ESRC launches network to build connections across essential resources

16th June 2014

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Anne Dolan

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) has launched the "Nexus Network", committing £1.8 million over the next three years to encourage innovative research and practical collaborations with businesses and policymakers across the linked 'nexus challenges' of food, energy, water and the environment.

Food, water and energy are interdependent and interlinked with the natural environment, but pressure on these essential resources has intensified in recent years and the nexus is being compromised by competing demands and trade-offs, according to the ESRC.

The linkages between vital resources are well understood, but rising populations and higher living standards is causing added pressures and conflicts of interest, which, says the ESRC, require a collaborative approach involving government, businesses, academic researchers and civil society.

The programme, which is led by the University of Sussex, in partnership with the University of East Anglia and the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), has committed an initial £500,000 for pilot projects, blue-sky ideas, working papers and placements to address the interconnected challenges of the nexus.

Launching the programme, Professor James Wilsdon, director of the Nexus Network, said the field is open to anyone with a commitment to tackling the nexus challenges. “The language of the nexus highlights the need for interconnected thinking between different resource flows, between the natural and social sciences, and between the research community and decision makers,” he said.

The network will support interdisciplinary, cross-sector collaborations between social and natural scientists, and other stakeholders working on eligible topics. Businesses are invited to take part and to explore the connections and the pressures between natural resources.

Dr Jake Reynolds, director of Business Platforms at CISL, is responsible for business involvement in the programme. He said; ”The network will play a crucial role in identifying system-level responses to protecting livelihoods and natural resources. Our business networks will bring a distinctive, pragmatic perspective to nexus challenges.”

In the start-up phase of the programme, the network is asking for short proposals from businesses, academics, policymakers, and NGOs – collaborative proposals involving more than one sector are particularly encouraged.

Up to 10 successful “think pieces” will be funded, which will help to scope and define nexus approaches, and stimulate debate across the linked domains of food, energy, water and the environment.

Anyone with an interest in the resources debate is encouraged to join the network, by signing up at:

The call for short proposals closes at 16.00hrs on 4 July 2014. Further details are available at

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