Research network co-hosts conference for early career researchers

The research network co-hosted the Wales Ecology & Evolution Network annual conference which promotes post-graduate research and provides a networking platform for early-career scientists at Welsh Universities.

During the conference the research network hosted a session on grant writing and careers with Rhys Bowley, Dr Eleanor Warren-Thomas, Dr Line Cordes, Dr Graeme Shannon all pitching in advice from across their very varied academic backgrounds. Framing the session with a theme of “there’s more than one way to climb the academic tree”, the panel covered career paths, funding sources, where to get help and all-important survival tactics for carving a path through academia.

This year’s event was the first in-person for 2 years due to the pandemic, and was held at the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) in Mid-Wales. The event is branded as a by early-career-researchers for early-career-researchers event, proving a constructive environment for many of the attendees to participate in their first research conference and to experience the minutia of live events in a friendly environment.

“After moving to an online event last year due to the pandemic, the support of the research network was instrumental in allowing WEEN to re-launch as an in-person event in 2021 at the Centre for Alternative Technology. This kind of conference is a valuable experience for early career researchers, as it provides an opportunity to present their work in a supportive and relaxed environment, whilst promoting communication and collaboration throughout the ecology & evolution research communities in Wales. This year, the LCEERNW facilitated a grant writing workshop, which was a unique session for WEEN and provided useful insights for early career researchers when looking for their next funding opportunities in academia.”

Amy Gresham, Post Graduate Researcher at Bangor University and WEEN organising comittee
The compacted-earth walls of the the WISE (Wales Institute for Sustainable Education) lecture theatre building completed in 2009

For more than 45 years CAT has inspired people to achieve practical solutions for sustainability. Founded in 1973, it has a long history of research and innovation: from early experiments with wind power that helped with the development of modern wind turbines, to the creation of prototypes of solar-powered vaccine fridges that are now saving lives across the world. The team at CAT have experimented with new ways of producing compost and treating waste, innovative low-carbon building materials and methods, various types of renewable heat, and much more. Since 2007, CAT’s main research focus has been the centre’s Zero Carbon Britain project, which provides a model for how the UK could reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions using technology available today.

Investing in next generation of environmental researchers based in Wales is a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to building on Welsh research strength, and ultimately increasing the research funding brought into Wales. Events like WEEN are helping to develop the next set of research leaders who will be dedicated to solving the greatest challenges facing ecosystems around the world.

WEEN21 Delegates inside the WISE lecture hall

Welsh science working with nature to tackle climate change showcased during Wales Climate Week

Wales Climate Week returns once more running from 22-26 November with a 5-day programme of virtual events packed with speakers from government, academia, third sector, industry and Welsh communities. The event provides a opportunity for nationwide discussion on Wales’ net zero and climate change goals. Over the course of the week, the programme delves into what Wales has already achieved, what changes to expect in the next five years and how, through collective action we can shape the future.

Agenda at-a-glance
Monday – Wales and the World
Tuesday – Energy and emissions
Wednesday – How Wales is responding to the climate emergency
Thursday – Exploring the role of nature in climate resilience
Friday – How individual choices impact the world climate

The research network organised a panel discussion on Thursday titled “Small nation, big ideas – how Welsh science is working with nature to address climate change”, chaired by Professor Mary Gagen. In the 75-minute session researchers from across Wales focused on nature based solutions to climate change. As well as hearing from the panelists directly, we also included the voices of researchers from the #SmallNationBigIdeas video series, played between each panelist.

Panelists left to right:
Professor Mary Gagen, Professor of Geography, Swansea University
Professor Bridget Emmett, Head of Soils and Land Use, Head of UKCEH Wales Research Station in Bangor, UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (UKCEH)
Dr Prysor Williams, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Management, Bangor University
Professor Isabelle Durance, Professor of Integrated Water Sciences, Cardiff University
Professor Iain Donnison, Head of the Institute of Biological, Environmental & Rural Sciences, Aberystwyth University
Dr Richard Unsworth, Associate Professor in Bioscience, Swansea University.

During the session we heard how that is no path to net zero without conserving and restoring nature. This is because woodlands, wetlands and seagrass meadows store huge amounts of carbon which is released into the atmosphere when they are lost. Similarly, restoring these ecosystems can soak up carbon: a service to society which we will increasingly rely on in the journey to net zero. Nature also plays a key role in supporting adaption in the face of a changing climate: salt marshes can reduce coastal flooding, vegetation in urban areas can reduce urban heat islands with benefits for health and wellbeing, while better management of catchments can build resilience in the face of flood risks and droughts. Scientists are also capturing the power of plants to create new energy sources and bioproducts. The panellists covered a wide-range of truly innovative and world-leading science going on here in Wales which is making a genuine contribution to tackling the biggest challenge we face.

Launch of #SmallNationBigIdeas – Over 40 short videos from Welsh scientists

World leaders and their governments have been meeting in Glasgow to find ways to keep global warming in check. However, turning political commitments into reality needs innovations in how we produce, store and use energy, how we manage our countryside so nature can do its bit, as well as deeper understanding of the consequences of climate change.

The #SmallNationsBigIdeas video series launched as part of COP Cymru and Wales Climate Week, showcasing research and innovation from across Wales which is actively tackling climate change.

I knew there was great stuff going on in Welsh universities but working on this series has blown my mind.

One stand-out example is Charlie Dunnill’s video using an exercise bike to show how hydrogen-a key green fuel of the future- can store clean energy. If you want a quick introduction to the diversity and novelty of the science happening in Wales (and the personalities behind it), do watch some of the videos

Professor Julia Jones, Bangor University Professor of Conservation Science and Director of the Low Carbon Energy and Environment
Dr Jenny Baker walks through her research in manufacturing batteries from more environmentally friendly materials

The#SmallNationsBigIdeas video series showcases how researchers in Wales are helping to tackle or adapt to global climate change issues. The series comprises over 40 videos including:

  • Professor Iain Donnison (Aberystwyth University) explains how a tropical grass which can grow on Welsh farms could produce electricity whilst removing carbon from the atmosphere.
  • Dr Aisha Bello-Dambatta (Bangor University) shows how most of the energy we use to heat our water is flushed down the drain, and how that could be recovered.
  • Dr Jenny Baker (Swansea University) explains how her work is helping to reduce the environmental impact of battery manufacture.
  • Dr Muditha Abeysekera (Cardiff University) explains how his research is helping the public sector to make more of their existing assets and improve energy efficiency through energy management.
  • Professor Dave Chadwick, Emily Cooledge, Dr Karina Marsden (Bangor University) explain innovative ways in which the impacts of livestock farming in Wales can be reduced.

Wales has often been described as a nation which is small enough to get things done but big enough to make a difference and I think that is true of our environmental innovation and climate science research. From green steel development to regenerative farming, every sector in Wales is doing its bit to help us meet Net Zero, and then take emissions negative. These videos introduce some of the Welsh scientists and engineers who are working to achieve that.

Professor Mary Gagen, Swansea University, who through Swansea University Science for Schools Scheme has produced several Small Nations Big Ideas videos

Some tasters of these videos have already been shown as part of the COP26 Regional Roadshows.  The main exposure for the videos will be used to put science at the heart of Wales Climate Week which runs from 22nd to 26th November. You can register for the exciting series of events on the COP Cymru website.

Welsh science underpins the energy transition to net zero

November 4th saw the energy transition day of COP26, and with it the regional roadshows being held around the UK. For Wales, the energy transition roadshow took place in North Wales – a region with a strong record in nuclear energy, community-owned renewable generation, commercial wind farms, and a new focus on the potential of offshore wind and tidal energy.

The research network supported the event with a session focused on the science which will help society deliver on ambitious commitments to decarbonize economies for the sake of the planet, and all our futures. Big changes will be needed in how energy is produced, stored, transported and used if there is to be any hope of meeting Net Zero targets. This will require our researchers to develop new ideas, new technology and a keen awareness of any unintended consequences. To put into context some of the latest scientific innovations coming out of Wales in this field, we heard from people working at the cutting edge.

From left to right: Dr Aisha Bello-Dambatta, Dr Michael Rushton, BBC Radio Cymru and S4C presenter Lisa Gwilym, post graduate researcher Gemma Veneruso, and Dr Jenny Baker. Also (appearing via video link) Prof Ian Masters.

Topics covered by the panelists ranged from recovering vast amounts of heat energy that is flushed down the drain every time we use hot water, nuclear reactors for more than just electricity (including heating buildings, medicines and manufacturing products like steel), tidal energy and the impact of tidal projects on marine ecosystems, as well as environmentally friendly alternative materials for battery manufacture that can help to keep high paying jobs here in Wales. Panel chair Lisa Gwilym fielded questions coming in from an international audience watching online. What was particularly striking from all the presentations was that many of the technologies required to start making a real difference to the decarbonisation of energy already exist in the world today, but the outstanding research questions revolve around where and how to best utilize them and what will be the impact on people, communities, wildlife and the natural environment.

The event was help at the M-SParc innovation campus. M-SParc is a key part of the low carbon focus of North Wales, linking to developments taking place on the ‘Energy Island’ of Anglesey. The recently announced £100M Low Carbon Energy Centre of Excellence (Egni) will invest in developing a Low Carbon Energy Centre of Excellence at Bangor University and M-SParc, enhancing the region’s capabilities for research, design and innovation in low carbon energy.

Leading Swansea University researcher helps launch the Net Zero Wales Plan with Welsh Government

Welsh Government’s new Net Zero Wales Plan was launched today at an event held at the Solar Heat Energy Demonstrator building near Port Talbot, a research facility operated by SPECIFIC. Hosted by ITV Wales presenter, Ruth Dodsworth, the event was supported by the Welsh research community in a panel consisting of the First Minister of Wales, Rt. Hon Mark Drakeford MS; Minister for Climate Change Julie James MS; Professor Dave Worsley, Vice President (Innovation) at Swansea University; and Poppy Stowell-Evans Youth Climate Ambassador for Wales.

The launch event was an opportunity to explore the changes needed to achieve Wales’ environmental, economic and social aims, as well as the opportunities and risks the changes present. Professor Worsley, who grew up in Pembrokeshire, was keen to demonstrate how the universities in Wales are working on some of the toughest challenges facing the decarbonisation of industry and housing, two major pillars of the Welsh society. He highlighted how research outcomes from major multi-million pound projects such as SPECIFIC, FLEXIS and SWITCH Connect have helped to unlock immense potential in areas such as the Port Talbot Steel Works, and how the universities of Wales are adapting to fill the skills-gap that stands in the way of Wales fully capitalising on it’s green industries.

Professor David Worsley, Vice President (Innovation) at Swansea University

The event itself was held at a Welsh decarbonisation research facility, The Solar Heat Energy Demonstrator in Margam which is used to trial two large-scale solar heat storage demonstrators.

The SPECIFIC Solar Energy Heat Demonstrator research facility in Port Talbot, South Wales. It is a 1990’s industrial unit that has been retrofitted with solar technology, and as a result, has been running without gas since 2012.

Ministers introduced a five year plan of action, explained its role in shaping the next stage of our pathway to net zero by 2050 and emphasised the importance of working together to help deliver our decade of climate action. The role of science and research in developing the new innovations required to realise that pathway cannot be understated.

From the plan:

“The need for a coherent science and innovation system – to collect and analyse data, to investigate potential avenues for mitigation, to develop new techniques, products and services to deliver a net
zero Wales – is embedded throughout this strategy.”

“In our proactive approach to net zero, we will continue to support and value the high-quality research base available in Wales, for example through our support to Sêr Cymru.”

The next few years require a massive decarbonisation of electricity and heating [source; Carbon Budget 2]

From creating places for nature to giving the poorest people in Wales warmer, more energy efficient homes, as well as the things we want to take forward in this Government term and in this carbon budget, like a reformed sustainable farming scheme and creating a national forest. We recognise we haven’t got all of the answers – we want to work with and learn from people across Wales to find innovative solutions to the challenges we face and this is why, along with Net Zero Wales, we are also publishing another document today.

Climate Change Minister Julie James

Welsh research excels at addressing UN sustainable development goals

Full Press Release by Bangor University:

Wales may be a small country, but it punches above its weight in the quality and the quantity of the research it carries out. A new report published today (Thursday, 30 September, 2021), highlights the particular strength of Welsh science in contributing to efforts to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Low Carbon Energy and Environment Research Network Wales have brought together a collection of case studies to illustrate the depth and breadth of excellent research going on in Wales which is contributing the biggest global challenges society faces.

The report “UN SDGs: Wales’ Research Performance with UK and Global Comparators” was launched at an event hosted by First Minister, Mark Drakeford, and Chief Scientific Advisor, Peter Halligan. 

This report is such positive reading. High quality research is critical to finding solutions to difficult problems, and it is so encouraging to read how much of Wales’s research effort is targeted to the most important challenges we face, and how this is world-leading in terms of quality. 

One wonderful example is how Bangor University is working with Cardiff University to monitor COVID-19 levels in wastewater. They are sharing this expertise with local and international partners worldwide, so this new science can help tackle the pandemic in different contexts.

Professor Julia Jones, Director of the Low Carbon Energy and Environment Research Network Wales and professor at Bangor University

The Sustainable Development Goals were agreed by all member states of the United Nations in 2015 as an urgent call for action by all countries. They recognise that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.

Dr Rattan Yadav, Aberystwyth University, said:

“In IBERS among a wide variety of projects, we are working with partners in India and Africa to develop new varieties of pearl millet, a staple food, which can help reduce the risk of diabetes-this is contributing the SDG 2 – Zero Hunger and SDG 3 – Good Health and Well-being.”

Professor Carole Llewellyn, Swansea University, said:

“Swansea University is growing microalgae using waste nutrients from farming and food industries which is then used to generate new products such as animal feed. Thus working with farmers, industry and policy makers we are reducing waste and replacing unsustainable products with ones that are more sustainable. This contributes to a wide range of the Sustainable Development Goals including responsible consumption and climate action.”

Among the SDGs, Welsh research is making a particularly strong contribution to those which relate to the planet such as SDGs 13, Climate Action, 14, Life below Water, and 15, Life on Land.

Professor Mike Bruford, Cardiff University, said: 

“This report is very positive as it emphasises that impactful research in environmental sciences and sustainability also has global traction and increases the visibility of Welsh research. In Cardiff we have tried to focus on multidisciplinary research in the environmental sciences both in Wales and in key global regions and it is good to see that the global research community is acknowledging this.”

A critical factor in Wales’s success is the extent to which researchers collaborate extensively across borders and sectors. Welsh research is most effective where Welsh researchers work collaboratively with others, regardless of geographies and sectors, demonstrating the productive outcome of years of international networking.

Peter Halligan, Chief Scientific Advisor for Wales

With COP26 little more than a month away, this report makes for very interesting reading and I was so proud to see the contribution our scientists continue to make to global issues.

 Whether it is helping us tackle the Covid pandemic or tackling the challenges of climate change, the report makes it clear that Wales plays a disproportionately strong role in Sustainable Development Goals related research.

At 130% above the world average, Wales had the joint highest overall citation impact of all of the comparators considered in the report making us a global leader in Sustainable Development Goals related research.

The report highlights the depth and breadth of research and talent we have here in Wales and our strengths in the fields of people, planet and prosperity.

Julie James, Minister for Climate Change

Research network makes case for science underpinning the Programme for Government

Welsh Government’s Research & Innovation Strategic Engagement Group (RISE) brings together key stakeholders within Welsh Government who support and develop research that happens in Wales.

Research network director Prof Julia P G Jones was invited to make the case to First Minister Mark Drakeford and the RISE group for why investment in science underpins the Programme for Government. Programmes such as Sêr Cymru, to which the research network belongs, are a proven and well-established mechanism to increase the funding brought into Wales – an all-important topic as we near the end of EU structural funds, which has underpinned many of Welsh Government’s investments in the both academic and scientific sectors.

The meeting also provided an opportunity for us to present our latest tool to help facilitate connections between Welsh Government and the brilliant researchers working in Wales’ universities. We call this a ‘mapping document’. It has been created to help draw connections between commitments in Welsh Labour’s 2021-2026 Programme for Government and the necessary research topics required to achieve them.

The Programme for Government sets out Welsh Government’s commitments for the 6th Senedd, from 2021 to 2026. Wales has enormous strength in research which can contribute to the delivery of these commitments. However, it can be difficult for policy makers to access the expertise of researchers quickly and efficiently. Therefore, we have produced a map which draws out commitments from the Programme for Government which have a connection to low carbon energy and environment research, identifies societal outcomes which these commitments aim to provide (green boxes), and indicates the areas of research strength (blue boxes) in Wales which can help deliver on these commitments.

The map is high-level and broad brush. We envisage it being useful to senior civil servants and ministers to identify senior academics who can give an overview of a research area and how it can contribute to policy.

This map in no way represents all areas of research strength in Wales – we are truly blessed with depth and breadth of research strength across the Low Carbon Energy and Environment space. For more specific recommendations, the Low Carbon Energy and Environment Research Network Wales can make detailed recommendations and connect you with the right researchers.

New Video Competition!

Are you a postgraduate researcher (PGR), or recently graduated PGR, in Wales working on topics relevant to climate change?

Do you want to show off your research to the public on a national stage?

Given the fantastic response, the submission deadline has been extended to 23:59, September 7th, 2021!

The Low Carbon Energy and Environment Research Network Wales would like to offer you the opportunity to be part of our new video series: Small Nation, Big Ideas: Welsh science tackling climate change! Our aim is to highlight the excellent researchers based in Wales, and their contributions to addressing one of the biggest challenges facing society. The series of short films will showcase cutting-edge research being carried out in Wales. Additionally, there will be lots of opportunities for researchers working on climate-change related topics to talk to the media in the run-up to COP26, so this video series is chance to for us to put a spotlight on engaging and enthusiastic speakers. The videos will be promoted on our website, social media channels, and have the chance to become part of the Wales Climate Week exhibit, reaching a large audience of fellow researchers, policy makers and the public.

Competition entries will be judged by an expert panel, including Professor Mike Bruford from Cardiff University and Professor Julia Patricia Gordon Jones from Bangor University. There will be a £100 cash prize for 1st place and a £50 cash prize for 2nd place.  

You can find an example of a finished video here:

If you have a submission that you would like to be considered for the video series, please get in touch. We can work with you to produce an engaging and informative short film. We will do the video editing, adding images, logos and music where needed. What we will need from you:

  • Video of you describing your research – entries must be no longer than 90 seconds, and shorter 60 second or less videos are also welcome. Please use language suitable for a public audience and focus on how the research can ultimately contribute to tackling or adapting to climate change. Please film your entry in portrait (vertical) and make sure that the video is as high quality as possible. Please also make sure that you are being lit from the front rather than behind. For best audio quality, use a well-placed microphone if you have one, or if you are filming on a smartphone, make sure that you are not too far away from the phone. Videos in the field or lab are very welcome, but please consider sound quality.
  • Additional high-resolution photographs/infographics or video clips of your experiments, field set up, code or simulations, interviews with the public or whatever your research involves.  
  • High-resolution logos and any acknowledgements.

We’re very interested in receiving submissions in Welsh or English (or both!)
Mae gennym ddiddordeb mawr mewn derbyn cyflwyniadau yn Gymraeg neu Saesneg (neu’r ddau!)

Once complete, will give you a MP4 of your final video to use in any way you like.

Please get in touch at to discuss your idea. We ask that you provide a link to your materials using your chosen cloud-based storage service. Note: The submission deadline for your content has been extended to 23:59, Tuesday 7th September 2021. Entries must be from early career researchers, including those completing their masters, PhD, or those who are within 2 years since completing their PhD.

We are the Low Carbon Energy and Environment Research Network Wales. Our mission is to support Wales’ world-leading research in low carbon energy, nature-based solutions to environmental challenges, the bioeconomy, and sustainable food production. We aim to enhance and build on the excellent research capability in Wales, and to increase competitive funding secured in Wales. Our vision is of world-leading research strength, contributing innovation internationally and economic strength domestically. 

Upcoming Webinar! Horizon Europe Funding and Specialist Support from Welsh Government

Did you know researchers in the UK can bid into the €95.5 billion Horizon Europe funding programme? Did you know there is unique training, bid development and funding support for researchers in Wales from @WelshGovernment?

The Horizon Europe Research and Innovation funding program was launched in February 2021 and the work programmes have just been published. Horizon Europe is supported with €95.5 billion EU funding plus matched funding from Associate Countries. It the successor to Horizon 2020 which delivered over €147 million to Wales. The UK is recognised as an Associate (subject to final confirmation) and researchers in the UK are confirmed to be eligible to participate.

In this interactive webinar you’ll get to learn about the upcoming funding calls linked to low carbon energy and environment topics, as well as the specific support available to researchers based in Wales.

Agenda: 60-minute webinar

  • The Welsh Government Horizon Europe Engagement Team will introduce the support they provide through training, funding and bid development, as well as giving an overview of how Horizon Europe is structured, where to find information, and the draft calls that are coming up in the next 18 months.
  • Prof. Carlos Garcia de Leaniz of Swansea University will give an overview of how he and his colleagues were successful in forming a consortium and winning €6m for their Horizon2020 project AMBER.
  • The Low Carbon Energy and Environment Research Network Wales will discuss how they are working to serve and support researchers in Wales through networking, advocacy and lobbying.
  • There will then be a 20-minute question and answer session with the experts where you can get answers to all your queries.

Register on Eventbrite:

New Briefing: The case for investment in Welsh research

With the end of Wales’ access to EU structural funds fast approaching, and the need to boost the economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic, investment in Welsh research has never been more important than it is now.

Universities play a vital role in developing a high-skilled workforce and providing the innovation to drive economic growth. Welsh Universities generate about £5bn a year, almost 50,000 jobs, and are important catalysts for regional development.

It is with this in mind that the Sêr Cymru Research Networks (Life Sciences, Advanced Engineering, and Low Carbon Energy and Environment) have come together to publish a joint briefing on the need for investment into the Welsh research landscape.

Today provided the networks an opportunity to discuss the briefing with Chief Scientific Advisor for Wales, Professor Peter Halligan, in a first step toward laying out a vision for the future of networking and research in Wales.

You can find the full briefing below, as well as on our resources page along with our other major policy related documents.

Briefing: The case for investment in Welsh research