In recent weeks we have made significant progress with our plans for science central. Following an initial open meeting and subsequent meetings with various stakeholders, we have converged on four academic themes for the site, within the overall umbrella of sustainability.
The four themes are digital, energy, transport and a long-term urban monitoring facility for urban sustainability. The four themes interlink as shown in the diagram below.
The urban monitoring facility (LiTMUS) will create new trans-disciplinary ‘Urban Science’ created through the integration of datasets from science, engineering and social science at multiple, parallel scales. Monitoring data will be integrated with simulation models and visualisation to envision and design sustainable urban futures, making evidence-based sustainable development of urban futures a reality. Our plan is to use science central as a ‘living laboratory’, by incoporating monitoring devices and sensors into the buildings on Science Central as they are constructed.
The digital theme will encompass research on cyber-physical systems (CPS) and cloud computing. CPS are networks of tightly integrated computing and physical processes. Examples include medical devices, energy-efficient infrastructure, automotive and avionic control, assisted living, and flexible manufacturing. CPS design places heavy demands on the links between computational and physical elements, and hence between the research relevant to those domains. At Science Central we propose research towards trustworthy CPS that has the potential to yield engineering methods that cross boundaries between computing and other disciplines. In cloud computing, our aim is to create a unique, world-leading Centre of Excellence, combining Research, Industry, the Public Sector and Teaching. Cloud computing has the potential to revolutionise IT by providing computing resources on demand. Its impact is already being felt across many sectors. However, there are important barriers to be overcome if its full potential is to be realised.
The transport theme will address the challenges posed by the management of cities and the evolution of mobility patterns and technologies (e.g. road vehicles). Our aim is to use the Science Central location to bring together groups dealing with transport, energy, computing science, water and waste management, social and behavioural science, land use planning, economics, business studies, law, medicine and public health, urban and rural studies – not just intellectually but physically to create a research facility certainly unique in the UK and probably unique in Europe. The top-level research objectives will focus on the barriers to the achievement of a sustainable and inclusive transport system, e.g. reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with transport , achieving a drastic decrease in oil dependency, creating healthier environments especially in urban areas and arrresting the growth of congestion.
Finally, the energy theme will deliver solutions to greatly improve energy efficiency and reduce end-use energy demand in an integrated way, across energy intensive sectors through world-leading research and engagement. Tackling climate change, providing energy security and delivering sustainable energy solutions are major challenges faced by the UK . The UK has a very limited number of options and must rely on reducing energy use and increasing the use of its renewables resources. This, combined with nuclear and fossil fuels (using CCS), is regarded as the most viable solution over the next 20-40 years. The social, environmental and economic cost of these challenges provides the research focus for this theme by improving energy efficiency and reducing end-use thermal energy demand.
Clearly these themes are highly multidisciplinary and together will provide an exciting and unique environment. The overall objective is to support research, teaching, engagement and enterprise activities which could not otherwise be achieved within the existing traditional university structure at Newcastle. Four ‘theme leaders’ have kindly agreed to spearhead each theme, namely Stephanie Glendinning (LiTMUS), Mark Robinson (Transport), Paul Watson (Digital) and Tony Roskilly (Energy). I will be working with them over the summer to produce a proposal that details the above activities for presentation to the Science City Strategy Group (which includes representatives from the City Council, our partners in this venture), University Excutive Board, and ultimately Senate and Council. We expect to have firm proposals in place by the end of the year. I’ll continue to provide further updates via this blog. Meantime, if you have any questions I’m sure the theme leaders will be pleased to hear from you.
I won’t be blogging for a couple of weeks due to annual leave. Happy holidays everyone!