Queen’s University Belfast: Queen’s part of £1.25M project to build a diverse energy research community

A £1.25M project is tackling the lack of diversity in energy research by harnessing the talents of researchers from all backgrounds.

The University of Strathclyde leads the IGNITE Network+ with partners Imperial College London, Queen’s University Belfast, the University of Manchester, the University of Nottingham, the University of Bristol and Brunel University London.

The Innovation and Growth Needs Inclusion and engagement of all Talent in Energy research project aims to build an interdisciplinary community of energy researchers based on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) and accessibility.

The project is funded by an EDI Network+ grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research & Innovation and will work to support sustainable, abundant, clean and equitable energy for all, by harnessing the talents of energy researchers from all backgrounds.

It will critically evaluate stages in the pathway of energy researchers and identify and challenge systemic inequities at all career stages. Data, including rarely available intersectional information, will be collected that can expose systemic inequality.

Researchers from disadvantaged and underrepresented backgrounds will be supported through organisational interventions, mentorship, advice and advocacy.

Initiatives arising from consultation with the research community will be a key component of the network, with 40% of the funding allocated to flexible funding calls to address energy research challenges, and fund initiatives in support of EDI.

Principal Investigator, Professor Rebecca Lunn from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Strathclyde, said: “There is a real lack of diversity in energy research which stems not from a lack of interest, talent or ambition in underrepresented individuals, but from systemic inequalities in UK systems and institutions.

“IGNITE Network+ will focus on transforming diversity by critically evaluating systemic inequalities at each stage in the career pathways of energy researchers. We will design and implement initiatives to remove barriers to success for underrepresented individuals and monitor the performance of these initiatives.

“In parallel, we will work to support individuals from disadvantaged and underrepresented backgrounds through a mixture of organisational interventions, mentorship, advice and advocacy.”

Dr Aoife Foley, Reader from the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Queen’s University, said: “I am delighted to collaborate with colleagues across the UK on the nationally funded EPSRC IGNITE + project to drive a cultural shift towards a more inclusive, diverse energy (EDI) in our research community.

“IGNITE Network+ is a flagship UK project that will provide central coordination of EDI activities within the range of energy research networks, universities and research centres/institutes around the UK. The Network activities will align to conferences and high-profile events such as Women in Engineering Day, and Pride Week.”

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