theme, the University of Plymouth has a national and international track record in specific areas of data acquisition, interpretation and visualisation of environmental data. 

By drawing these strengths together, our expertise can deliver the next generation of environmental monitoring and assessment, particularly as we increasingly move towards real-time data and response. 

Net-Zero carbon

Over the past couple of years various national/local governments, businesses, social enterprises and Universities have declared a climate emergency, often with subsequent targets to reach net-zero carbon. 

Now is the time for action and reaching net-zero carbon requires a holistic, systems-thinking approach requiring input across a number of interacting areas including built environment, mobility, energy, food, resources, behaviour change, nature-based solutions, arts and policy. By bringing research and cross-discipline expertise together around this topic we can do more to accelerate progress in this important area.


South West Natural Powerhouse

The South West Natural Powerhouse (SWNP) is a movement that aims to connect natural capital assets – our resources – with the South-West’s ambition for clean growth. The SWNP is an independent consortium formed from industry, academia and local government who work in collaboration to facilitate clean growth in the South West. The consortium fosters responsible stewardship of our natural resources, whilst promoting sustainable and accelerated development of the blue and green economies. The consortium is currently re-defining its role and impact to potentially include information sharing, creating ideas, proposal writing and collaboration, providing advice, and influencing funding opportunities. The group aims to be ready to respond to the Shared Prosperity and the Levelling Up policy initiatives as well as County Deals.


Funding Call Workshop

Monday, 15 November 2021, 14:00-16:30
Rolle Plaza Marquee

Are you interested in seed funding to carry out a small piece of interdisciplinary research that will support a larger funding bid?

Join us at this workshop, bringing researchers together to explore collaborations on key sustainability challenges.

  • Hear about the 2030 SEI Strategic Plan and challenge themes for 21/22
  • Hear about the latest policy updates and current activities in these areas
  • Find out how to apply for this year’s Small Collaborative Awards funding
  • Network with researchers interested in research collaborations

Register