The South Yorkshire Sustainability Centre (SYSC) is the first centre of its kind in the UK, connecting world-leading academic research with local businesses, public sector organisations and charities to overcome challenges like decarbonisation and helping the region meet its net-zero targets.
Creating a pipeline of sustainability research with the people who need it, the centre will also help to create new jobs, skills and economic opportunities in the region.
At the heart of the SYSC is a partnership between the University of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University, the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority, the four South Yorkshire local authorities - Sheffield, Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham - and a range of private and voluntary sector organisations.
The launch by South Yorkshire Mayor, Oliver Coppard, follows the announcement of the centre at the South Yorkshire Economic Summit in 2022. Over the past 12 months the SYSC has been focused on three key areas that represent the highest-emitting and most difficult to decarbonise elements of the economy and relate directly to regional priorities. Tackling these areas will have a massive impact on our region. These are:
- Retrofitting homes in South Yorkshire to reduce energy use and improve health and wellbeing
Working with the University of Sheffield, Doncaster Metropolitan Council (MBC) identified a total of 1,800 homes that needed to be treated and upgraded to help the city reach 100 per cent net-zero by 2040.
Homes were retrofitted with combinations of solid wall insulation and wall updates, new roofing, loft insulation, window glazing and door upgrades, and heating controls.
The project is also helping to tackle a high-level of fuel poverty, affecting around 17 per cent of homes, and also supporting residents’ wellbeing and satisfaction with their home.
As well as retrofitting homes, researchers are also working to understand how and why people move around Doncaster to help reduce transport emissions and help local organisations make decisions on services that are not only more sustainable but are better for the people using them.
- Reducing the amount of CO2 emitted from farm to fork
To achieve net-zero within the UK food system we need to develop technologies and processes that reduce the amount of CO2 emitted from “farm to fork”. The centre is looking at how we can produce food using low-carbon processes, embedded in local and regional communities.
- Helping regional industry and business decarbonise and move to clean fuels
The centre is working with regional industry and business to help them decarbonise and move to using clean fuels whilst maintaining the quality of their products. In South Yorkshire we have major manufacturers in foundational industries that underpin the UK’s economy. Decarbonising these industries will bring far wider benefits at a national level.
Director of the SYSC, Professor Rachael Rothman from the University of Sheffield, said: “We all know that to combat climate change we need to urgently reduce carbon emissions, but doing so without balancing the connected economic and social issues will only lead to more inequality and poverty in society.
“The challenges we face are complex and cut across industries, society and academic disciplines, but there are also opportunities; for jobs, economic growth and a more sustainable and thriving future. The decisions and changes we make now will have an immense impact on that future.
“We will connect our world leading research together with the region to provide the evidence needed to make those decisions and drive change.
“It makes me incredibly proud to know that South Yorkshire is playing such a pivotal role in the journey to a sustainable future.”
The SYSC was launched at the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) Technology Centre with speakers South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard, Co Founder of Civic Square, Immy Kaur and SYSC Director Professor Rachael Rothman.
Active Travel Commissioner and Olympic gold medal cyclist, Ed Clancy, also spoke at the event after leading a group cycle from the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority offices on Broad Street West - close to Sheffield train station - to the AMP in Rotherham.
South Yorkshire’s Mayor, Oliver Coppard, said: “The climate crisis is perhaps the biggest challenge we face, but if we get our response to it right, the rewards are significant: making our homes more sustainable will also make them warmer and cheaper to heat; Investing in green technology to help us reach net-zero emissions will also create great new jobs in the industries of the future, and grow our economy too; investing in public transport, as well as walking and cycling infrastructure, will mean more of us can leave our cars at home, creating safer, more liveable neighbourhoods and better connected communities.
“But we will only be able to build that new future if we work in partnership, with our communities, our businesses and our institutions across South Yorkshire.
“That’s why I’m so pleased to be launching South Yorkshire’s Sustainability Centre, bringing together leading academics, harnessing the resources and capabilities of our great universities to help build a greener, fairer future that works for all our communities, right across the region, and providing leadership to the whole of our country.”
Professor Koen Lamberts, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, said: “The world is facing a climate emergency and universities are uniquely positioned to respond to the global challenges we face.
“We are proud to be leading the South Yorkshire Sustainability Centre, which will connect our world-leading and world-changing sustainability research with businesses, public sector organisations and charities.
“Through working together, we can tackle urgent global issues like decarbonising to meet net-zero targets, and make a significant impact on our region, creating new green jobs, skills and economic opportunities.”
Sheffield Hallam University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Chris Husbands, said: “Climate change is the greatest challenge facing humanity and it is vital that universities utilise their research excellence, expertise and knowledge to help bring about societal change.
“The South Yorkshire Sustainability Centre is an excellent example of how collaboration and partnership can bring together organisations across a region and across disciplines to realise economic and social impact through the common goal of addressing urgent sustainability challenges. Sheffield Hallam is delighted to be a lead partner in this important initiative so we can better connect academic networks, local expertise and delivery partners to drive positive change in our region.”
Find out more about the South Yorkshire Sustainability Centre.