£10mn backing for fast-paced research on environmental policy questions

Fields next to the coast
Sprints have been chosen for their socioeconomic and environmental importance to policy, potential impact, and time-scale deliverability, and inclusiveness and diversity.

The Agile Initiative at the Oxford Martin School has been established with funding from the Natural Environment Research Council to provide rapid solutions to critical environmental issues.

It will deliver high-impact interdisciplinary research and contribute urgently-needed answers to inform environmental policy.

Fast-paced research ‘Sprints’ will respond to specific questions, identified in partnership with policymakers and key stakeholders across the UK, typically within 12 months, so evidence can feed into the policy cycle in real-time. Among the first ‘Sprints’, is research into how best to scale up nature-based solutions to climate change in the UK; store CO2 beneath our coastal seas; and transition to the use of non-fossil fuels for international shipping.

The Agile Initiative at the Oxford Martin School will be guided by an Independent Advisory Group and an Executive Board under Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Patrick Grant. It will be directed by Professor Nathalie Seddon and will bring together leading researchers from across the University working with close partners in government, policy, NGOs and business. The Oxford Martin School’s experience in bringing together multidisciplinary teams for solution-oriented research will be important for Agile’s success.

“The mission of the Agile Initiative is to tackle global challenges by rapidly delivering solutions-oriented environmental science. By catalysing a shift in the research and research-funding culture, Agile will build long-term capacity to deliver high-quality research to decision-makers.”

Professor Nathalie Seddon, Professor of Biodiversity and Director of the Agile Initiative

Professor Grant, Oxford’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research, says, “The Agile Initiative was inspired in part by the speed with which the University’s vaccine team achieved success. We are now setting ourselves the challenge to bring similarly fast-paced science and solutions to pressing environmental problems, drawing on our deep and broad research capacity. Working with a range of partners and across disciplines, the new Agile Initiative will aim to provide timely insights and influential advice on pressing environmental issues to a range of audiences and policy-makers.”

Professor Seddon adds, “We know we’ve got world-leading researchers who can produce solutions and we have innovation capability. The challenge for us is a matter of scale. AGILE will enable us to dial up the real-world impact of our environmental science and ensure the next generation is working differently – more efficiently, more cooperatively. It will enable Oxford and the organisations it inspires to develop and embed a new culture; one that embraces genuinely demand-led interdisciplinary research to tackle the most pressing challenges of our time.”

Sprints have been chosen for their socioeconomic and environmental importance to policy, potential impact, and time-scale deliverability, and inclusiveness and diversity.

Other Sprints will be launched during the five-year programme with topics to be identified in collaboration with decision makers in government, business and NGOs – all focussed on environmental issues. Each Sprint will have a positive equality impact – projects will undertake an Equality Impact Assessment to evaluate the potential impacts and unintended consequences of proposed policy changes and identify mitigation strategies where needed. They will all be deliverable within a short time scale to have the greatest possible impact.