It Means Taking the Business of Sustainability Seriously

The University of Coventry in the UK is taking the lead in building resilience in the face of global change. A focus on food security is aimed at managing this critical issue in a changing world. Other initiatives include sustainable transport and construction, by reaching out to local communities and businesses with technologies and know-hows to build a low carbon economy. Serious Games come into play, too. Read more

Serious business from the University of Coventry

By Ken Hickson

To be “sent to Coventry” was an English saying which supposedly originated in the 1600s. It meant:  “To be ignored or ostracised. This behaviour often takes the form of pretending that the shunned person, although conspicuously present, can’t be seen or heard.”

But these days, being sent to Coventry – particularly the University – could be a very good thing to happen to you. This place is becoming a global centre for research and development into the business of sustainability, low carbon/low impact living, cleaner transport and cites, and food security.

We came to get to know the University of Coventry through the business of Serious Games. It is a global leader in research and development in the creative and technical application of games for good. It set up the Serious Games Institute 7 years ago and now is taking on the world with Serious Games International (SGI) – in Europe, In the US and in Asia.

But when we heard Professor John Latham, the University’s Pro Vice Chancellor speak in Singapore at the first anniversary of SGI presence in Asia, we came to realise there’s more to this university city of Coventry than legends.

Coventry has inspired many things – from the motor industry and the jet engine to Lady Godiva. The city’s slogan, ‘Coventry Inspires’ – a play on the city’s famous three spires, was chosen by the people of Coventry to reflect the enthusiasm that they feel about their city’s past, present and future.

John told me that it the University is seriously investing in research and development into global issues of sustainability, climate change, clean tech and clean energy. It is not consumed with the past, but very much focussing on the future – of cities, transport, buildings – towards a low impact and low carbon tomorrow.

So we take a glimpse, through recent University reports of some of the things consuming the University.  First food!

Food security

A new Master’s degree has been launched by Coventry University to tackle the globally critical issues of food security and contribute to the development of food systems that will help countries feed their growing populations.

The MSc in Food Security Management, which begins in September, will equip students with a comprehensive insight into sustainable food production and management, agricultural systems, climate change and the environment, and law and governance. The course is being run by experts in the University’s Centre for Agroecology and Food Security, including the world-leading researchers behind the University’s Grand Challenge Initiative programme in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security.

“It is generally accepted that we need to develop more sustainable agricultural systems that protect the natural resource base, reduce adverse effects of agriculture on the environment, and are conducive to the maintenance of biodiversity,” explained MSc in Food Security Management course leader Dr James Bennett.

Food for Thought

Encouraging people to grow more of their own food is not only beneficial to the environment but leads to improved health and wellbeing and creates stronger local communities, according to new Coventry University research released today.

In a study of the Master Gardeners programme run by the UK’s leading organic growing charity, Garden Organic, researchers in the University’s Centre for Agroecology and Food Security (CAFS) and Centre for Sustainable Regeneration (SURGE) found that those involved enjoyed an increased sense of community and improved life satisfaction, as well as having a significant impact on their food growing and consumption habits.

Through this new mentoring programme, Garden Organic recruited, trained and supported more than 400 volunteers in five areas – North London, South London, Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Warwickshire – to become Master Gardeners.

These volunteers, aged 16-81, then worked with their local community to encourage more people to grow food. As part of their commitment volunteers then recruit 10 households to mentor in horticulture for a year.

Low Carbon Transport

The annual celebration of Coventry’s automotive heritage will take place this bank holiday weekend at the city’s Festival of Motoring, and – for the first time – will feature a unique insight into the transport innovations of tomorrow.

Organised by Coventry University in partnership with the Coventry Transport Museum, the Future of Transport Expo will run throughout the whole weekend as part of the festival, and will give companies from the area an unprecedented opportunity to shout about what they do and illustrate the vibrancy of the region’s transport sector – particularly low carbon initiatives.

The expo will showcase the considerable range of transport innovations that are being developed and produced across the region today. Exhibitors over the weekend will include Jaguar Land Rover, Liberty Electric Cars, Mercedes, Nissan, Peugeot and Vauxhall – each of whom are expected to have a ‘green’ vehicle on display.

Local firm Travel de Courcey will also be showing off one of its new electric buses, which began running on service routes along Kenilworth Road and in the south of Coventry earlier this year.

Coventry University itself is set to exhibit a selection of low carbon vehicles at the expo, with highlights including:

• the H2EV hydrogen fuel cell vehicle created by University spin-out Microcab;

• a 100mph battery-powered go-kart created by a team of undergraduates to contest the prestigious Electric Vehicle Grand Prix at Indianapolis;

• student team Phoenix Racing’s single-seater racing car, built for this year’s Formula Student contest to defend the University’s ‘Most Fuel Efficient Car’ award from 2011;

• the University’s entry into the Shell Eco-marathon – a ‘soap-box’ style racer designed to go as far as possible on a litre of fuel.

Sustainable Construction

Coventry University greeted suppliers and clients from the sustainable construction sector last month as they met to discuss how small and medium sized enterprises in the West Midlands could be put on the map for supply to the industry.

The University is leading on the Sustainable Building Futures (SBF) project, which engages with eligible SMEs in the region for knowledge transfer, collaborative development and implementation of innovative environmental technology for use in sustainable construction.

Funded by Coventry University and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the project provides fully funded support to West Midlands SMEs in the form of specialist advice and the development, testing and demonstration of new sustainable building technologies. It also offers access to state-of-the-art equipment in the University’s new Engineering and Computing building.

The ‘Get Ready to Supply’ event provided a platform for both suppliers’ and buyers’ views to be heard, and included one-to-one advice sessions with industry experts from Orbit, the Sustainable Housing Action Partnership (SHAP) and Coventry University’s Low Impact Buildings Centre.

Andrew Tonks, programme director for the SBF project, said:

“The event provided a fantastic opportunity for us to engage with local industry and to listen to their needs. We are now planning on how we can develop the support services that the SBF project offers so we can help local industry compete in these challenging yet exciting times.”


Leave a Reply