What is the Agile Initiative?

The world’s researchers have been working to understand and solve societal challenges such as biodiversity loss and climate change for decades. However, decision makers in government, NGOs and business need to have this information available to them in the format they need and at the moment that they are making critical policy choices.

Researchers attend one of our very first Agile sprint workshops.

The Agile Initiative at the Oxford Martin School aims to put this essential knowledge in their hands, and revolutionise how world-class, high-impact research supports policymaking. It responds to specific social and environmental policy questions with fast-paced solution-focused ‘Sprints’ that deliver demand-led new research precisely when it’s needed. In these Sprints, new interdisciplinary research teams drawn from across Oxford work with partners to feed evidence into the policy cycle in real-time.

The Agile Initiative will share its learnings, develop training in the Sprint approach, and create a critical mass of interdisciplinary, engaged early career researchers who are keen to make a difference.

It has ambitions to reshape how academic institutions value interdisciplinary collaborations and outputs beyond publishing papers, thereby catalysing a lasting culture shift for researchers and funders alike.

The Agile Initiative was established in February 2022 with a major £10 million grant from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). It is part of the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford, building on its mission to foster innovative collaborations to solve the world’s most urgent challenges. The Agile Initiative reflects Oxford University’s commitment to net zero carbon and net biodiversity gain and is part of an increasing community of projects and institutes at the University focussed on pressing environmental issues.

Why Agile? Why now?

The exceptional circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that given the right combination of people, resources, and motivation, science can deliver outstanding research and tangible solutions in record time. Combined with direct interaction with decision makers this leads to policy breakthroughs that maximise the benefits of evidence-led thinking.

Interacting, compounding challenges in energy, water and food security, alongside steep biodiversity declines and accelerating climate change are similarly urgent problems that need urgent policy solutions underpinned by the best evidence we have available.

The Agile Initiative aims to transform the pace at which high quality research evidence contributes to policy decisions. This requires a process for defining clear, focused objectives, quickly committing funding, bringing the right people together, and strong, flexible, leadership that is not afraid to take risks.


Who is behind agile?

"We don’t have much time to get humanity onto a sustainable trajectory. We need to act more swiftly and flexibly. The Agile Initiative intends to change how research and evidence guide environmental policy, whilst also catalysing a shift in the research culture".

Professor Nathalie Seddon

"Academics have been trying to do more policy-relevant research for some time, with mixed success. In Agile, we are doing the deep co-production, allied with a new funding model, commitment to inclusion and institutional change, and more systemic thinking, to redefine what success looks like".

Dr Peter Barbrook-Johnson

Management group


Programme team


How can I get involved in Agile?

The Agile Initiative is always moving and always looking for the next big question and the brightest minds to help answer it. We are building a community of researchers, especially early career researchers, ready to mobilise and join the next Sprint team if their expertise can add value.

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