UK launches £6.5million flood research centre to combat climate change


Published: 9 January 2024

One in six homes in the UK are at risk of flooding

Scientists have been given millions to launch a research and training centre intending to better understand and manage flooding which has caused havoc across the UK this month.

The £6.5million hub led by the University of Southampton will work to develop a talent pool of environmental experts invested in protecting against rising river, rainfall and sea levels.

It is also aiming to make the UK more resilient to flooding.#

The FLOOD centre includes experts from the universities of Bristol, Loughborough and Newcastle, National Oceanography Centre, UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and British Geological Survey, with an additional 37 partner organisations.

It will be led by Ivan Haigh, a professor of sea level and coastal impact at the University of Southampton.

He said: “Flooding is the most destructive natural hazard that humanity faces with nearly two billion people exposed to its risk. We need to act now and come together to improve the way we manage the large and growing threat of flooding in the UK and elsewhere in the world.

“We will train experts to best understand how to tackle the challenges of floods in future years, not only for the UK but countries globally who are facing extreme problems from climate change.”

Currently one in six households in the UK are located in flood-prone areas.

The biggest drivers of flooding are increased river flow, surface runoff, storm surges and waves, said Prof Haigh, which are compounded by climate change and shifting populations.

The new hub will work to combat these growing challenges said its deputy director Dr Jennifer Brown, from the National Oceanography Centre.

She added: “This is a great opportunity to focus science research directly around the challenges faced by those managing and responding to flooding.”

Funding for the multimillion-pound centre has been provided by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) together with the seven centres and other partners.

Scientists will work to improve their understand of flooding using advanced monitoring and new forms of computer modelling, artificial intelligence and machine learning to map and forecast future flooding risks.

It is supported by 37 organisations in the flood sector across the UK – from local authorities, national government, water, energy and infrastructure companies, environmental, engineering and management consultancies, regulators, finance and (re)insurance companies and charities.

News of the centre has been welcomed by the industry.

Dr Sean Longfield, a lead scientist from the Environment Agency, said it is a fantastic opportunity to train a new generation of practitioners and researchers in flood and coastal risk management.

He added: “We look forward to working closely with a diverse range of people, skills and academic perspectives over the next seven years to develop world-leading research to improve our understanding of and resilience to future flooding and coastal change.”

Tyne Rivers Trust CEO Dr Ceri Gibson said: “Having just returned from the Trent catchment, where thousands of people and businesses are suffering from flooding, I cannot think of a better time to get this exciting initiative up and going.”

Associate director Ben Murray from ARUP said: “As recently witnessed in both global and domestic events, the flood risk challenges posed to society and the environment from a changing climate are profound, systemic and increasingly complex. Therefore training the next generation of interdisciplinary practitioners is essential.”

Geoffrey Saville, Head of Catastrophe Research at Canopius Group, said: “The focus of this centre is very much aligned with the research and development needs of the insurance industry. We hope that we can support PhD projects that can drive innovation through the application of new academic findings related to flood risk and resilience.”

Applications for students to enrol onto the centre open in February – read more here.

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