The Soil Erosion game - Tanzania - Global Challenges Research Fund

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  • Copthorne Hotel, Armada Way, Plymouth, PL1 1AR

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The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a five year, £1.5 billion fund announced by the UK Government to support cutting-edge research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries through:

  • challenge-led disciplinary and interdisciplinary research
  • strengthening capacity for research and innovation within both the UK and developing countries providing an agile response to emergencies where there is an urgent research need
  • GCRF is administered through delivery partners including the research councils and national academies.

This day-long event will explore the responses to Global Challenges that address key issues, including a showcase of research areas that are already having an impact and those with potential.

Session one

Tackling Global Challenges, chaired by Professor Iain Stewart, Director of the Sustainable Earth Institute

Keynote speakers: 

  • ‘Risk and Resilience in the Global Challenges’ – Dr John Rees – Director of Science for Earth Hazards, Observatories, British Geological Society 
  • ‘Designing for interdisciplinary working’ – Professor Laura Lee – International consultant, educator and speaker for integrated design practices
  • ‘Empowering the global community to generate solutions for a healthier, more sustainable future’ – Dr Claire McNulty – Senior Director (Europe), National Geographic Society.
Following a welcome from Professor Jerry Roberts, Deputy-Vice-Chancellor, the event will open with our brilliant collective of keynote speaker with international research experience spanning biodiversity and conservation, environment and human health, and adaption to disasters.

More details featuring the rest of our exciting line up will be announced soon.

11.15–11.30 | Break

Session two

GCRF project marketplace, chaired by Professor Will Blake

Insight into the current University of Plymouth projects that have previously benefited from the GCRF, as project leads offer a three minute lightning talk followed by round-table discussions.

  • Ardhi na kujifunza (Land and learning): Building a sustainable future on the Jali Ardhi legacy by Dr Claire Kelly
  • Water-LION: Developing capacity to design and distribute potable water supply technology in East Africa by Dr Andrew Fox
  • Portable device for multiplexed detection of water-borne pathogens and heavy metals using aptamer conjugated functionalised nanomaterials by Dr David Jenkins
  • KUPUMUA project: Partnership working/Capacity building projects to prevent and treat chronic lung disease in East Africa by Dr Rupert Jones
  • African Flowers: Aeolian plastic pollution in deserts by Professor Anne Mather
  • Is the freshwater crab Barytelphusa cunicularis suitable for use as a sustainable livelihood resource in India? by Professor John Spicer

13.00–14.00 | Lunch and poster exhibition featuring current University of Plymouth projects funded by the Newton Fund and GCRF, plus stands from University Research Institutes.

Session three

Developing ideas around core GCRF Challenge areas, chaired by Dr Sana Murrani

How can the University of Plymouth strengthen our responses to future funding calls? This session will comprise of two-minute lightning talks on each of the Global Challenge areas, followed by in-depth roundtable discussions.

Roundtable discussions:

Rapporteur feedback (three minutes each)

15.30–16.30 | Coffee and networking

Who is this event for?
This event will be beneficial for academics with research that is currently, or has potential to be, applied to Global Challenges. If you'd like to broaden your horizons on research needs, hear the latest updates about current projects, and gain an understanding for how your own research can be shaped to benefit, this is the ideal event for you. The event is also open to the public who may wish to hear more about the international research that takes place across the University.

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Our speakers

Professor Laura Lee: Architect, FAIA, Hon FRAIA

International consultant, educator, speaker for integrated design practices, policies, programs as well as research practices and innovation.

Professor Laura Lee is a registered architect and Professor of Architecture most notably at Carnegie Mellon University where she served as Head of the School. 

She has also taught and consulted throughout North America and globally in Antwerp, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Dublin, Doha, Gdansk, Istanbul, Milan, Rome and Zurich.

Laura is an international voice for integrated design education, policy, practice as well as research and innovation between the academy, government, industry and the profession. 

As an expert in service, strategy, systems design approaches to address complex challenges, Laura is a consultant to institutions and organisations in Europe and globally.


Two of her key recommendations were adopted: a Commission for Integrated Design, the first of its kind in Australia and an Integrated Design Strategy for the City of Adelaide as a design-led vision based on a model of Intelligent Investment for design, planning and development. 

Laura also serves as an accreditation chair and advisor to academic institutions, companies, governments and professional organisations. She is the recipient of several awards, grants and honours.

Dr John Rees

Director of Science for Earth Hazards, Observatories, British Geological Survey

John Rees is director of Earth Hazards and Observatories at the British Geological Survey (BGS) and Risk Research Champion for the UK Research Council. 

He is also co-lead of the GCRF challenge: Resilience to short-term environmental shocks and long-term environmental change.

John chairs the UK Collaborative for Development Sciences Disaster Research Group, the science and technology major group in the lead up to the Sendai framework. 

Previously he was the NERC natural hazard theme leader, and head of corporate policy and science coordination at the BGS, where he has been based for most of his career.

John has worked extensively on coastal and marine hazards, urban risks- largely in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, and bridging the science-policy gap.

Environmental science induction image of an iceberg. Courtesy of Shutterstock.

He was one of the co-recipients of the 2012 Lloyds Science of Risk prize.

John has been called upon to provide advice or evidence to the many UK and international scientific panels, Government Policy Reviews, and Select Committees.

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