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UEL researchers to use secrets of nature to solve urban problems 

UEL's Sustainability Research Institute part of five-year project backed by 12 million Euros of EU funding

Researchers at the University of East London (UEL) will play a major part in helping Europe become a global leader in using nature to improve urban living.

The University's Sustainability Research Institute (SRI), together with 29 partners from 16 European countries, will use nature’s ‘design and engineering’ to solve city problems as part of a five-year 'Connecting Nature' project, backed by 12 million Euros of EU funding.

“The SRI has a strong focus on applied research and a history of working with local authorities," said SRI researcher Dr Stuart Connop. "We also specialise in urban green infrastructure and urban sustainability, which made us a perfect fit for this project."

Project partners will work on nature-based solutions to problems in 11 European cities, bringing nature and natural processes to cities, landscapes and seascapes.

The aim is to help improve urban environments, create sustainable jobs in urban communities, and enhance the health and well-being of residents.

Dr Paula Vandergert, a member of the SRI research team, said, “The SRI will lead one part of the project, known as a ‘work package’ in EU parlance.

“We’ll focus on Glasgow in Scotland, Genk in Belgium and Poznań in Poland, which have been identified as leading European cities for using natural solutions to enhance things like energy efficiency and reduce harmful gases and increase green space.”

An excellent example of a nature-based solution already developed by the SRI is Derbyshire Pocket Park in Tower Hamlets, east London. This award-winning scheme was developed following collaborative work between the SRI and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

The SRI worked with the council to develop sustainable drainage systems with a special focus on biodiversity and green space.

The innovative use of an underused space also provided the local community with a relaxing social environment, space for cafe tables and chairs, covered bike racks, edible planters containing herbs for local residents, a space for small-scale workshops and events as well as an enhanced pedestrian area.

The Connecting Nature launch took place in Dublin (pictured above) and brought together mayors, elected city officials, academics and industry participants from across Europe to network and hear from a number of specialists in the sector.

To find out more, visit the project website: www.connectingnature.eu