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UK appoints clean air champions

The champions, appointed by UKRI and the Met Office as part of the clean air programme, aim to bring together researchers from different disciplines for joined up thinking and solutions.

The champions want to help create a sound health-based policy to improve air quality
The champions want to help create a sound health-based policy to improve air quality

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Met Office have appointed three clean air champions as part of their programme to improve air quality and reduce its health impacts in the UK.


The champions are: Professor Stephen Holgate, MRC clinical professor of immunopharmacology at the University of Southampton; Professor Martin Williams, head of science policy and epidemiology team at King’s College London and former head of the air quality programme at Defra; and Dr Jenny Baverstock, senior collaboration fellow at the University of Southampton.


Cleaner economy


The three-year Clean Air programme, which began in 2018, aims to develop solutions to air pollution to help policy-makers and businesses protect health and work towards a cleaner economy. The programme is a £19.6m collaboration funded under the Strategic Priorities Fund, involving multiple work streams managed by organisations within UK Research and Innovation and the Met Office.


Recognising that atmospheric pollution in the UK is responsible for ~40,000 early deaths and costs of ~£20bn per year to health services and business, our role is to be thought leaders, flag bearers, and strategy owners for the new Clean Air programme,” said the champions in a joint statement.


They added: “We will bring together outstanding researchers in atmospheric, medical and social science in joined-up thinking and ground-breaking solutions to help create a sound health-based policy, innovative business and trusted public information for the benefit of current and future generations.”

Finding solutions to this problem requires experts from a broad range of disciplines"

In addition to the appointment of the champions, five new research projects funded by UKRI have been launched. The projects include the development of improved tools and technologies for measuring and predicting emissions, investigation of the factors underlying individual exposure to pollution and disease, and methods to understand how a broad range of policy changes might affect air quality.


“The impact of poor air quality is one of the most important environmental risks to health in the UK,” said Stephen Belcher, Met Office chief scientist and co-lead for the Clean Air programme. Finding solutions to this problem requires experts from a broad range of disciplines and the Clean Air programme provides an opportunity for the first time in the UK to bring these experts together. The Met Office’s expertise in simulating weather and climate means that it is well-placed to play a central role in this work.”


The Met Office will fund multi-discipline research using experts from across the UK to deliver a Clean Air Framework, which facilitates traceable end-to-end analysis of air-quality health impacts to support policy and community action.


As part of the programme, Innovate UK is also running a funding competition to mobilise the UK’s most innovative businesses to find solutions to important but less conspicuous causes of pollution. These sources include the release of particles and micro-plastics from wear on tyres, brakes and road surfaces, the engines that operate vehicles used on construction sites and the refrigeration units on chilled delivery vehicles.


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