Working together, universities can connect diverse research assets, for the benefit of all

Monika Antal, Executive Manager

This blog was first published by JiSC on 21 January 2022

Like many universities across the nation, the 12 members of the Yorkshire Universities (YU) group supported the COVID-19 response, working with the NHS, government, industry and local authorities to act swiftly.

From vaccines to treatments, analysing data, and sharing buildings, laboratories and facilities, universities of all sizes played a critical role in supporting communities in fighting the pandemic. Indeed, the Universities UK (UUK) campaign #WeAreTogether showcased the ways in which higher education institutions (HEIs) have helped large parts of society.

As we emerge from the worst of the pandemic, there’s an opportunity to consider how the UK research and innovation sector could improve the management of its research estate and infrastructure.

We don’t need to wait for another ‘shock’ to materialise before we act to be more innovative and ambitious. Climate change and the environment emergencies are already happening. They are long-term and complex issues that warrant the mobilisation and collation of physical and intangible assets of HEIs, which together comprise the ‘research estate’.

Climate change, along with levelling up, and health and wellbeing are central to the civic and inclusive agenda at anchor universities in Yorkshire and the Humber.

Regional collaboration

To this end, YU, backed by the 12 vice-chancellors and principals of its members, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Yorkshire and Humber Councils (YHC) which represents 22 local authorities and two mayoral combined authorities.

This commits both parties to work together on the key opportunities and challenges facing the region. In taking this work forward, they have agreed to:

  • Respond collectively to government consultations and policy initiatives
  • Produce joint evidence bases and analyses to influence national government policies and strategies
  • Encourage wider active engagement and participation in learning from academic research projects
  • Share knowledge and assets

Evidenced-based strategy and policy matters. Cities, regions and other local areas that can demonstrate acute knowledge and understanding about their economies, societies and environments, are better placed to make strong cases to attract investment and jobs.

As part of this effort, YU is heavily committed to the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission (YHCC), the largest regional commission in the UK, which launched a regional climate action plan on 10 November 2021 during COP26.

YU convenes a research and evidence panel (REP), which provides scientific advice to the commission. This ensures that the commission connects to the region’s research base to strengthen the evidence base underpinning its work and to allow it to foster and benefit from future research.  

Key to supporting the delivery of the YHCC Action Plan and other interventions is informative, authoritative and robust research and evidence, which will be underpinned by YU’s diverse, internationally recognised research base.

In order to ensure that we draw upon this depth and breadth of expertise and talent, YU is undertaking a comprehensive audit of the skills, capabilities and capacities of its member institutions, so that the Commission can identify the best and most effective expertise in the delivery of the climate action plan.

Expertise database

The YHCC REP has developed a questionnaire to create a dynamic database of expertise across the region. The questionnaire helps capture both the broad breadth and depth of expertise across the various institutes, centres, groups, along with individual researchers based in the region’s universities.

The REP is also looking to develop a pilot Regional Climate Observatory to monitor delivery of the regional climate action plan, as well as a sustainable development index to measure the success of interventions and progress towards achieving net zero targets for our region.

We look forward to working with regional consortia across the UK and funders to support the next generation of developing a next-generation digital approach to the management of the research estate. University research, when better connected with policy making means that environmental and societal change is achieved for the benefit of all.

Note to editors:

Yorkshire Universities – has a shared commitment to strengthen the contribution of universities and higher education institutions to the economic, social and civic well-being of people and places in Yorkshire.

The members of Yorkshire Universities are: Leeds Arts University; Leeds Conservatoire; Leeds Beckett University; Leeds Trinity University; Sheffield Hallam University; University of Bradford; University of Huddersfield; University of Hull; University of Leeds; University of Sheffield; University of York; and York St John University.

The Chair of Yorkshire Universities is Professor Shirley Congdon, Vice-Chancellor, University of Bradford.

This example of best practice supports Jisc’s research and innovation strategy 2021-2023, aimed at improving the ‘recording of the UK’s research estate in support of a UK-wide research capability’.

Jisc – has committed to upgrade its own platform which harvests and supplies a range of sector equipment catalogues. This will ensure it can support the full range of user applications to make research assets discoverable.

In association with sector partners, Jisc is looking at how digital, data and technology approaches can support innovation in the research estate – for example to support decisions about renewal and strategic commissioning, informing place strategies and policies as well as the environmental management of the research estate and significant investments in future technology.

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Introducing YU’s new Policy and Research Officer

Marina Tapley, Policy and Research Officer

I joined Yorkshire Universities (YU) in November as the new Policy and Research Officer. After being part of the Executive Team for over a month, I am taking the opportunity to introduce myself, and to reflect on what I have enjoyed getting involved with at YU so far, and what I am most looking forward to in this role.

I recently attended a Yorkshire University myself; I am a graduate in International Relations and French from the University of Leeds. During my studies, I covered a broad range of topics, but focused on the theme of security and linked security to UK climate policy in my dissertation, where I examined the reactions of different actors to the climate crisis. I also worked on counter-terrorism research, as part of a Laidlaw Research and Leadership Scholarship that enabled me to co-author a journal article and policy brief, as well as to present my research at academic conferences.

One of my favourite parts of student life was the clubs and societies I was involved with. I am passionate about environmental and social justice, so I was especially proud to help establish the University of Leeds Student-Staff Climate Coalition from its inception during my final year. I am really optimistic about the roles that YU and its member institutions can play in our region’s response to the climate crisis and in particular their relationship with the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission (YHCC). Since starting at YU, I have learned about the work of the YHCC Research & Evidence Panel, including its current mapping exercise of existing expertise, and I am excited to see how this will support the implementation of the new YHCC Climate Action Plan. Universities are vital in helping the region address the climate emergency, and I hope to help YU coordinate collaboration in this area.

As part of my undergraduate studies, I also spent a year abroad in Brussels working for a consultancy firm, IBF International Consulting, and had the opportunity to support an EU-funded capacity building project, Election Observation and Democracy Support (EODS). At EODS, I managed and updated a database of caselaw relating to electoral and political rights. I am enthusiastic to build on my interest in political systems within a different context to improve my understanding of the governance structures in the region at an exciting time of change, following the election of the first West Yorkshire Mayor, now in situ alongside the Mayor of South Yorkshire. I am interested to see how devolution evolves in Yorkshire and how universities can support existing and emerging leadership within the region.

After graduating, I worked for a domestic abuse charity on a pilot project, in partnership with Birmingham City Council, providing tailored housing support to women fleeing domestic violence. In this role, I saw some of the barriers facing university students trying to flee domestic abuse, particularly given that most full-time university students are not eligible for housing benefit to cover the cost of emergency accommodation, such as refuge. Since starting at YU, I have continued to work in this area, supporting an ongoing evidence review on the safety of women and girls, commissioned by the Place Based Economic Recovery, Regeneration and Resilience Network (PERN) and led by the University of Huddersfield. The evidence review will enable the West Yorkshire Combined Authority to develop a new strategy to support the safety of women and girls, a key manifesto pledge of the West Yorkshire Mayor, Tracy Brabin. Through my role at YU, I hope to contribute further to this collaboration, which aims to improve prevention of gender-based violence and support victims and survivors. I am also looking forward, more broadly, to help facilitate academic research expertise to help shape policy and support local leadership.

As someone who graduated in 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I welcome the fact that universities in Yorkshire are working closer together to support students and graduates. One example is the Yorkshire and the Humber Student Mental Health Network, which brings together the region’s universities and the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities to encourage greater collaboration around mental health support for students.  I have also been involved in YU’s Graduate Labour Market Task & Finish Group, which aims to support graduate employment and enterprise. Here, it has been fascinating to learn about the vast range of initiatives that exist to support students and graduates to access employment in Yorkshire, and the potential to strengthen the region’s offer further.

One of main reasons I wanted to work for YU is to contribute towards the organisation’s key role in facilitating broad partnerships with a range of actors across the region, which aim to help reduce inequities and create a more inclusive region.  Universities are increasingly focused on their place within local communities and how they support local and regional development, as illustrated in the framework agreed by YU and Yorkshire and Humber Councils in their recent Memorandum of Understanding.

As YU’s Policy and Research Officer, I have an excellent opportunity to put into practice the policy and research skills that I have learned during my studies and since graduation. I am looking forward to continuing my development across a wide range of interesting topics covered by YU’s varied work. Personally, I am also delighted to have the opportunity to move back home to Yorkshire, and to deepen my knowledge and understanding of, and connection to, this brilliant region.

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YU’s take on the 2021 NCUB State of the Relationship Report

Marina Tapley, Policy and Research Officer

On Friday 3 December the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) published their State of the Relationship 2021 report and held an online launch event. This think piece reflects on the report and event, as well as situating them within the context of the relationships between universities and businesses in Yorkshire.

Context from the UK Government

Collaboration between universities and business has a key role to play in fostering innovation and developing talent, which is needed to meet the government’s ambition for the UK to lead on science and innovation. George Freeman, the Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, spoke at the State of the Relationship launch event and stressed that there is agreement from the whole cabinet that science, technology and innovation need to be at the heart of the economy. Freeman said that there is a cross government commitment to the UK becoming a “science superpower” and an “innovation nation”, as backed up by announcement of increases in public R&D funding to £20bn by 2024-25 and creating conditions for further private investment. Freeman also emphasised that the government is committed to spreading funding to support clusters all around the country and recognising that a wide range of universities are at the forefront of innovation, technology and business engagement.

Key Data

The data in the new NCUB report primarily covers the period from July 2019 – August 2020. Importantly, this is the first data covering the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the period does also combine data from immediately before the pandemic as well. One of the key findings of the State of the Relationship report was that interactions between universities and businesses fell by nearly a third (31%) in 2019-20, down from a record high in the previous reporting period. Significantly, this fall in interactions was disproportionately split by company size, with interactions with large businesses falling only 2%, while interactions with Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) fell by 39%. It was highlighted that while the pandemic will have had a large impact on these figures, other issues, such as Brexit, had contributed towards decreased SME engagement. Despite the fall in total interactions, commercialisation metrics continued to strengthen, with a 20% increase in licences granted, a 9% increase in patents and the continuing importance of spin-outs.

Collaboration Trends

Three key collaboration trends were identified in the report:

  • “The rise and rise of the innovation district”
  • “Spin-ins spin out new opportunities”
  • “Building the collaborative workforce of the future”

The growing interest in innovation places highlights the continuing importance of geographical proximity, even with moves towards online working. Nexus at the University of Leeds was spotlighted in the NCUB report as part of “a new generation of innovation places”, with the rise of innovation districts or quarters within cities and increasing focus on using innovation clusters to address broader societal issues. Dr Martin Stow, Nexus Director, contributed to the report by highlighting the importance of innovation ecosystems as “a catalyst for creativity, collaboration and community”, creating economic and social benefits at all geographic levels from local to global. Benefits of innovation places include providing education and employment into highly skilled jobs, which supports social mobility and inclusive growth. Stow emphasised the role universities can play as a catalyst by bringing together knowledge, talent, facilities, and finance. Nexus specifically plays a role in creating an environment that addresses business needs and fosters connections between a diverse community, supporting innovative solutions, high growth businesses and impactful products and services. There are a range of other examples of innovation hubs across the region, including the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre (3M BIC) in Huddersfield and the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District (AMID) in Sheffield, which has secured an additional £763,000 in government funding for its further development.

These innovation places directly support spin-outs and the growing importance of spin-ins. The NCUB report describes spin-ins as “companies that benefit from university inventions, research, technologies and/or facilities, often in return for an equity stake”. Centres like Nexus and 3M BIC provide a clear access point to help businesses tap into university resources and so encourage spin-ins. Nexus provides a base for a diverse range of companies including global high growth businesses, providing support around: community and networks; research and innovation; skills and talent; workspace and facilities. 3M BIC also supports a range of businesses, focusing on SMEs, and help is centred around access to knowledge, support, technology and facilities. The University of Hull’s Aura Innovation Centre focuses on helping businesses with carbon reducing initiatives through support with funding, facilities, skills and knowledge.

Building a collaborative workforce is another important area for universities and businesses to work together, and it was highlighted that there is a need for better flows between academia, training and industry. Universities have a key role in developing talent and helping to address skills gaps, but there is also a need for talent pathways through academia and industry to flow in both directions to allow the effective exchange of knowledge and skills. This is an area where Yorkshire Universities aims to support existing and emerging initiatives in the region, including convening a specific task and finish group on the graduate labour market, bringing together representatives from universities, Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and businesses around the topic of graduate employment.

There are many existing initiatives across Yorkshire that facilitate collaboration around employment and ongoing training opportunities. There are partnerships, between universities, local authorities and businesses, that aim to support graduates to find work in their city of study and help address skills gaps. Examples include #InLeeds and the RISE programme in Sheffield, which specifically connects to SMEs. There are also initiatives to support ongoing training and upskilling of SME leaders in areas such as management and digital skills to support growth and innovation, as is the case for Help to Grow, a government backed programme supported by Leeds Beckett University. There are also a range of sector specific groups and networks, which encourage collaboration between universities and industry across the region and support talent pipelines, including the Yorkshire and Humber Academic Health Science Network, White Rose Industrial Physics Academy, Connected Campus (Screen Yorkshire) and Space Hub Yorkshire. Yorkshire’s universities also offer a range of support around employability and entrepreneurship, including support for start-ups, agencies for freelancers, placements and projects within courses, careers fairs and talks, careers services and platforms, and employability skills embedded in the curriculum.

Collaboration with SMEs

Strengthening SME engagement should be a key priority moving forward given the large fall (-39%) in total interactions highlighted in NCUB’s report. This was addressed at the launch event where the importance of reducing timescales and bureaucracy, as well as increasing clarity around intellectual property rights in any collaboration, were highlighted as key steps that could help increase SME engagements. It was emphasised that collaboration could represent just one project for a university or large company, but it takes up much more relative capacity for an SME and could be their entire business, meaning they are particularly vulnerable to changes in timescales and red tape. There are already many initiatives that place a particular focus on collaboration with SMEs in the region, some of which have already been mentioned above. It is also worth drawing attention to the work of other organisations and partnerships in facilitating and coordinating these relationships between universities and SMEs. For example, Leeds City Region LEP runs the Skills for Growth programme which connects SMEs with local schools, colleges and universities around skills gaps, talent and productivity. Another example is the work of York & North Yorkshire LEP around local graduates supporting SMEs with digital skills for business recovery and a partnership with the University of York on supporting graduates into jobs with SMEs. The Go Higher West Yorkshire partnership also has a range of activities in this area including their Skills Group working with higher and further education partners on opportunities for graduate employment and employer engagement, particularly supporting SME engagement.

Collaboration to Tackle Global Challenges

Another key theme highlighted in the NCUB report was the importance of working together to tackle complex challenges and find innovative solutions that surpass existing structures. The contribution of Professor Simone Buitendijk, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds, and Professor Nick Plant, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research & Innovation, to the report highlighted the importance of collaboration over competition to help address complex and interconnected global issues through innovation and entrepreneurship. To work towards this, it was highlighted that projects should include diverse networks (from universities, industry and policy) throughout all stages of development and implementation to allow a better understanding of the problem from the beginning and encourage more inclusive solutions. Other actions highlighted as important for collaboration included: clear entry points; themed networking events; efforts to reduce inequality; use of innovative technology and training in digital skills. Against this context, it was reassuring to read that more Vice-Chancellors are prioritising, in their institutional strategies, regional impact and employer engagement over peer competition.

Broad Networks of Collaboration

Engagement between universities and businesses should not be viewed in isolation, instead it should be considered as a key aspect within broader ecosystems of collaboration with policymakers and other education providers, as well as other areas of the public and third sector. It is also important that collaboration and innovation between universities and businesses is not just seen in terms of science and technology, but also across all sectors and domains. Yorkshire Universities is contributing directly to facilitating broad networks of collaboration through involvement in the Regional Development Group and the West Yorkshire Innovation Network (WYIN). In the last WYIN meeting there were presentations spotlighting the role of universities in the region including the 3M BIC in Huddersfield and the role of Leeds Beckett in the Help to Grow programme. Higher education providers and businesses will need to work closer together, and with a wide range of actors, including further education providers, local and combined authorities, and civil society, to ensure that innovation drives greater inclusive growth and that collaboration efforts truly meet the needs of society at all levels.

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Six projects to improve Black, Asian and minority ethnic students’ access to postgraduate research in Yorkshire

The joint investment, worth nearly £8 million, by Research England – part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) – and the Office for Students (OfS), will be spent over the next four years on thirteen new projects that will attempt to tackle persistent inequalities that create barriers for Black, Asian and minority ethnic students to access and take part in postgraduate research (PGR).

Six out of these thirteen projects will be led by or with the involvement of Yorkshire Universities (YU) member institutions.

The projects are innovative in scope, scale and focus to an extent that has not been seen in England before. They will improve access into research, enhance research culture and the experience for Black, Asian and minority ethnic PGR students, and diversify and enhance routes into a range of careers.

The projects range from targeting recruitment, admissions and transition, to increasing the number of Black, Asian and minority ethnic female professors, and generating new admissions practices to creating longitudinal, systemic, and structural change at English universities.

Professor Shirley Congdon, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bradford and Chair of Yorkshire Universities, said:

Having six of these projects led by or involving YU members is a fantastic achievement and will add significant weight to the region’s capability, understanding and improvement of participation. We have a genuine opportunity to make tangible differences in the lives of our Black, Asian and minority ethnic students and deepen our collaborative relationships with the NHS and community actors.

Dr Peter O’Brien, Executive Director of Yorkshire Universities, said:

Improving opportunities for under-represented postgraduate students requires a region-wide approach. I congratulate those Yorkshire universities that have secured funding for the innovative approaches they will take to tackling the problem of under-representation and the barriers to progression for Black, Asian and minority ethnic post-graduate students in higher education. This is yet another example of collaboration between universities in the region, which YU is proud to both encourage and to support.

The projects involving YU members (by primary contact or in collaboration with project partners) are the following:

  1. University of Bradford, City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Working Academy, Emerald Publishing, Stronger Communities, Bradford for Everyone, Simply Customer, Digital Health Enterprise zone.

    Bradford Pathways to Academia for Minoritised Ethnicities: Brad-ATTAIN working with partners across the Bradford District, this programme will develop positive action pathways to support progression to PGR study for Black, Asian and minority ethnic students to build a vibrant, inclusive community of Black, Asian and minority ethnic researchers as leaders and influencers.
  2. University of Leeds, Goldsmiths College, University of London, Reading University, University of Plymouth, University of Sheffield, University of Sunderland

    Generation Delta: Nurturing future cohorts of Black, Asian and minority ethnic female professors will be led by six, female, Black, Asian and minority ethnic professors and will lay the foundations for a long-term increase in the number of Black, Asian and minority ethnic female professors in higher education institutions in England.
  3. Nottingham Trent University, Liverpool John Moores University, Sheffield Hallam University, UK Council for Graduate Education, Grit Break Through Programmes, Nottingham University Hospital Trust, NHS R&D North West, Health Education England – North West, Sheffield Hospitals NHS Trust, Sheffield Children’s Hospital NHS Trust

    Equity in Doctoral Education through Partnership and Innovation (EDEPI) will improve access and participation for racialised groups to PGR across three modern universities. It will target recruitment, admissions and transition as critical points of systemic inequality in doctoral education.
  4. University of Sheffield, MA Education Consultancy Our Mel, Sheffield and District African and Caribbean Community Association (SADACCA), The Lit Collective Sheffield, African Voices Platform, Sheffield Anti-Racist Education (SHARE)

    The University of Sheffield Centre for Equity and Inclusion will create longitudinal, systemic, and structural change at the university, establishing a network composed of Black, Asian and minority ethnic PGR students, University of Sheffield academics, and local partners working for equity and racial justice.
  5. Sheffield Hallam University, Manchester Metropolitan University, Advance HE

    Accomplished Study Programme in Research Excellence (ASPIRE) for Black students: Fixing the broken pipeline will develop the capabilities of Black students to navigate structural barriers to doctoral study and enhance pathways of opportunity, through inclusive targeting.
  6. University of York, University of Sheffield, University of Leeds, Sheffield Hallam University, University of Bradford

    Yorkshire Consortium for Equity in Doctoral Education (YCEDE) will tackle ethnic inequalities in access to PGR by systems-change innovations that re-shape institutional policies and procedures. Five Yorkshire universities will reform their admissions criteria and practices, involving work on the efficacy of taken-for-granted criteria as predictors of PGR success.

Note to editors

A full list of project summaries can be found here. Link to call.

Yorkshire Universities has a shared commitment to strengthen the contribution of universities and higher education institutions to the economic, social and civic well-being of people and places in Yorkshire.

The members of Yorkshire Universities are Leeds Arts University; Leeds Conservatoire; Leeds Beckett University; Leeds Trinity University; Sheffield Hallam University; University of Bradford; University of Huddersfield; University of Hull; University of Leeds; University of Sheffield; University of York; and York St John University.

The Chair of Yorkshire Universities is Professor Shirley Congdon, Vice-Chancellor, University of Bradford.


Dr Peter O’Brien, Executive Director, Yorkshire Universities

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Tender opportunity: Review into the use of R&D tax policy to support the creative industries

PERN are seeking to commission a systematic literature review (or meta analysis or similar) to understand the potential of the UK’s R&D tax policy to support the creative industries. The output should include an overview of evidence, understanding of regional differences and policy suggestions tailored to the Yorkshire / West Yorkshire economy.

Find out more about this tender here.

The deadline for submitting proposals to this tender has been extended to 5pm on Monday, 13 December 2021.

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Urgent climate advice given to Yorkshire and Humber leaders

A climate action plan for Yorkshire and the Humber finds that the region will have used up its share of the global carbon budget consistent with a “good chance” of staying within 1.5 °C of warming – the focus of COP26 currently taking place in Glasgow – within just six years if urgent action is not taken now.

The Yorkshire and Humber Climate Action Plan , published today (Wednesday 10 November), calls for meaningful climate leadership from larger institutions in government and the public and private sectors to deliver “significant, tangible contributions” to help tackle the climate and ecological emergency.

Fostering shared responsibility, moving from targets and planning to action, and putting climate and nature at the heart of all areas of decision making are three of the key recommendations from the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission, which also commits to undertake a raft of ambitious actions itself.

It also stresses the need for Yorkshire and Humber to be “climate ready” to face increasing risks from climate change, stating that not acting with the required urgency and ambition will both prolong the region’s contribution to the problem and worsen local impacts.

The Climate Action Plan has been developed with the input of more than 500 people and is being presented at the Yorkshire Post Climate Change Summit in Leeds on 10 November, which has been co-organised with the Commission.

Andy Gouldson, Director of the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission and Professor of Environmental Policy at the University of Leeds, will set out the report in an hour-long session with other Commissioners.

Professor Gouldson said:

“As a Commission we have brought together climate leaders from all sorts of organisations and groups, and we have worked extensively with stakeholders from across the region to develop this plan. It’s been a mammoth undertaking, but it’s hugely important that people are involved in the process and we are very happy with the outcome.

“We now have to start the really hard work, which for us as a Commission is to tackle a set of specific actions over the next two and a half years. We’re playing our part, but we need the region as a whole to step up and get behind the delivery of the plan.”

Included in the report’s 50 actions are calls for a fair and inclusive transition, the integration of climate and nature into the curriculum in schools, the development of jobs and skills, the promotion of green finance and investment and the inclusion of emissions from aviation and shipping in the region’s net zero target.

While delivering a stark warning about the need to prepare for worsening impacts, it also offers hope that dealing with the connected climate and nature crises can help to transform Yorkshire and Humber into a happier, healthier, fairer and more prosperous place to live and work.

Liz Barber, Chief Executive of Yorkshire Water and Chair of the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission, said:

 “The publication of this action plan is a significant first step for the Commission in guiding the region’s response to the climate and ecological emergency.

“Of paramount importance to this response is a commitment to achieve a just transition as we move to a green economy. Climate change impacts more on disadvantaged communities and it is critical that we make sure that our efforts reduce rather than exacerbate existing inequalities.”

Support for the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission’s Climate Action Plan has come from the Yorkshire Leaders Board, which includes the leaders and chief executives of all of the local and combined authorities across the region.

In a joint statement, Yorkshire Leaders Board co-Chairs Cllr Carl Les, Leader of North Yorkshire County Council, and Cllr Sir Stephen Houghton, Leader of Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, said:

“Climate change is not a remote or distant issue. Many of our communities have already experienced extreme weather in recent years. In time, every corner of Yorkshire and Humber will be directly or indirectly impacted by the changing environment to some degree. The Commission’s recommendations on how our region can adapt are therefore an extremely important contribution.

“Going forward, we will work together to build the support from our communities, businesses and national government that will be vital to make all of these actions possible.”

Fifty actions to drive change

Fifty actions are outlined in the Climate Action Plan, designed to help build the region’s resilience against climate disasters and help achieve the region’s 2038 net zero target, which specifies the need for “significant progress” by 2030.

Other key actions included in the Commission’s “Framework for Change” include:

  • Developing a positive vision
  • Improve skills and create jobs in the green economy
  • Accelerating investment
  • Nurturing collaboration and innovation
  • Protecting and restoring nature
  • Developing a sustainable progress index for the region that is not based solely on GDP
  • Influencing national government.

The strong emphasis on climate resilience underscores the need to plan ahead so that we can cope and recover quickly when climate risks become reality. Among its recommendations on this are:

  • Develop climate risk communications for different audiences
  • Encourage the wider adoption of area-wide and site-specific climate adaptation plans and actions
  • Promote resilience in land use by restoring and enhancing the region’s many key natural assets
  • Prepare the food and farming sector for current and future changes
  • Promote nature-based solutions and blue-green infrastructure
  • Develop a regional network for climate readiness and resilience training
  • Promote the provision and uptake of affordable, comprehensive flood insurance
  • Strengthen plans for the long-term management of change and loss caused by sea level rise
  • Develop a whole of society approach to emergency response.

On net zero, the plan points out that Yorkshire and the Humber region directly emits 7.5% of UK emissions, which is more than countries like Croatia, Slovenia or Cyprus. We can “do our bit” by a range of actions, including:

  • Put the primary emphasis on reducing demand for all types of energy
  • Support the greatly accelerated decarbonisation of energy supply
  • Deliver ambitious retrofit for housing, with a major focus on reducing fuel poverty
  • Minimise the impact and maximise the contribution of new developments
  • Promote public transport through the wider development of mass-transit schemes
  • Minimise the need for private car ownership
  • Minimise the impacts of aviation by promoting alternative forms of travel and changing the behaviours of the small percentage (14%) that take the most (70%) of flights
  • Focus economic development, business support and training on greening the region’s economy
  • Promote changes in planning that put climate and nature at the heart of the design and delivery of local plans.

Undertaking commitments

In addition to the 50 recommended actions for the region, the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission has outlined specific actions that it plans to work on. These include:

  • Developing a Citizens’ Forum to enable diverse voices to shape the climate debate, and explore ways of developing a regional network of Community Climate Champions
  • Enhance access to climate outreach and carbon literacy for everyone in the region, and develop an online, open access Climate Leadership Programme
  • Bring forward a Climate Leaders’ Pledge to promote ambitious actions in key organisations across the region
  • Work with the finance sector to explore ways to develop a climate and nature finance platform for the region
  • Work to develop an outline strategy for nature-based solutions and blue-green infrastructure for the region, and explore ways of developing a Yorkshire and Humber Nature Service
  • Develop a regional climate observatory to assess risks, analyse policies and scan for best practice and develop a Sustainable Progress Index
  • Develop a regional area energy plan and support the development of smart energy networks and community energy initiatives
  • Press national government for policies to deliver regional climate ambitions.

Support from Yorkshire mayors

South Yorkshire Mayor Dan Jarvis willbe speaking at the Summit on the regional relevance of the global climate agenda. He said:

“The climate emergency is the greatest challenge we face. We must urgently confront it while also tackling the long-standing inequalities holding the Northern economy back. We’ve declared a climate emergency in South Yorkshire, and have pledged to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2040 at the latest. But we must do this in a way which benefits not only just the environment, but our people too – creating good jobs, boosting our productivity, and building a future that’s happier, healthier and more prosperous for everyone.

“This plan is a significant first step to building that future for Yorkshire and the Humber. It’s critical that we start this work now, there is no time to waste.”

Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire, will be opening the Summit with a welcome from Yorkshire. She said:

“The climate emergency is a global crisis but the solutions are local and that’s why the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission’s Action Plan is so vital.

“Many of the measures being called for in this plan are mirrored in the West Yorkshire Climate and Environment Plan which was launched last month and sets out how we will deliver a net zero carbon region by 2038 at the latest. Both Plans are clear – we need urgent and collaborative action now. We cannot afford to delay.”

Livestreamed event

The all-day Summit at the Royal Armouries in Leeds will be hosted by journalist and broadcaster Christine Talbot. Key sessions from the Yorkshire Climate Summit will be livestreamed and available to watch for free via the event website. The Summit runs from 9.15am to 4.30pm, with the Climate Action Plan being presented by Commissioners from 10.00-11.00am.

The conference is available to watch for free on the Yorkshire Post Climate Change Summit website.

Notes to editors

View the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission Climate Action Plan here.

For interview requests please email Kate Lock, Communications Manager for Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission, on 

Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission

The Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission launched in March 2021, as part of the Place-based Climate Action Network (PCAN) and supported by the Yorkshire Leaders Board.

The Commission is an independent advisory group that brings together public, private and third sector actors to support, guide and track the delivery of ambitious climate actions across the region.

Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission’s aims are to advance the region’s climate leadership and to accelerate climate resilient, net-zero development through an inclusive and just transition. Read an overview here.

The Commission has received funding from the Yorkshire and Humber Leaders Board, the Environment Agency, Yorkshire Water, Northern Powergrid, Northern Gas Networks, and the University of Leeds. In-kind contributions were provided by the Trades Union Congress and Yorkshire Universities.

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Yorkshire Universities welcomes the publication of the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Action Plan

Responding to the publication of the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Action Plan, Dr Peter O’Brien, Executive Director of Yorkshire Universities, and Commissioner on the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission, said:

Yorkshire Universities (YU) welcomes the publication of the first Yorkshire and Humber Climate Action Plan. This is a serious and thoughtful document, which provides a clear framework for the region to harness its collective assets and capabilities to deliver the actions needed to respond to the climate emergency. As the Chief Scientific Advisor, Sir Patrick Vallance, said yesterday, there is no greater challenge facing humanity than climate change. 

As a Commissioner, I welcome the fact that the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Action Plan has been developed following extensive public consultation. All people, places and stakeholders in the region need to feel ownership of the Plan if we are to see a just transition to a net zero carbon future. 

Universities in Yorkshire and the Humber have been at the forefront of scientific efforts to identify the issues causing and resulting from climate change, and to help society take forward the technological and behavioural changes needed to ensure that communities, industry and infrastructure become more resilient in the face of more extreme weather events. Yorkshire’s universities have demonstrated their unique value to the global movements that have been evident during COP26. Equally, within Yorkshire and the Humber, our universities have shown real leadership as the new Regional Action Plan has taken shape. 

As we now move towards implementation, the region’s universities, of all types, will be invited to contribute towards the next stage of the Commission’s work. It’s a responsibility I know Yorkshire’s universities, with the support of YU, are ready to embrace. 

Note to editors

Yorkshire Universities has a shared commitment to strengthen the contribution of universities and higher education institutions to the economic, social and civic well-being of people and places in Yorkshire.

The members of Yorkshire Universities are Leeds Arts University; Leeds Conservatoire; Leeds Beckett University; Leeds Trinity University; Sheffield Hallam University; University of Bradford; University of Huddersfield; University of Hull; University of Leeds; University of Sheffield; University of York; and York St John University.

The Chair of Yorkshire Universities is Professor Shirley Congdon, Vice-Chancellor, University of Bradford.


Dr Peter O’Brien, Executive Director, Yorkshire Universities

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New YU Report: Universities and ‘Place Promotion’ in West Yorkshire

Report written by James Ransom, YU Associate

This discussion paper provides an overview of some of the key issues shaping the contribution of universities and higher education institutions (HEIs) to the promotion of place, and to attracting inward investment and increased trade into Yorkshire and the Humber, and in particular West Yorkshire.

It should be read against the background of the government’s commitment to increase total research and innovation (R&I) investment to 2.4 percent of national GDP, in particular as foreign-owned businesses in the UK spend more on this activity than domestically-owned businesses.

In addition, it also provides a contribution to discussions that have taken place at various times in the region as to how universities and HEIs help to attract and embed business investment and trade within and across city/sub-regions, regions and the Northern Powerhouse. The report also seeks to inform the emergent 2021-2025 Leeds City Region Trade Strategy.

This work is intended to stimulate debate and to provide a basis for potential actions going forwards. Overall, the region’s universities are well-positioned to strengthen their strategic relationships with Combined Authorities, metro mayors, local government, LEPs, business and others, and to collectively showcase nationally and internationally the unique strengths of higher education (HE) in the region as an asset to attract investment and jobs. In particular, some practical and immediate actions could include providing a feed of relevant university-focused news reports for local inward investment web portals, promoting the local higher-level skills base, and utilising international students and alumni more strategically.

Download the full report. (Opens in new tab).

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Why we need more inward investment to meet our R&D targets

James Ransom, YU Associate

The contribution of business is vital if the UK is to meet its target of R&D investment reaching 2.4 percent of GDP by 2027. International comparisons suggest that this is an ambitious target, that will be difficult to meet: achieving R&D funding goals is the exception rather than the norm. Adão Carvalho assessed how effective R&D intensity policies were across 45 countries, and found that 84 percent missed their targets. For 17 percent of countries, R&D intensity actually decreased over the period of the target.

Read more

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Calling all marketing lecturers – opportunity to contribute to an interuniversity marketing competition

Leeds Trinity University are hoping to run a Yorkshire-wide interuniversity marketing competition in semester 2. This will be similar to the format CIM’s ‘The Pitch’ competition but will only be available to level 4 students studying at a university in Yorkshire.

The proposed competition will encourage students to work together in small groups in response to a marketing challenge. Students will gain valuable skills including teamwork, leadership, problem solving and marketing analysis. It will also be a valuable addition to student CV’s.

If you are interested in finding out more, or being part of the working group to create and launch the competition, please contact Gaynor Cross, Marketing Lecturer.

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Tender opportunity: Safety of women and girls

PERN would like to produce a detailed report – drawing on national and international interventions – to gain insight into interventions to improve the safety of women and girls in West Yorkshire. This report will be a part of a wider policy roundtable that is being supported by West Yorkshire Combined Authority to find opportunities for evidence-based, collaborative policy development.

Find out more about this tender.

The deadline for submitting proposals to this tender has been extended to 5pm on Monday, 18 October 2021.

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Tender opportunity: Insight into ‘working class voices’ in economic policy

PERN are seeking to commission a report examining working class voices in (regional) policy making. Whilst we would like to hear your suggestions for the report’s scope and format, we want to understand the prevalence (or lack) of working-class perspectives in policy making, barriers to working class input into the policy process and potential routes for inclusivity.

Find out more about this tender.

Deadline for submitting proposals: 5pm on Monday, 20 September 2021.

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PERN Academic Steering Group / Women in Economics joint submission to the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee

Responding to a call by the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee, which is holding an inquiry entitled, ‘An Equal Recovery’, the Place-based Economics Recovery Network (PERN) academic steering group, and Women in Economics research community initiative have submitted written evidence to the Committee.

You can read the submission here.

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