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Collegium tackles global coastal eco-cities challenge.

An intensive research exercise lasting eight weeks has put 24 scholars from around the world firmly in position to help solve humankind’s biggest global challenges – this year’s focus was coastal eco-cities.

The Lloyd’s Register Foundation (LRF) Research Collegium brought together 24 postgraduates representing 22 countries to Southampton University to develop imaginative solutions to the problems faced as the world’s population concentrates more and more near the coast. The countries represented were Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Egypt, Greece, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Nigeria, Poland, Singapore, Spain, Turkey, UK and USA. 

The Collegium, now in its third year, welcomes scholars from a wide range of academic disciplines to work in small, mixed discipline groups through a structured programme that included lecturers drawn from academic research institutes and industry partners. The programme focuses on boosting the scholars’ knowledge of new and emerging technology and engineering systems, regulatory and commercial issues and design challenges.

“The high concentration of people in coastal regions has produced many economic benefits, including improved transportation links, industrial and urban development, revenue from tourism, and food production,” said Michael Franklin, LRF Grants Director. “But the effects of booming population combined with those of probable sea level rises owing to climate change are threatening the ecosystems that provide these economic benefits, indeed the very survival of many communities. Today, approximately 3 billion people live within 200 kilometres of a coast and by 2025, that figure is likely to double and that is why we wanted this year’s Collegium to tackle this major issue.” 

Working to very tight deadlines, each group prepared a major technical paper suitable for publication in a peer-reviewed journal in which they interpreted what coastal eco-cities mean to them before sharing their problem-solving ideas. The Collegium closed with the presentation of all five papers to an audience of academics, industrialists, young engineers and students in Southampton on 10 September 2013. All of the papers are published by the University and shared with colleagues and contacts of the Lloyd’s Register Foundation, the participating universities and others with a commercial and academic interest in coastal eco-cities. 

“The success of the Collegium depends on the collaborative application of a broad range of engineering and other competences as the drive for improved efficiency and environmental systems performance places greater demand on the design community,” said Professor Ajit Shenoi, Director of the Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute that hosts the Collegium. 

“The postgraduate scholars who participate in the Collegium are selected on the basis that they are likely to be future leaders in business, industry, government, research and academia,” he continued. “We place them in a high pressure situation where they have to deliver something that can stand the test of time and give them the opportunity to return to their own countries, universities and disciplines as better informed people and to share with their audiences at home about the value of this kind of educational experience.” 

For University of Southampton postgraduate researcher Erin McMurtry, the whole experience has helped to develop her scientific and social skills by working with a multi-disciplinary group in such a pressure-packed environment. 

The paper by Erin’s group, entitled ‘Towards an Integrated Framework for Coastal Eco-Cities: EU-Asia perspectives’, seeks to analyse two significant European and Asian Coastal eco-city projects with recommendations for an integrated framework for eco-city design. Through their paper, the group addresses green building standards, energy supply, waste management, transportation and coastal infrastructures. 

“I’m an environmental scientist but I was joined in my group by an oceanographer, a civil engineer and two naval architects,” Erin explained. “All of us have come at this from different angles but we pulled together quickly and agreed on an idea that we all thought was worthwhile and beneficial. 

“I’m not a natural leader but I’ve been in position to help guide the group which has been really enjoyable,” she continued. “Working with the whole group has been equally enjoyable as we’ve got together every week during the Collegium to present our findings and give progress reports. There are five completely different group projects and it’s been fascinating to see the different directions each group have headed in based on their own experiences and research.”

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