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EnvEast: An Introduction

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EnvEast: An Introduction

To quote EnvEast’s stellar animation, ‘EnvEast is partnership aimed at training a new generation of postgraduate researchers, to think like innovators and entrepreneurs’. Founded in 2013, more specifically, EnvEast is a NERC-funded Doctoral Training Partnership, drawing on the expertise of the University of Kent, Essex University and of course, the University of East Anglia.

In addition to these three leading universities, EnvEast also extends outside of academia, featuring ten nationally important research facilities and partner institutions. Collaboration is at the heart of what both EnvEast and MKEN hope to achieve, and as such links crossing the border between industry and academia are key to both their successes.

To focus on EnvEast, it’s student population has recently doubled, with the successful integration of the 2015 cohort with the existing students who began their PhD research projects in 2014. These research projects are based over three overriding themes: Climate, Marine and Atmospheric Sciences – where my own project is based; Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services and Sustainable Development; and finally Natural Hazards.

As part of the 2014 cohort, I feel well placed to comment on the success of EnvEast to date. Even as a DTP very much in its infancy, EnvEast has already made some remarkable achievements.


Perhaps the most notable of these, was the hugely successful envEXPO1 event, organised alongside MKEN. This event, held in March of 2015, brought together local industry, academia and students for three days of innovative, informative and inspirational talks on UEA campus.

envEXPO was divided into three separate events. Firstly, came the envEAST Showcase, a demonstration of the research conducted by EnvEast DTP students divided into three themes, coinciding with the overarching themes of the EnvEast DTP.

The envEAST Showcase was followed by MKEN Big Data, bringing together further delegates to discuss open source and large data resources. Currently, there a massive amounts of marine data being stockpiled. Recent estimates from The European Marine Observation Network suggest that EU spending on observational data is > €1 billion. That’s a phenomenal mass of data with scientific potential. However, this hoarded data can only generate impact in science if it is interpretable and accessible. To draw on the words of one of envEXPO’s many speakers:

“There is large disparity between budgets of data collection and bringing data together, with heavy weighting to data collection.” – Iain Shepherd, EMODnet European Commission

The final event of envEXPO was again organised by MKEN, under the name of MKEN Futures. Here, the future of marine science collaboration was discussed. MKEN aimed to provide a platform for innovative, collaborative solutions to policy, environmental and commercial needs once again combining delegates from all walks of life. Three parallel sessions were run, covering ‘Observational Technology & Surveillance’, ‘Coastal & Marine Risk’ and ‘Ecosystem Services & Ocean Processes’.

Student Progress

Where envEXPO was a large success, I think it’s fair to say that without EnvEast students, the success would have been limited. The students are the driving force of the DTP, with the success of the DTP almost directly measured in the consequent success of it’s students.

One year in, there are many student success stories to draw upon. At the top of this list, come the E3i Club, who will be receiving a dedicated post just to themselves in the coming weeks. A student established, and student run organisation, the E3i Club look to provide innovative opportunities for all. The first of these is coming in the form of a seminar series – organised by Creative Director, Phillip Lamb – beginning in November 2015, about the use of smart phones and applications in scientific research. In the modern day, nearly everyone has a computer in their pocket, which has massive potential for data collection both in terms of citizen science and directly from the hands of researchers.

As well as E3i, we’ve had students successfully shadow major scientific organisations, students on BBC Radio 4 and last but not least, the creation of a standalone blog run by myself featuring not only posts from EnvEast students – very entertaining ones I might add, but also from individuals in industry such as Carole Thomas from JIC Kerry Hayes of Regen SouthWest, and Henry Evans of Magnificent Ocean 

The Future

EnvEast has had a fantastic opening year, far more so than could be described in a single short article. It stands in a unique position to achieve not only through the vibrant and established departments of it’s major institutions, but also from within. The drive of it’s students is set up to flourish with the addition of another cohort, and a doubling of both intellectual and creative inputs.

The best way in which to summarise this potential, is to once again draw on words from the aforementioned animation: ‘EnvEast, a new generation, seeing from a different perspective.’

Watch this space.

1 A full account of envEXPO is available here

Posted by Seth Thomas on Fri, 27 Oct 2017

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