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Small Grants for Academic Year 2010/11

The Grand Challenge of Sustainable Cities Small Grants Scheme made seven awards for the academic Year 2010—2011. This was the first call under GCSC, and it made awards of between £3,500-£7,000 for projects that led to, or supported, cross-disciplinary collaboration.

Small grants proposal should be innovative and aimed at achieving research impact (through scholarly output, public engagement, influence on policy and practice, enterprise activity and/or translational research). Collaboration must be between staff based in different UCL departments, and can involve external partners. The Small Grants Scheme includes all four Grand Challenges: Global Health, Sustainable Cities, Intercultural Interaction and Human Wellbeing.

Please see details below of the awards made for the Grand Challenge of Sustainable Cities for 2010/11.

Developing sustainable food and agriculture in London


  • Dr Robert Biel (Development Planning Unit)

Main collaborator:

  • Dr Gemma Moore (UCL Public Engagement)

Additional Collaborators

  • Dr Kaori O’Connor (Anthropology)
  • Marina Chang (Development Planning Unit)

Agri-food systems in London exemplify unsustainability. This project aimed to conduct a pilot study into the current landscape of food and agriculture in London, and to use university-community engagement to build dynamic knowledge.

GCSC (Chang) Developing Sustainable Agri-Food Systems in London

The project involved a large number of UCL staff and students, including the Food Junctions network (33 departments at UCL and 25 community groups). Multi-disciplinary expertise was provided by members of UCL with an interest in food and agriculture, including those involved in public health, medicine, anthropology, geography, archaeology, soil science, environment, public policy and economy.

Around 300 guests attended The Food Junctions Cookbook launch party, held in the North Cloisters at UCL on the 27th October 2011.

Multi-sited ethnographical investigations produced a research report with a comprehensive, but critical, analysis of the current landscape of food and agriculture in London.

The Food Junctions Cookbook: Living Recipes for Social Innovation is the result of a unique collaboration between UCL staff and students and London’s local communities. It explores the complex relationships between food, human society and nature. It mixes practice, politics and pleasure and ties people together through a common interest in food.

Integrated Algae Growth in the Built Environment


  • Dr Luiza Campos (Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering)

Main collaborator:

  • Dr Saul Purton (Structural and Molecular Biology)

Additional Collaborators:

  • Alessandro Marco Lizzul (Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering)
  • Dr Frank Baganz (Biochemical Engineering)
  • Dr Marcos Cruz (Bartlett School of Architecture)
  • Paul Hellier (Mechanical Engineering)
  • Richard Beckett (Bartlett School of Architecture)
GCSC (Campos) Integrated Production of Algal Biomass poster

Algae has the potential to become a renewable source of biomass. This project investigated the feasibility of integrating algal production with common urban waste streams, such as carbon dioxide from exhaust gases and nutrients from wastewater.

Two working prototype PBRs (photobioreactors) have been built, a 10 litre and a 60 litre model. The larger photobioreactor, a development based on the original prototype, has been placed in the Darwin Building’s green house.Algal production can be integrated with many common waste streams, including diesel exhaust emissions, and wastewaters, providing environmental benefits to both air and water quality.

Biomass productivities within the reactor are high, but require considerable energy input. Work is ongoing to optimise the process and reduce costs.

One Day in the City: UCL's Global Celebration of Culture

Lead Applicant:

  • Dr Nick Shepley (English)

Main Collaborator:

  • Prof Iain Borden (Bartlett School of Architecture)

Additional Collaborators:

  • Dr Andrea Fredericksen (UCL Art Museum)

The major aims of the one-day festival and the exhibitions were to present specialist research material from many disciplines, and to do so in vibrant, accessible, and sustainable ways, suitable to a broad audience.

GCSC (Shepley) One Day in the City poster

Inspired by the spirit of the oympics, the event allowed individuals from around the world to share their explorations of the city with an unusually broad audience (almost 500 people – academic and non-academic – from across the UK, Europe, and the US pre-registered for the day, and an extra 100 attended on the day).

The event and the exhibitions juxtaposed and interconnected research from The Bartlett, Birkbeck, Central St Martins; the Slade; CASA (UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis), UCL Centre for Digital Humanities, UCL Department of English, UCL City Centre, UCL Urban Laboratory, UCL Department of Geography and UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies.

The event identified areas of shared interest and was the starting point for a number of collaborative partnerships: with the charity First Story, the Man Booker Prize, UCL English Department’s City Centre, and UCL’s Urban Laboratory.

Open City: Architecture

Lead Applicant:

  • Dr Michael Stewart (Anthropology)

Main Collaborator:

  • Prof. Nic Clear (Bartlett School of Architecture)

Additional Collaborators:

  • Prof Mark Tewdwr-Jones (Bartlett School of Planning)

The inaugural Open City: Documentary Festival was held from the 16th–19th June 2011, and Open City: Architecture was one part of it. Open City Docs represented a systematic collaboration between Anthropology and the Bartlett.

GCSC (Stewart) MyStreet & Open Citys Doc Festival

This festival, and the MyStreet website, are research and a form of public engagement. They are a way to alter the University’s relationship with its urban environment. This form of engagement, where research is collaboratively produced by ‘the public’ and a university employee, provides a model to be adopted elsewhere – e.g. in a new UCL site outside of central London. Our staff now work for think tanks, others are taking the model abroad.

There have been packed screening of the 12 best films at Open City Docs Fest, bringing new audiences into UCL. The best of 2012 films were screened on BBC Community Channel. There was an Arup Phase Two exhibition of 20 films May-October 2012.

Through the annual competition and UCL screenings this work is  creating new conversations about the urban environment. MyStreet is a living on-line archive of everyday life, available for anyone who is interested in exploring urban life in London.
Novel Insights

Open City Docs Fest
Open City

Open City Docs Fest is an annual live festival devoted to exploring the world we live in through the vision of documentary film. The festival was well received by the public and those at UCL, and t has become a regular fixture in the UCL calendar.


The My Street website uses amateur documentaries inspired by Mass Observation.  Ten minute long, postcode linked, allow people to tell the stories of their places.
The work of 200 filmmakers has been inspired by the project.

Planning the healthy city: soft-normativism as an approach to problems of value pluralism and complexity in built environment interventions

Lead Applicant:

  • Dr James Wilson (Centre for Philosophy, Justice and Health)

Main Collaborator:

  • Prof Mark Tewdwr-Jones (Bartlett School of Planning)

Additional Collaborators:

  • Giovanni De Grandis (Centre for Philosophy, Justice and Health)
  • Yvonne Rydin (Bartlett School of Planning)
GCSC (Wilson) Planning the Healthy City

This project extends the framework used in the UCL-Lancet Commission report, ‘Shaping Cities for Health’, arguing that the inter-relationships leading to urban health outcomes are complex, non-linear and multi-directional.

This project aims to develop a new approach to managing complexity and value conflicts in planning, through a critical engagement between the values of the stakeholders, normative reasoning about the ethics of health promotion, and the constraints afforded by present circumstances.

Planning for health raises important questions about power and justice – questions which neither planning theory nor political philosophy in their current incarnations are well equipped to answer. This project establishes a dialogue between the two disciplines. The project will bring together several academic disciplines relevant to sustainable cities. It engages philosophers, ethicists and others interested in making public policy about how to manage value conflicts in a legitimate way under real world conditions

Workshop outputs will be published as in a journal special edition, and a website and blog will be developed at www.thejustcity.org.

The city in urban poverty


  • Dr Charlotte Lemanski (Geography)

Main collaborator:

  • Dr Colin Marx (Development Planning Unit)
GCSC (Lemanski) The City in Urban Poverty poster

The aim of this project was to run a small workshop where invited speakers would discuss the absent role of ‘The City’ (in a spatial sense) from popular analyses of urban poverty.

Although poverty is an inherently spatial concept, the way in which the space of the city is represented in analyses of urban poverty is surprisingly uni-dimensional, focusing almost exclusively on the physical distribution of poverty. Consequently, the aim of the workshop was to explore how approaching the ‘spaces of poverty’ from multiple perspectives could contribute towards more effective and just poverty reduction policies.

By bringing together scholars from different disciplines (e.g. geographers, planners, economists), as well as development policy experts (e.g. from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the World Bank), the workshop facilitated wide discussion regarding the role of urban space in the theory and practice of urban poverty.

Urban poverty is a key challenge for Sustainable Cities, especially as those cities with the fastest growing urbanisation rates are frequently also those with the highest rates of urban poverty.

“The City in Urban Poverty” edited by Charlotte Lemanski and Colin Marx, will be published in 2015 by Palgrave-Macmillan.

Tsunamis in Port Cities from Generation to Impact

Lead Applicant:

  • Dr Serge Guillas (Statistical Science)

Main Collaborator:

  • Prof William McGuire (Earth Sciences)

Additional Collaborators:

  • Dr Simon Day (Aon Benfield UCL Hazard Centre)

Tsunami behaviour in the deep waters of the open ocean is well understood. This is not the case in near shore waters. The aim of this workshop was to improve understanding of the behaviour of tsunamis in near shore waters, and to improve models of coastal city inundation.

Dr Guillas organised the Workshop ‘Tsunamis in Port Cities from Generation to Impact’, held at UCL in August 2011, which brought together differing approaches and models of tsunami behaviour.

Following the workshop Dr Guillas became Co-investigator, in charge of the work package on the quantification of uncertainties in numerical models, for a 4-year, £2m NERC national consortium grant, awarded in 2012. The workshop contributed to framing the application.

Another result of the workshop is that Dr Guillas is now involved in an international network studying tsunami hazard, including UK, Japan, New Zealand, USA, Ireland.
Drs Guillas and Day secured funding from UCL Business to deliver results on tsunami hazard assessment, and they were invited to present the results of their to the insurance industry in the City of London in January 2013 http://bit.ly/17j97Cf.

A paper with Professor Dias from University College Dublin was written as a result of Prof. Dias attending the workshop. http://bit.ly/ZZZTFv

Page last modified on 17 jul 13 14:15