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Academy hosts symposium to prepare for a warming world

Some of the world’s leading early and mid-career researchers and innovators will gather in Rio de Janeiro from 16-19 July to address the impact that rising global temperatures will have on coastal communities, oceans and water resources.

From developing solutions to marine plastic pollution to exploring sustainable use of the Amazon rainforest, the Frontiers of Development symposium, will provide a unique opportunity for researchers from engineering, social sciences, natural sciences, humanities, biomedical sciences and medicine to share their expertise and develop new research collaborations to tackle the global issues caused by climate change. The symposium is a collaboration between the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Academy of Medical Sciences, the British Academy and the Royal Society under the UK government’s Global Challenges Research Fund.

The United Nation’s Emissions Gap Report suggests that global temperatures are set to increase by 3°C above preindustrial levels by 2100, with 275 million people worldwide living in areas that are predicted to be flooded due to rising sea levels. Addressing the challenges brought on by rising global temperatures, the symposium will focus on three main themes; the use of the sea and its resources for sustainable economic development; protecting the marine ecosystem; and reducing the risk of, and building resilience against, climate induced disasters.

Professor Minhan Dai, Director of the Marine Environmental Laboratory at Xiamen University, China, will co-chair the symposium. He said: “Coastal communities around the world are facing unprecedented threats from global scale environmental and climate change. There are no magic solutions to the challenges brought about by rising temperatures but it is clear that it requires a global, collaborative response, one where we bring together regional and large-scale initiatives to learn from each other and combine knowledge from across disciplines. Communication, interaction and cooperation are key to saving millions of people across the world from a bleak future.”

In conjunction with the Frontiers of Development symposium, the Royal Academy of Engineering Leaders in Innovation Fellowship (LIF) Programme will host an Innovation Unconference on 19 July that is also open to participants in the main symposium. This event will bring together four years of Alumni of the LIF programme from Brazil, Chile and Colombia and connect them to researchers from the Frontiers of Development Symposium. Beyond encouraging new research partnerships, the Unconference will allow LIF alumni to share their experiences of commercialising research and explore how entrepreneurship can be used to develop regional, and global, solutions to the threats of climate change.

Among the LIF alumni attending the event is Chilean engineer, Barbarita Lara, who has developed a quick, reliable and low-cost solution to communicate emergency information during natural disasters. Existing communications systems often fail during disruptive events such as earthquakes, making it especially difficult to provide vital information to those in remote areas. In response Barbarita, who was recently named one of MIT Technology Review’s Innovators Under 35 Latin America, developed SiE (Sistema de Información de Emergencia), a smartphone app that uses long-reaching radio waves to transmit messages for public authorities direct to users’ mobile phones. Having recognised the lifesaving potential of the platform, LIF supported Barbarita in developing a commercialisation plan for SiE. This has led to discussions with disaster management authorities in Chile about using SiE for future alerts and with a leading telecom company about pre-installing the app on new smartphones.

Barbarita Lara said: “South America is home to six of the 10 cities most vulnerable to natural disasters and the current communications systems are inefficient, inoperable, and incomplete. I’ve been able to use my knowledge, experience and circumstances to create SiE, but having access through the Leaders in Innovation Fellowship programme to a network of other engineers and entrepreneurs to share ideas and experiences with has been crucial to increasing the impact of my work, and, to SiE gaining the attention of the Chilean government and large players in the tech industry.”

Both the Frontiers of Development symposium and the LIF Innovation Unconference are part of the UK-Brazil Year of Science and Innovation, a joint initiative led by the UK and Brazilian governments and funded through the Newton Fund. The initiative promotes collaboration between researchers, entrepreneurs and businesses from the UK and Brazil to address four key global challenges: climate and biodiversity; sustainable agriculture; health and life sciences; and energy.

Follow the symposium on Twitter at #FrontiersDev and the LIF Innovation Unconference
at #InnovationLeaders.

  1. Frontiers of Development. Based on the Royal Academy of Engineering’s successful Frontiers of Engineering for Development symposia, Frontiers of Development aims to bring together outstanding researchers from a range of disciplines, based in both the UK and the Global South, to build the necessary networks and relationships needed to support high-impact research around development challenges. The programme encourages the next generation of research leaders to work collaboratively across multiple subjects to address the issues faced by developing countries.
    The symposium is part of the Resilient Futures Initiative, a collaboration between all four UK national Academies under the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). The event will be co-chaired by Professor Mark Pelling, UKRI GCRF Challenge Lead for Resilience to Environmental Shocks and Change and Professor of Geography at Kings College London and Professor Minhan Dai, co-chair for the symposium and Director of the Marine Environmental Laboratory at Xiamen University, China.
  1. Leaders in Innovation Fellowships (LIF). Working with a select number of partner countries, the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Leaders in Innovation Fellowships (LIF) programme builds the capacity of researchers for entrepreneurship and commercialisation of their research, and creates international networks of innovators and technology entrepreneurs. LIF is delivered by the Academy as part of the UK Newton Fund which, through a variety of science and innovation activities, supports the economic development and social welfare of developing countries.

Royal Academy of Engineering As the UK’s national academy for engineering and technology, we bring together the most successful and talented engineers from academia and business – our Fellows – to advance and promote excellence in engineering for the benefit of society.

We harness their experience and expertise to provide independent advice to government, to deliver programmes that help exceptional engineering researchers and innovators realise their potential, to engage the public with engineering and to provide leadership for the profession.

We have three strategic priorities:

  • Make the UK the leading nation for engineering innovation and businesses
  • Address the engineering skills and diversity challenge
  • Position engineering at the heart of society

We bring together engineers, policy makers, entrepreneurs, business leaders, academics, educators and the public in pursuit of these goals.

Engineering is a global profession, so we work with partners across the world to advance engineering’s contribution to society on an international, as well as a national scale.

The Royal Society is a self-governing Fellowship of many of the world’s most distinguished scientists drawn from all areas of science, engineering, and medicine. The Society’s fundamental purpose, reflected in its founding Charters of the 1660s, is to recognise, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity.

The British Academy is the voice of the humanities and social sciences. The Academy is an independent fellowship of world-leading scholars and researchers; a funding body for research, nationally and internationally; and a forum for debate and engagement. For more information, please visit Follow the British Academy on Twitter @BritishAcademy_

The Academy of Medical Sciences is the independent body in the UK representing the diversity of medical science. Our elected Fellows are the UK’s leading medical scientists from hospitals, academia, industry and the public service. Our mission is to advance biomedical and health research and its translation into benefits for society. We are working to secure a future in which:

  • UK and global health is improved by the best research.
  • The UK leads the world in biomedical and health research, and is renowned for the quality of its research outputs, talent and collaborations.
  • Independent, high quality medical science advice informs the decisions that affect society.
  • More people have a say in the future of health and research.

Our work focusses on four key objectives, promoting excellence, developing talented researchers, influencing research and policy and engaging patients, the public and professionals.

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