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New £10m Agile Initiative announced, led by NbSI Director

February 15, 2022
News item image The Agile Initiative will provide rapid solutions to critical environmental issues, in particular biodiversity loss and climate change.

A new Oxford University research programme, The Agile Initiative, has been established to provide rapid solutions to critical environmental issues. Based at the Oxford Martin School with £10 million of funding from the Natural Environment Research Council and led by NbSI Director Professor Nathalie Seddon, 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. With each Sprint being undertaken within 12 months, the evidence can be fed into the policy cycle in real-time. The themes of the first set of five Sprints include how best to scale up nature-based solutions (NbS) to address climate change in the UK; store CO2 beneath our coastal seas; and transition to the use of non-fossil fuels for international shipping.

Sprint Three in particular will be the focus for the Nature-based Solutions Initiative; to develop realistic landscape-scale assessments of the implementation potentials of NbS that maximise potential synergies between goals, manage trade-offs, and are biophysically and socially feasible, equitable and economically viable. To meet this challenge, we will advance the science of NbS and use new geospatial methods to develop a comprehensive approach to guide where, how and when NbS can be deployed. We will work closely with our partners and local stakeholders and build on their efforts at a range of sites where NbS are being implemented and evaluated. Project sites encompass a wide range of ecological and socio-economic contexts across the UK; different geographies habitats, types of intervention, and forms of governance.

The research for Sprint 3 will be delivered across four interlinked work packages; a critical review of what local stakeholders feel is needed to overcome current obstacles to implementing or scaling-up NbS; developing local landscape maps at project sites that use the latest remote sensing data; working with local stakeholders to test the refine our maps and tools to support the development of a process-based governance framework; and synthesising findings across project sites to co-develop pathways for scaling up these NbS opportunities.

The Sprint’s deliverables will include a toolbox for reliably projecting feasible land use development options at the local level in order to scale up implementation of sustainable NbS in the UK, co-developed to ensure relevance to key decision-makers involved in local industrial strategies, the ELMs scheme, Nature Recovery Strategies, national net-zero, adaptation and biodiversity targets as well as the “levelling up” agenda given the potential of NbS to support job creation and to bring land into community ownership. The pathways will aim to deliver the UK’s international commitments under UNFCCC and CBD as a baseline and build on that towards more ambitious scenarios through to 2030, 2050 and 2100. Throughout the Sprint NbSI will be working with partners including Natural England, the Environment Agency, National Farmers’ Union, Kew Gardens, The RSPB, WWF, UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, The Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment, and local stakeholders at a range of UK sites.

Guided by an Independent Advisory Group and an Executive Board under Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Patrick Grant, the Agile Initiative will bring together leading researchers from across the University working with close partners in government, policy, NGOs and business. NbSI Director Professor Seddon says of the Initiative: ‘The mission of Agile 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.’

Learn more on the Agile Initiative webpage, in the Oxford University announcement, and an expert opinion piece by Professor Nathalie Seddon.