Published: 27 April 2022

REF 2021 case study: How Surrey’s Global Centre for Clean Air Research is tackling air pollution and climate change 

Research at the University of Surrey into air pollution and how to mitigate its impact is influencing government policy and safeguarding local communities.

Professor Prashant Kumar and his team at the Global Centre for Clean Air Research (GCARE) have taken a sustained practical approach across multiple research projects to tackling the effects of air pollution, which results in over seven million premature deaths worldwide annually.  

Their research, led by GCARE’s mission of ‘clean air for all’, is included in the University’s submission to REF 2021, the UK’s system for assessing the excellence of research in UK higher education providers.   

Professor Kumar’s team has demonstrated its commitment to improving air quality at the grassroots level in a number of ways, notably the publication of freely available guidelines and toolkits which identify ways to improve air quality.  

These include explanations of which types of tree and vegetation are most effective at blocking ultrafine particles and should therefore be planted on roadside verges. 

This led the Greater London Authority to commission GCARE to develop a report, ‘Using Green Infrastructure to Protect People from Air Pollution’, which summarises the best practice for urban planning departments and contractors in London as well as acting as a template for urban environments across the UK. 

In addition, GCARE’s guidance booklet on what can be done to mitigate exposure to traffic pollution in and around schools – based on a series of studies – has been translated into 10 different languages to meet global demand.  

Professor Kumar’s team has engaged with our local communities through GCARE’s ‘Guildford Living Lab’ programme, in which researchers worked with residents to measure pollution levels and engage with schools through practical workshops.  

In a statement, Guildford Borough Council said: “Surrey’s GCARE and Living Lab projects have made Guildford a world-class hub for research and innovation in tackling air pollution and climate change.” 

This is one of a series of pieces highlighting Surrey’s research excellence and the REF 2021 impact case studies, published ahead of the 2021 REF results. The REF outcomes are used to inform the allocation of around £2 billion per year of public funding for universities’ research.