UWE Bristol’s contribution to climate action and sustainability

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Drone footage of UWE Bristol

As the UK host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), we look at how UWE Bristol are contributing to climate action and sustainability:

With 40,000 students and 3500 employees, we are well aware of our impacts in terms of sustainability and carbon reduction – and well aware of our responsibilities.

We recognised the Climate and Species Extinction Emergencies in 2020, with our board of governors formally signing up to this commitment. Our 2030 UWE Bristol strategy sets out a clear commitment to be carbon neutral by 2030 across key areas. The strategy sets out our commitments across:

  • Carbon neutrality
  • Reducing water and energy use, waste
  • Aim to eliminate single use plastic – signed up to UK Plastics Pact
  • Working towards Clean air and smoke free campuses
  • Looking for year on year reductions in non-sustainable travel
  • Embedding awareness of carbon reduction and sustainability across all of our programmes and prioritising research that addresses these issues

Below is a small snapshot of some of the support we offer businesses and processes we are putting in place to achieve our 2030 carbon neutral goals:

Skills for Clean Growth

Skills for Clean Growth, in partnership with NatWest, will help address the skills needed to deliver the West of England’s net zero ambitions and vision for clean and inclusive growth. It will support SMEs in the region adapt and change as they transition to a low carbon economy, providing the leadership skills needed to build a clean growth strategy; and the knowledge and tools to achieve sustainability.

UWE Bristol and NatWest have shared values around supporting SMEs to achieve net zero, in support of West of England’s ambition to be a driving force for clean and inclusive growth, committing to net zero carbon by 2030.

The scheme, funded by WECA (Workforce for the Future) will address these challenges:

  • Increased demand for green skills – Harnessing the opportunities for innovation and growth
  • Growth in low carbon economy – predicted 11% a year
  • Creation approx. one million jobs nationally
  • Adaption required by high carbon sectors (e.g. building and construction)
  • Mismatch between what is currently provided and what employers need

Innovation support for SMEs

UWE Bristol works in partnership with WECA to identify the growth and regeneration needs of the region, focusing our activity on strategically important sectors such as Clean Growth. 

UWE Bristol has designed, developed, and delivered targeted programmes to support the growth of the region’s strategic priority sectors. We have secured a series of multi-million pound EU funded projects to channel capital grants and business support to SMEs across the region in support of innovation and growth. These have secured £11m for the region, leveraged over £10m of private investment and the university has invested over £3m in these programmes.

Over the past 3 years, UWE Bristol has channelled more than 100 innovation grants – worth £7m and attracting £8m in private sector investment – to fast-growth businesses through our Innovation 4 Growth Programme and other targeted initiatives.  This has secured nearly 1,000 new jobs in the region. The success of this activity is communicated across the local innovation ecosystem and feeds into the design and delivery of our portfolio of future business support programmes including our new Digital Innovation Fund.

Case study:

  • Collecteco works in partnership with UWE Bristol to donate surplus furniture and equipment to good causes and has generated over £363,000 social value and avoided 67 tonnes of CO2 in 2021. They said: “UWE’s support has been invaluable and has ranged from facilitating Scale 4 Growth funding through to them partnering with us to donate surplus furniture and equipment from their estate”

University Enterprise Zone (UEZ)

The University Enterprise Zone(UEZ) based on UWE Bristol’s Frenchay Campus, provides high quality space for 80+ high tech start-up and scaling businesses, employing in excess of 300 people, with access to a robust and vibrant investment community. It is on target to generate 500 jobs, and more than £50m for the local economy. These businesses are supported through targeted innovation support and growth advice.  Focus/gateway is on digital, HealthTech, bioscience and low carbon SMEs.

Case Study:

  • Inheriting Earth (in Future Space) is a sustainable product design company set up by Adam Root, with the mission to stop the flow of new plastic entering our water, trapping plastics shed by clothes in washing machines. They successfully grew their business, attracted investment and recently outgrew Future Space and moved on into their own premises. Read more about Inheriting Earth.
  • Albotherm is another Future Space business and they are focusing on developing technology that provides a solution to address climate change. Albotherm was founded by a team of scientists turned entrepreneurs in 2020 with a vision to bring our planet one step closer to carbon neutral and ensure future food security with their passive cooling technology. They have developed coatings for glass that respond to light and heat and control thermal gain, which reduce the need for air con.

Student Accommodation

We are developing a 2,200 bed student accommodation complex on Frenchay campus, which will be built to Passivhaus standards, the biggest development in Europe built to this exacting energy efficiency standard. The accommodation will have Air-tight fabric combined with air-heat pumps and solar panels. The accommodation will have high air quality and, low running costs, and will also be affordable.

Our Students

We aim to embed understanding of sustainability and carbon literacy across all of our programmes not just the many which are more obviously of direct relevant to the built environment, like environmental management and engineering.  Professor Jim Longhurst, Assistant Vice Chancellor Environment and Sustainability, commented “They are probably ahead of us any anyway, but if we can embed this understanding in all our students they will be committed ambassadors for the next 40,50, 60 years. They are the future – but the future is coming faster than we might like”.

Find out more about Sustainability at UWE Bristol