Our MPA degrees offer students the opportunity to work on real-world policy challenges
Watch our interview with MPA graduates, Maria Jarquin Solis, Sarah Turner and Simon Turner, to hear about their MPA Group Project experience:
In the MPA Group and Individual Projects candidates work with an external client on a relevant policy challenge.
The Group Project gives candidates the chance to apply their learnt skills and knowledge to a real-world policy challenge, while working constructively in an interdisciplinary team with the support of UCL STEaPP faculty. The Group Project is the default major component of UCL STEaPP’s MPA programme and offers candidates the full MPA experience. Candidates can submit their preferences for which group project they would like to work on depending on their specific areas of interest.
The Individual Project can be selected as an option with prior project approval from the department. Similar to the Group Project, the Individual Project is a major component of UCL STEaPP’s MPA programme, enabling students to work individually on a real-world policy challenge with the support of UCL STEaPP faculty. This option may specifically suit candidates who already have a partner organisation to work with, do not need a project partner for their project or are working towards doctoral studies.
Previous partners include:
- C40 Cities Group
- Transport Systems Catapult UK
- The British Standards Institution
- The Greater London Authority
- International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)
- Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre
Current MPA Group Projects
- Improving access to engineering expertise for net-zero policymaking
Project title: Improving access to engineering expertise for net-zero policymaking Client: Royal Academy of Engineering Brief:
The UK’s net-zero emissions challenge requires integration and deployment of viable known technologies at scale and pace; a challenge that the engineering community can play a vital role in and is uniquely placed and enthusiastic to support. It is engineers from every discipline that will design, build, retrofit, operate and make safe the infrastructure and technologies for a decarbonised UK to be fully achieved. Decision-making around net-zero policymaking will also need to be grounded in deep engineering expertise, drawing on the experience of engineers in designing and delivering infrastructure, but also on engineering creativity, problem-solving and systems thinking to address complex areas of policymaking. However, the lack of engineering expertise among civil servants in central government and in local authorities, particularly in relation to net zero, is widely recognised.
Partnering with the Royal Academy of Engineering – UK's national academy of engineering – the project group will look at the landscape of engineering advice around net zero, internal capability in central and local government, and where gaps in advice exist. It will examine the benefits and limitations of the various mechanisms available to government to access the necessary engineering expertise, such as recruiting engineers in senior roles or bringing staff in on secondments to address gaps, or other mechanisms such as policy fellowships and other forms of engineering policy advice. It will also examine where engineering expertise complements existing capabilities in government.
- The role of climate justice within public policy for sustainable infrastructure
Project title: The role of climate justice within public policy for sustainable infrastructure Client: Arup (Environmental Consulting Team) Brief:
Climate change is a global issue, yet the impacts and burdens are neither shared equally nor fairly within different groups in society. Within the built environment, exclusive climate planning and design within the built environment may perpetuate social fragmentation and environmental degradation whilst exacerbating issues of justice, equity, and equality.
In recent years, the urgency for a low-carbon and climate-resilient transition has gained traction, with increasing calls for net-zero decarbonisation route maps, building adaptation for climate change, and the setting of Science-Based Targets within the sector. Such a transition is not without complexities – positing technological, political, generational, and financial questions amongst others. Incorporating principles of climate justice within public policy remains difficult yet necessary; especially where the intersectionality of climate justice in the built environment is all too frequently omitted from the discourse.
Partnering with Arup – an engineering consulting firm Arup headquartered in London – the group members will investigate how principles of climate justice can be asserted within public policy for sustainable infrastructure. How can we ensure that public policy is delivered that seeks to address the unintended consequences and co-benefits of climate change strategies within the built environment? How can we ensure that policy focuses on inclusion with a focus on those marginalised groups such as low-income groups, the elderly, and the BAME community? How should public policy differ to ensure climate justice is temporally and spatially applicable at the city, regional and national level?
- Cyber readiness of educational boards
Project title: Cyber readiness of educational boards Client: Access Brief:
UK Universities and HEIs have recently been forced to develop and manage a blended-learning teaching approach in response to the pandemic. In most cases, this is being delivered from the private homes of teaching staff which expands the digital footprint of these institutions significantly. In August 2020, the sector was warned by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) that it faced rising numbers of cyber-attacks. Indeed, many universities and further education colleges have already had to deal with the impacts of attacks in 2020 – many of them ransomware based. In September 2020, there were eight attacks reported by universities that disrupted the start of term. The financial, IP theft and reputational damage could be highly damaging, not only on individual educational institutions but also on important research and development work such as that currently underway at several UK institutions to develop a Covid-19 vaccine. This has led to concerns that increasing cyber-attacks are threatening to fundamentally disrupt the UK’s reputation for world-leading research institutions
Universities face unique challenges in developing a culture that supports people to practice good cyber security – in part because of the large turnover of people every year. It is vital for governing bodies and boards at universities and HEIs to have a good understanding of the impacts these attacks can have on their research and educational mission and to take responsibility for ensuring that effective measures are in place to protect the institution, their staff and students, as well as the highly valuable research and development work that many are carrying out. However, solutions to cybersecurity are not always technical. If security does not work for people, it does not work. This project will focus on the human and organisational factors that shape the cyber resilience of the HE sector.
Partnering with the Access Group – a business software provider serving the learning and education sector – the group members will investigate how aware senior leadership in UK HE is of organisational cybersecurity risk and resilience, particularly the human and organisational factors. The MPA candidates will develop recommendations based on primary and secondary data collected (through qualitative and quantitative methods).
- Encryption: pros and cons
Project title: Encryption: pros and cons Client: The Internet Society Brief:
Encryption keeps communications confidential between the sender and receiver so that no third-party can access the communications, including the company providing the service. Encryption also protects information stored on computers, mobile phones, and other digital devices, ensuring that if the device is lost or stolen the information on the device is protected. Encryption allows individuals to freely express themselves, exchange personal and other sensitive information, and protect their data. On the flip side, malicious actors are able to abuse the confidentiality, privacy and security encryption affords to plot and coordinate terrorist attacks, engage in organised crime and preserve their anonymity. Thus, some governments are increasingly exerting pressure upon tech companies to create ‘backdoors’ to their encrypted devices and services to provide these agencies with ‘exceptional access’. Undermining encryption in this way, however, can have extremely dire consequences, as any backdoors placed in a system for use by law enforcement could be also exploited by criminals, putting all users in that system at greater risk of multiple security and privacy harms. The anti-encryption movement is gaining momentum, as can be seen in the recent U.S. Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act bill, which essentially forces tech companies to build backdoors to allow access to encrypted data in certain contexts.
In partnership with the Internet Society – a non-profit organisation formed by two of the ‘Fathers of the Internet’ – this project group will identify and weigh the risks and benefits of weakening encryption technologies, taking into account different interests at stake such as privacy, cybersecurity, public safety, national security, economic competitiveness, freedom of expression and the need to maintain an open Internet. Based on these findings, the MPA candidates are expected to develop a framework for decision-making that can guide lawmakers, policymakers, the technical community and other stakeholders in their discussions and debates over encryption and law enforcement.
- Geopolitics of emerging digital technologies: mapping incentives and implications (GeoDiTe)
Project title: Geopolitics of emerging digital technologies: mapping incentives and implications (GeoDiTe) Client: UK Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) (Standards Team) Brief:
Geopolitics in emerging digital technologies is about understanding the extent to which political and economic interest is embedded in the fora, processes and communities of practice that set the norms and standards through which global technology governance is enacted. The norms and standards that underpin emerging digital technologies from Artificial Intelligence (AI) and 5G to the Internet of Things (IoT), although initially regarded as the domain of the technical community, are increasingly the site where competing state and non-state interests, incentives, ideas and powerful actors collide or converge.
On the one hand, setting the norms and rules of emerging digital technologies and their implementation is regarded by states as linked to national security, national interest and state power. On the other hand, the rising influence of non-state actors such as big tech (like Alphabet, Facebook, Amazon etc.) and influential consortia like the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) should not be underestimated. Consequently, understanding how different actors are engaging with norms and standards negotiations – which actors are taking newly assertive roles, and which actors are forming powerful alliances in key global forums – is critical to understanding how technology and geopolitics intersect.
Drawing on a range of qualitative and quantitative research methods, the MPA candidates will work with the Standards team at the UK Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to map this increasingly geopolitically influential ecosystem of powerful actors, incentives and implications. The map will provide a macro (global) overview of the direction of emerging digital technologies and future societies for policymakers, academics and publics.
Each group member will conduct primary research on a specific technology domain (e.g., AI, 5G, IoT etc.) and pool this as a group to identify and map the intersections-v-disconnections and the competitiveness-v-cooperation that drive the politics and economics at the global level. Primary research will require consultation with the client, interviews of key actors and exhaustive desk research along with an understanding of (or keen desire to understand) geopolitics, international relations and technology policy.
- Managing policy nexuses during a global pandemic: the case of health, energy and food security
Project title: Managing policy nexuses during a global pandemic: the case of health, energy and food security Client: Chatham House & Save the Children UK (Innovation Hub and Humanitarian Affairs Unit) Brief:
Apart from exposing societal inadequacies and leaving millions insecure and vulnerable economically and in terms of health, education, food and energy access, the pervasive and 'all at once' nature of the current Covid-19 pandemic, has reminded us of what history has taught us repeatedly – that policy arenas do not act in isolation. Urgent, agile and in many cases innovative societal and governmental reactions have seen communities and countries deploying and/or developing different cross-sectoral measures to deal with the impact of the pandemic. From decisions on the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE), rapid development and supply of diagnostic kits, ventilators and drug therapies, to insights feeding into social distancing guidance and rapid response measures to keep children in schools and communities fed, policy actors have deployed social and political skills while initiating changes that break with the status quo.
In this project, the MPA candidates will work with our partner organisations to explore and critically examine examples of how actors from different sectors have drawn from and adjusted sectoral policies in designing and implementing responses to the pandemic. The project will analyse the interactions among actors, policy instruments and other factors in and across health, energy and food security sectors in selected countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and America, to generate robust evidence, relevant for policy and practice, on managing policy interfaces during a global pandemic. The findings of this project will also be broadly relevant for decision-making and action on persistent social challenges.
- Improving cross-authority collaboration to better meet local energy infrastructure needs
Project title: Improving cross-authority collaboration to better meet local energy infrastructure needs Client: Arup (Planning Team) Brief:
Increasingly, local authorities are looking for decentralised energy networks to reduce emissions associated with the energy needs of local populations. However, supply and demand are not easily matched, with them sitting in different authority areas (e.g. using waste heat in one borough to provide low carbon heat to a population in another). This is particularly common where there is a waste energy source but a lack of density of population to supply to. Arup has worked on a number of district heating networks, e.g. TFL whereby the source heat is obtained in one London Borough but sourced housing in another.
Partnering with Arup – an engineering consulting firm headquartered in London – the MPA candidates will analyse the opportunities and constraints (practically, financially, with respect to policy and how it aligns to priorities and needs, etc.) to implement such schemes, and explore how local authorities – taking the UK as the example – can work together to delivery decentralised low carbon energy infrastructure including distribution or generation, where it may cross over authority boundaries. In addition, how can such projects be economically, financially and socially viable, enabling both authorities and their communities’ needs to be met?
Final report: Enabling and improving cross-authority collaboration on infrastructure to better meet local energy needs - Marc Farre Moutinho, Alexandros
Gregoriades, Jose Villacres Lozada, James Atkinson, Zi Huang, Xiyu Tang [PDF]
- Global STI4SDG capacity development
Project title: Global STI4SDG capacity development Client: UNESCO, Division of Science Policy and Capacity-Building Brief:
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by all UN member states in 2015 set out 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This 2030 Agenda includes a "Technology Facilitation Mechanism" (TFM) that aims to support the practical implementation of the SDGs by 2030. In this “decade of action” towards realising the ambitious 2030 effort sits another core mechanism: the UN Interagency Task Team on Science, Technology and Innovation for the SDGs (IATT).
The UN-IATT has several workstreams. One of these focuses on designing and delivering training courses and workshops for SDGs for policymakers and key STI managers from developing countries. It is this IATT workstream that this MPA group project will contribute to. (For context: another UN-IATT workstream focuses on delivering assistance and guidance to countries undertaking roadmaps development as part of the Global Pilot Programme on Development of STI for SDGs roadmaps. This was the focus of a STEaPP MPA group project last year.)
The MPA candidates will contribute to the development of effective tools for national STI capacity development. Within the IATT workstream on STI capacity building, UNESCO specifically contributes to the preparation of the technical materials and training materials and online tools. This is not a trivial task. Countries require far more than just technical or scientific knowledge delivered in summary notes or access to databases. They require strategic, managerial and policy-making skills that will allow them to elaborate and implement specific STI strategies for development, inclusive public policies and effective means of governing. There is no dominant view on the most suitable or effective means of developing such capacity. This group project will contribute to UNESCO/IATT’s understanding of the specific requirements for developing innovative learning and development models to enhance STI capacity.
Final report: Mapping STI policy capacity building initiatives and exploring its transformative value for the SDGs - Farzana Chowdhury, John Mark Herrera, Yiru Liu, Xinyang Shi and Ashlin Simpson [PDF]
- Tell Me How You See It: Dialogues for gender-inclusive mobility
Project title: Tell Me How You See It: Dialogues for gender-inclusive mobility Client: Karachi Urban Lab, Royal Academy of Engineering, University of Cape Town and Safetipin Brief:
Women’s mobility and liberty is deeply affected by the design of public space they travel through in both developed and developing countries. Indeed, it is here that the majority of sexual harassment occurs but often goes unreported and unaddressed. Furthermore, engineers designing this infrastructure are not able to adequately include a gender perspective in their designs. The goal of ‘Tell Me How You See It’ is to develop a workbook and checklist to support those designing mobilities infrastructure to include a gender perspective. On top of this, it will provide a suite of opportunities for dialogue between people and disciplines with diverse expertise and experiences related to urban mobility that will co-create gender-sensitive infrastructure solutions that can be scaled and replicated in different locations.
The project will create an international network of master’s students – 3 in each location of UCL London, University of Cape Town and the Institute of Business Administration, Karachi; for each location, local observations will feed into the analysis – coming from various disciplines that are responsible for the different elements of mobilities and public space. Each group will analyse typical transport situations within their respective cities and women’s use of them. They will exchange views on improvements and existing challenges, as a local group but also between the different locations. A bespoke auditing tool, built on the Safetipin platform, will be created to support the project’s auditing needs. The analysis will be presented to the wider expert group through two key workshops and will be distilled into a practical tool for cities and engineers (a workbook and checklist) that will be validated in a second virtual workshop.
- Future (living/working/travelling) spaces for mental wellbeing: the roles of policy and technology
Project title: Future (living/working/travelling) spaces for mental wellbeing: the roles of policy and technology Client: Arup Brief:
With COVID-19 accelerating the shift to working from home, coupled in recent years with increasing use of permitted development, it turns out that people are often working in inappropriate home working spaces. Lessons can be learnt from the development of spaces such as Maggie’s Centres, to design home living spaces that are better for our mental wellbeing. Maggie’s centres are purpose-built spaces to provide practical and emotional support for people with cancer and their families. The aim of the charity, through their spaces, is to provide therapeutic relief, both mental and physical, in order to aid in a patients’ rounded care. Arup has worked closely with architects on the Maggie’s Centre at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London to create a space that achieves this. With the use of natural lighting, home-style finishes and design that encourages social opportunities as well as quiet reflection, it is obvious that one of the main aims of these spaces is to improve the mental wellbeing of its patients. This is done by trying to remove them and their prognosis from an environment that is purely clinical and sterile.
Numerous studies have shown that there is a direct link between the quality of one’s environment and its effects on their mental and physical health. With an unmitigated increase of permitted development, the quality and condition of home living spaces (especially in large-populous cities) has deteriorated due to high demand and a finite supply. These new developments may not be geared towards providing the best possible space for the mental health of their residents due to cost constraints and profit-minded priorities.
Partnering with Arup – an engineering consulting firm Arup headquartered in London – the MPA candidates will determine what are the opportunities for policy and technology to influence the design of future (living/working/travelling) spaces for mental wellbeing. The aim of this project is to explore how health and wellbeing, and more broadly social value, can be created/enhanced, with a focus on policy. In addition, it would be interesting to explore avenues to measure and benchmark these aspects as a tool to drive positive change.
Previous MPA Group Projects
- Global Observatory for Science, Technology and Innovation (GO-SPIN)
Project title: Global Observatory for Science, Technology and Innovation (GO-SPIN) Client: UNESCO Team: Alessia Aquaro, Eduardo Carrillo Portillo, Maria Valenzuela Suarez, Manuel Calve, Catalina Frigerio Dattwyler, Maria-Paz Bravo Sandoval Brief:
UNESCO developed the Global Observatory for Science, Technology and Innovation (GO-SPIN) project in order to strengthen the Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) systems of its Member States. Through its on-line platform providing information on countries’ STI policies (https://gospin.unesco.org) and its methodological and training tools, GO-SPIN reinforces human capacities and supports policy-makers in STI policy development, monitoring and implementation. The project consists in conducting desktop studies, inventories, collection and analysis of STI policy and policy instruments related data and information in different countries, with focus on developing countries.
The work requires consultations and collaboration with different sectors including science-based ministries, governmental bodies, universities and research institutions, civil society representatives, with involvement in the design and implementation of STI policies.
- Towards a reframing of STI for SDGs
Project title: Towards a reframing of STI for SDGs Client: UNESCO Team: Jodie McClintock, Mengchan Liu, Isla Kennedy, Ge Zhang, Yosuke Nagase Brief:
Within the framework of the UN Technology Facilitation Mechanism (TFM) and its Inter Agency Task Team (IATT), UNESCO is participating and co-leading with the World Bank, UN DESA, UNCTAD, and the EU Joint Research Centre, an initiative to develop STI for SDGs Roadmaps. Further to regional and international experts groups meetings, the workstream has developed a Guidebook for the preparation of the roadmaps and launched in July 2019 the Global Pilot Programme on Development of STI for SDGs roadmaps, with the implementation in five pilot countries (Ghana, Ethiopia, India, Kenya and Serbia). UNESCO is coordinating the pilot activities in Ghana, providing support to the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation. The project requires developing an understanding of the best practices of the IATT framework and country piloting as well as of the Ghana science policy landscape in order to best assist UNESCO and the Ghanaian government in their development, implementation and review of the roadmap process.
- Spouseware: An analysis of stalking software deployed in intimate partner violence (IPV) situations
Title: Spouseware: An analysis of stalking software deployed in intimate partner violence (IPV) situations Client: Chayn Team: Jay Neuner, Thomas Bermudez, Maddalena Esposito Brief:
Spouseware, stalkerware or spyware describes a particular family of malicious software, intended to coerce, control, and monitor targeted users. Such software applications are frequently not explicitly advertised to surveil partners or other potentially affected persons; rather, they are commonly promoted to facilitate parental or employee control. The programmes are often secretly installed on devices such as phones, deployed without a victim’s knowledge and consent, and offer disguised surveillance features such as location tracking, web filters, and key loggers. There is a growing body of research on the topic. However, guidance for victims/survivors as well as support services remains scarce. The proposed group project, therefore, sets out analyse the global trend of intimate partner violence (IPV) surveillance tools as well as any applied technical, practitioner, and policy responses. The study is run in collaboration with Chayn, a volunteer network which addresses gender-based violence through the creation of intersectional survivor-led online resources. Students interested in joining this project should be aware that they will be exposed to references to gender-based violence/harassment across the project and that they are expected to be available for research activities throughout the summer. Strong quantitative and qualitative research skills are essential, and prior programming skills desired.
The research team (Maddalena Esposito, Thomas Bermudez, Jay Neuner) under the supervision of Dr Leonie Maria Tanczer will be carrying out semi-structured interviews and an online survey with self-identified researchers and experts. Respondents are expected to work (or have worked) on and around the topic of technology-facilitated domestic/sexual violence and abuse, cybersecurity, and policing. We invite a wide range of potential knowledgeable parties to participate in our study, including academic researchers, representatives from voluntary and statutory support organisations, industry stakeholders, as well as journalists. All gathered findings will be written up in a report for Chayn, with the research team also hoping to engage in presenting the results at academic/public conferences, workshops, and events.
- Cyber Readiness for Boards
Title: Cyber Readiness for Boards Client: Axelos; Resilia Team: Vido Chandra Panduwinata, Kairbek Abdrakhmanov, Takahiro Fujita, Serik Almatov, Shintaro Ikeda Brief:
Although cyber threats are reported as one of the top concerns for both CEOs and investors, a recent survey by the NYSE Governance Services found that only 11% of corporate directors believed their boards possess a high level of understanding of cyber security risk. The challenges that boards face in this area have recently been recognised by the UK National Cyber Security Centre as a key risk and there is now a recognition that boards have not received the level of support necessary to meet the demands that cyber insecurity place on business. Axelos / Resilia, a joint venture company created in 2013 by the UK Cabinet Office and Capita, has a track record of providing high level training support to organisations seeking to improve their understanding of and behaviours relating to a number of common ‘human factor’ cyber risks. They now wish to develop specific ideas and concepts for what effective and engaging ‘training’ to boards and executive management teams could look like. The dynamic nature of the cybersecurity ecosystem means that the provision of support to boards must be constantly reviewed and updated. Consequently, Axelos / Resilia has partnered with the NCSC and a team of researchers based at UCL to look critically at their training provision and work to update them.
This project will provide students with an exceptional opportunity to work on policy within a private organisation (partnering with the Cyber Readiness for Boards project) in one of the most demanding and fast-moving elements of board decision making.
- Regulatory and Standardisation Challenges for Connected and Intelligent Medical Devices
Title: Regulatory and Standardisation Challenges for Connected and Intelligent Medical Devices Client: British Standards Institution (BSI); PETRAS Team: Natalia Maj, Gabriella Ezeani, Malla Tedroff, Jiehui Song, Jan Sassenberg Brief:
Healthcare, medicinal therapies and medical devices represent an area that has received considerable regulatory oversight and stability in the past couple of decades, especially in established markets in Europe, North American and South-East Asia. Consumer protection centred on the safety and efficacy of medical therapies and devices have been crucial to successful regulatory frameworks and standardisation initiatives in healthcare, albeit perceived as inflexible by some market actors. However, new digital technologies/processes are currently disrupting these established and quasi-harmonised regulatory frameworks. The rise of connected fitness devices (e.g. Fitbit), connected medical devices (e.g. pacemakers) and devices using complex software systems based on Machine Learning/ Artificial Intelligence pose new challenges. In this group project, you will be working closely with the British Standards Institution (BSI) – the national standards body in the UK – to better understand, identify and offer recommendations about the current regulatory and standardisation gaps/ uncertainties resulting from the increased use of connected and intelligent medical devices.
In this project, the MPA group will conduct primary research to test some of the regulatory and standardisation gaps already identified by BSI – available here – and to identify new gaps and misalignments where standards-making bodies and regulators can intervene to ensure that new medical devices maintain a high degree of security, safety, transparency and accountability to those who deploy and use them. This is a highly important, life-saving area that requires novel thinking about the complex socio-technical opportunities and challenges that digital technologies in healthcare raise and where standards could offer stability and predictability in a changing market, when regulators/ policy-makers are struggling to catch up.
Key project outputs
- Health systems strengthening and preparedness for global pandemics: an analysis of global and local health policy and practice
Title: Health systems strengthening and preparedness for global pandemics: an analysis of global and local health policy and practice Client: DFID; World Health Organisation; Save the Children (UK) Team: Alexandra Swanepoel, Xiaolu Zhang, Calum Savage, Katrina Barker, Arda Ozcubukcu Brief:
The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and numerous global players such as the World Health Organisation, some pharmaceutical companies, product development partnerships and civil society organisations have worked with and through local partners in different parts of the world, in particular low-income countries, to strengthen health delivery systems. Health systems consist of all organisations, people and actions whose primary interest is to promote, restore or maintain health, and are characterised by six building blocks, namely; service delivery, (ii) health workforce, (iii) health. information systems, (iv) access to essential medicines, (v) financing, and (vi) leadership/governance (WHO, 2007).
This project will look at the work of the DFID and its partners in three selected low-income countries with a view to understanding health system agility, preparedness and adjustments at decision-making and delivery levels, drawing lessons for both low- and high-income country health systems.
- Declaring a Climate Emergency
Title: Declaring a Climate Emergency Client: ARUP (Energy Team) Team: Iris Somen, Jorge Jimenez Solomon, Anna-Mariya Kandzhova, Rodon Miraj, Okky Oktaviani, Lorena Cordero Maldonado Brief:
Globally, our current trajectory is moving us rapidly towards more than 2°C of warming, which for the UK will bring hotter, drier summers and milder, wetter winters with an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. The first half of 2019 has seen unprecedented global recognition that we are facing a 'Climate Emergency', with mass climate protests, school strikes, warnings from the Bank of England, and strong advice from the UK Committee on Climate Change urging the Government to commit to a new net zero carbon target 2050. Many Local Authorities in the UK are making the initial step of declaring a 'Climate Emergency'. However, there is no established or recognised pathway to delivering the actions required (e.g. deep energy efficiency retrofit of buildings, delivering low-carbon heat supply, supporting low-carbon transport modal shift) to achieve the overarching objective. There is limited understanding of the strategic process required and the appropriate delivery models to enable Local Authorities to deliver on their climate pledges. Investigation into previous experiences of significant structural change in government operation (e.g. adoption of digital technology over last 20 years) could help to identify key lessons that could be applied to the Climate Emergency process.
More specifically, the research may explore one or more of the following areas regarding how authorities:
- Achieve the necessary structural/organisational changes and what these may be
- Access additional/alternative funding streams
- Accelerate procurement processes
- Accelerate recruitment in specific skills areas (e.g. building energy retrofit)
- Achieve behavioural change of both government employees and residents (e.g. transport modal shift).
- The use of circular economy approaches in the public realm
Title: The use of circular economy approaches in the public realm Client: ARUP (Sustainability Assessments Team) Team: Xiangru Chen, Edgardo Garcia Chaves, Stephanie Chow, Naomi Black Brief: The shift from a traditional linear economy of making, using and disposing, to an alternative circular one that aims to minimise waste and make the most of resources has become increasingly widespread. In the construction industry public realm projects are required to be resilient and future-proofed in cost-effective ways to mitigate risks of resource depletion and landfill. A circular economy approach requires innovative thinking when it comes to design, procurement and in-use. When designing public realm projects, the whole lifecycles needs to be considered. The benefits of this approach can be achieved by changing the way the urban space is perceived, designed, constructed, operated, maintained and re-used. But how can circular economy principals be embedded in the public realm? What are the challenges designers and planning authorities face today? Is current policy strong enough to safeguard our public spaces for the future? How can the circular economy make public realm more sustainable?
- Unsustainable consumption in cities (1)
Title: Unsustainable consumption in cities Client: ARUP (Energy Team) Team: Weiming Pan, Annie Amrhein, Yuh Shyuan Lee, Evita Moawad, Salman Khan, Ryan Leung Brief:
The consumption of goods and services drives greenhouse gas emissions, directly and indirectly, through the emissions associated with the extraction and refining of raw materials, manufacturing and production of products and energy used in storage, distribution and disposal. This is of particular relevance to cities, which (unless they have a significant manufacturing economy, for example) are typically centres of consumption and whose consumption-based emissions profiles are often therefore much larger than when emissions are considered on a production basis. Consumption is closely linked to wealth (GDP); however, it is more difficult to quantify links between consumption and wellbeing or happiness effectively. Addressing the climate crisis will need to include action to reduce consumption-based emissions and, in some cases, this may be argued to require overall reductions in the volume of goods and services consumed.
This is a difficult topic for policy-makers to address, in part because of concerns around the impact on GDP. However, the impact on happiness/wellbeing of citizens is not often considered, and could provide evidence of benefit to support certain reductions in consumption of particular products or services. People are increasingly questioning the basis of assessing success based on GDP and other limited indicators.
- Would happiness or wellbeing be a better indicator to use or include?
- What correlation is there between spending on goods/services and wellbeing or happiness?
- Does it vary by sector or product category?
- Is there a minimum threshold above which, additional consumption of goods and services on an individual level does not necessarily result in increases in happiness or wellbeing?
- What indicators could be used in a city context to infer happiness or wellbeing benefits associated with reduced consumption?
- Unsustainable consumption in cities (2)
Title: Unsustainable consumption in cities Client: ARUP (Energy Team) Team: Weiming Pan, Annie Amrhein, Yuh Shyuan Lee, Evita Moawad, Salman Khan, Ryan Leung Brief: Another completely different angle would be to explore how disparate individual consumption levels are in different cities; previous ARUP research was done at a high level for a global cohort of cities, only taking the average spend in each city ‚ but this could mask important differences in inequality levels and the 'spread' of individual spending in a given area. It is widely acknowledged that as you move up the percentiles, the level of spending/emissions associated with lifestyle (consumption of goods/services) increases significantly. This project would explore the options for targeting consumption-related policies in a progressive way to ensure that those who can most afford to change, and who are most responsible for emissions, bear the cost and impacts on those who have less impact and can least afford to change are minimised?
- The challenge of low savings and overconsumption in UAE
Title The challenge of low savings and overconsumption in UAE Client UAE PM office Brief
There are certain behaviors prevalent in the UAE society, one of which is overconsumption and low savings. The impact of low savings goes beyond the individual level to include the impact on the overall economy on the medium and long run.
We are looking to learn more about this pattern and potential solutions. The work could include:
- Data and indicators about the issue/problem (globally, regionally, within UAE, based on other demographic or geographic factors) for a period of not less than ten years.
- Causes (including social, economic openness and globalization ... etc) supported by as well as relevant data and indicators for a period of not less than ten years.
- The system dynamic of the issue (cause and effect). The stock and flow as well as equation will be an added value.
- Negative effects, harms and threats of the issue/problem including relevant data and indicators on the for a period of not less than ten years
- The cost of damage or harms to the society and/or the financial cost to the government and the economy
- Suggested Policies (programs/initiatives/legislations) to address the issue/problem and prevent or reduce its impact
- Effects of addressing the issue based on the suggested interventions including the unintended effects and how to mitigate them
- Cost of addressing the issue/problem and implementing the suggested solutions /government interventions and government savings in financial terms for the first year and next five years.
- Decentralised diesel v. decentralised renewables
Title Decentralised diesel v. decentralised renewables Client Overseas Development Institute (ODI) Brief
The aggregate global market for diesel generators between 2018 and 2022 is estimated to be $115 billion. In 2015, developing countries bought about 600,000 units, with a total installed capacity of 29 gigawatts. Around half of these generators were smaller than 0.3 megawatts. The market is forecast to continue to grow at a moderate rate, driven by the unreliability of power supplies, limited grid networks, low capital cost of diesel generators, and well-established markets and support services. But the continued and growing use of diesel generators is incompatible with the 1.5°C global warming goal of the Paris Agreement. To achieve climate change objectives, the energy services provided by small diesel generators need to transition to renewable energy sources.
What is the technical and economic feasibility of substituting decentralised renewable systems for small diesel generators (1 MW or smaller)? What are small diesel generators used for by residential, commercial, industrial and public service consumers? What are the capacities and costs for different uses? Which decentralised renewable energy systems can provide equivalent services for these various uses of diesel generators? What are their costs? What non-cost factors need to be considered when substituting decentralised renewable energy systems for diesel generators?
- Disruptive Digital Technologies for Development and Innovation
Title Disruptive Digital Technologies for Development and Innovation Client Brief Certain digital technologies are seen as disruptive and can be at the certain of new ethical debates and challenges that we have yet to find answers. However, these can still tackle critical development challenges. The use of big data, geospatial technologies, digital identification, and other advances technologies could be explored or considered to current challenges such as response to disasters, reduce corruption or even promote financial inclusion. We should consider the work of the World Bank, BCG and other consulting companies that have experience working in the scope of such project.
- The Present and Future of Data Portability in IoT
Title The Present and Future of Data in IoT Client Open Rights Group; Michael Veale Brief
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) regulates data protection and privacy for all individuals within the EU and the European Economic Area. It guarantees important rights for data subjects, including the right to request access to and rectification or erasure of personal data. One of the most understudied articles of the GDPR is Article 20, which guarantees data subjects the right to receive their personal data in a structured, commonly used and machine-readable format, in order to, for example, transmit this data to another data controller. In the emerging IoT environment, the right to data portability offers great opportunities. Data subjects could move to choose to move their data between different IoT vendors, incentivizing a more heterogeneous IoT ecosystem. However, it remains unclear how Article 20 is actually currently applied and not only technically but practically implemented.
The group project, therefore, sets out to: a) study how IoT and other tech vendors currently deal with data portability requests; b) analyse what technical and policy measures are required to make Article 20 a useful and actionable right (e.g., data format standardization); and c) develop a standardised ‘data portability template’ that data subjects can use to request their personal data for transmission.
Key project outputs
- Forecast-based Financing: Opportunities for Mobilising Climate Finance
Title Forecast-based Financing: Opportunities for Mobilising Climate Finance Client Red Cross; Red Crescent Climate Energy Centre Brief Forecast-based Financing is a methodology to set up resources and financing to be automatically available to humanitarians and development practitioners to use when they receive a forecast of a potential disaster, without needing to wait until after the disaster happens to respond. FbF programmes develop a set of pre-agreed forecast triggers and early actions, to ensure that early action is taken immediately when the triggering forecast arrives. This is one method to adapt to the rising risk of extreme events due to climate change, especially in vulnerable contexts where people are greatly impacted by extreme events. Several climate finance mechanisms have been developed and proposed in recent years, in particular to mobilise the goal of 100 billion per year from the Paris Agreement for mitigation and adaptation. This research project would tackle the question of how climate finance can be mobilised for Forecast-based Financing programmes, outlining the pros and cons of different sources of funding being invested in different types of FbF programming. In particular, the research will investigate whether and how FbF could be used as a mechanism for climate finance to reach the most vulnerable people in conflict-affected and fragile state contexts. One dimension of this research is to provide guidance on dealing with uncertainty in climate-change attribution.
- Understanding Innovation and the IoT Ecosystem: The Role of Standards in Meeting SMEs Strategic Priorities
Title Understanding Innovation and the IoT Ecosystem: The Role of Standards in Meeting SMEs Strategic Priorities Client BSI Brief
SMEs play a fundamental role in the development of IoT products and services. They are a key stakeholder group in the IoT ecosystem, advancing innovation at multiple levels: atop their existing product line by adding connectivity (e.g. smart home appliances), within their business operations by adding data collection, automation and actuation (e.g. health services), and/or by innovating directly in the IoT (e.g. hardware, software, cloud services). Despite this important role, SMEs are generally underrepresented in policy-making and standards-development processes. The British Standards Institution (BSI) – the UK national standards body – has recognised this gap by actively engaging with SMEs operating in the IoT space to ensure that their business priorities are reflected in national and international standards. The BSI IoT/1 Technical Committee has worked closely with SMEs, consumer and manufacturing associations to produce a White Paper entitled Navigating and Informing the IoT Standards Landscape: A Guide for SMEs and Start-Ups(BSI and PETRAS, Jan 2019).
The group project contributes to this ongoing work by: a) validating and further identifying SMEs priorities for IoT standardisation via a large-scale survey and one-to-one interviews; b) mapping operational and organisational challenges that SMEs are facing when navigating, adopting and implementing IoT standards; c) developing a framework that will help SMEs engage more systematically in these IoT standards-making processes.
Key project outputs
- Burden or Benefit: Do Standards Work for IoT SMEs?
Blanchier, C., Down, E., Manghi, A. I. and J-K. O’Brien (2019) “Burden or benefit: Do standards work for IoT SMEs?” The BSI Group. University College London.
- BSI Student Research Programme Case Study on the project
- Burden or Benefit: Do Standards Work for IoT SMEs?
- Transitions to Sustainable Urban Mobility: Policy Lessons
Title Transitions to Sustainable Urban Mobility: Policy Lessons Client UCL Department of CEGE (Clemence Cavoli); UN Habitat; World Bank. Brief The project, called T-SUM (Transitions to Sustainable Urban Mobility), is an existing interdisciplinary and cross-sector collaborative research project that aims to identify the conditions under which sustainable and inclusive transport and land use development can be accelerated in growing cities in the Global South. It is grounded in the observation that where there is still-low-but-rising levels of motorization, economic growth and increasing social and spatial inequalities, the formulation and implementation of policies, practices and partnerships that can support an accelerated implementation of sustainable mobility structures is an urgent concern for rapidly developing cities. This project will initially focus on Maputo, Mozambique, and Freetown, Sierra Leone, as apposite examples of growing urban economies in Sub-Saharan Africa and other parts of the Global South. T-SUM is a cross-departmental collaboration between UCL Development Planning Unit at the Bartlett and the Centre for Transport Studies, part of the Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering. It involves a range of partners in Maputo and Freetown, including academics, consultants and policy-makers and institutions such as the World Bank and UN-Habitat. This project will work with Work Package 3: Vision pathways and implementation strategies. Students supported the research team in developing policy lessons and training for city governments hoping to make Transitions to Urban Mobility.
- What next for World cities culture data?
Title What next for World cities culture data? Cient London City Hall (Greater London Authority); BOP Consulting Brief
The World Cities Culture Report is the most comprehensive data of global cities and culture; it is published every three years and the 3rd edition published in November 2018 will comprise 33 cities including Buenos Aires, Cape Town, London, Moscow, New York, Paris, Seoul, Shenzen, Sydney and Tokyo. The Report is the main pillar of the World Cities Culture Forum, an influential network of senior leaders from 38 global cities that promotes urban leadership in cultural policy (like a 'C40 for culture'). The network is chaired by London's Deputy Mayor for Culture and Creative Industries and managed by the Greater London Authority and BOP Consulting. The relationship between data and cities is an area of growing interest often promising to solve a range of urban problems. It includes terms such as Smart City, an alluring prospect for many city leaders and 'thick data', where data is used for greater citizen participation. In culture, there are emerging developments in data driven tools, including the European Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor that aims to promote mutual exchange and learning between cities and boost culture-led development and the world’s first ever Cultural Infrastructure Plan being developed in London.
As cities develop new methods to collect data and open data to their citizens, this project will explore the next steps for the World Culture Cities Report. It will address questions such as: How can the Report best inform urban policy problems with data-driven solutions? How can cities best collect, share and communicate data about city cultural assets and citizens cultural behaviours? What new methodologies are emerging for collection and use of data? Where is the innovation? How can measurements on infrastructure and cultural participation be used for further comparable purposes across such a diverse group of cities? How does the Report track and influence global trends? How and where can the Report best be communicated to the wider public?
- Urban Green Infrastructure
Project title: Urban Green Infrastructure: Converting research into policy action Client: Gauteng City-Region Observatory (GCRO) Brief:
The Gauteng City-Region Observatory (GCRO) is a research agency that exists as a collaboration between the University of the Witwatersrand, the University of Johannesburg and the Gauteng provincial government, South Africa. They produce research and analysis around many regional social, environmental and economic challenges. The GCRO is unusual in the context of urban observatories in its engagement with multiple governance levels, taking place across a heterogeneous city-region rather than a single, constrained urban core.
The GCRO has an ongoing programme of work on 'Green assets and infrastructure' in the city-region. Over the last few years the GCRO have conducted mapping and documenting exercises, resulting in the "State of Green Infrastructure" report. They have also run a series of stakeholder engagements known as 'CityLabs' to start to understand experiences and leverage expertise present in the development and management of green infrastructure projects. GCRO are now in the process of digesting the outcomes of this work in appropriate ways to benefit to a range of decision-making communities, in a variety of decision-making contexts, across a diverse city-region.
- Review current modes of communication in terms of how successful / unsuccessful they have been in engaging decision-makers around the topic of green infrastructure.
- Look at what can research do to support the uptake of a green infrastructure approach into urban planning, and/or project development and implementation
- Use a relevant green infrastructure case study to explore how co-production can assist with bridging inter/intragovernmental challenges in these types of cases.
- Co-produce guidance and action plan in response to points above in collaboration with stakeholder groups
Key project outputs
- Climate actions by city governments
Project title: Scaling up urban experiments Client: C40 Cities Group Brief:
With more than half of the world's population living in cities, and 70 million new urban dwellers every year (the equivalent of 7 new "Londons" per year), urban innovation is now critical to the future of sustainable development and the agendas shaping the future of our planet. The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, now in its 10th year, connects more than 80 of the world's greatest cities, representing over 600 million people and one quarter of the global economy.
Created and led by cities, C40 is focused on tackling climate change and driving urban action that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and climate risks, while increasing the health, wellbeing and economic opportunities of urban citizens. C40 has been partnering with ARUP and UCL STEaPP's City Leadership Laboratory since 2015, producing a series of three landmark reports that paved the way to the participation of cities in the new Paris climate agenda and Paris Agreement.
Research by C40, ARUP and the Lab has demonstrated that cities that collaborate are far more effective than individualist, top-down, cities -not only in the number of actions they take but also in the capacity to scale up pilot projects to transformative city-wide actions.
- The project will explore the drivers, mechanisms, and challenges of scaling up experiments and how C40 can best leverage these dynamics.
- The team will collaborate with C40's London secretariat and the Lab team at STEaPP, producing a C40 report (as with the previous three), with analysis and a series of informative case studies, written and video blogs, a briefing for C40 staff and transferrable lessons for C40 cities.
- The project will involve direct access to a pool of selected C40 cities (e.g. C40's steering committee chaired by Paris, and including Mexico City, London, Seoul, Milan, Rio and Jakarta), as well as to C40 staff in the London secretariat, and will require both analysis of C40 data as well as interviews with practitioners (including experts from the broader pool of Lab partners like the OECD, World Bank and Uk Government) and possible workshopping activities with C40 experts and cities.
- Using energy to enhance wellbeing
Project title: Productive use of energy for enhancing wellbeing Client: International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) Brief:
STEaPP is collaborating on a research project with the IIED is to identify what interventions are needed to help poor people in rural areas access decentralized energy services that strengthen their capacity to earn a living.
Decentralized energy encompasses mini-grids and standalone energy devices, such as solar water pumps or efficient ovens. Many people agree that energy services need to go beyond the household, providing power for irrigation, energy for food processing and building local businesses, particularly in rural areas. This project focuses on energy services targeted at people working in small-scale agriculture, fishing, forestry and local services (retail, hospitality, trades).
IIED is aware of interest in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Nepal, India and Bangladesh in this area of work.
The group project will focus on a number of challenges such as:
- identifying the specific evidence and practice gaps of different stakeholder groups;
- designing the key research questions and prototyping methods
- working out who will participate and partner with IIED, and the incentives/barriers to this
- clarifying the results and pathways to take-up.
- Evaluation of SPHEIR
Project title: Evaluation of SPHEIR Client: Technopolis Group (consultancy partner) for DfiD and British Council Brief:
The Strategic Partnership for Higher Education Innovation and Reform (SPHEIR) programme, a collaboration between the Department for International Development (DFID) and British Council, provides development assistance to higher education institutions in developing nations, with a focus in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. This assistance can take many forms, with a focus on quality, accessibility, relevance, affordability, scale, sustainability and technology (SPHEIR, n.d.b). Technopolis Group, a consulting firm located in the U.K., has been hired by the British Government to assist in the evaluation of SPHEIR and to assess the impact and scalability of the SPHEIR programme. The authors of this report work under the direction of Technopolis Group.
This report has been written to assist in the identification of emerging innovative pedagogies in the SPHEIR regions, in addition to Latin America. Pedagogical innovations were identified within the foci listed above through the application of a variety of frameworks. These frameworks, developed by universities and international organisations, were applied to existing literature and further complemented by conversations with experts in the education field. With these combined elements, a plethora of pedagogies which may be considered to be ‘innovative’ were identified in the selected countries; the Appendix contains detailed descriptions of each pedagogy identified.
The group project will focus on three broad objectives:
- Definition of Innovative Pedagogies
- Examples of Innovative Pedagogies
- Feasibility and Replicability