Focus areas

We have identified a set of ‘foundations’, or areas of focus, that encapsulate the sustainability research and activity at the University. 

Key focus areas

These reflect key outcomes or objectives for sustainability areas towards which much of the current research is directed and which are shaping future plans.

1. Life cycle assessment

A systems analysis approach to quantifying and representing environmental impacts of products/services, underpinning carbon, water and environmental foot-printing. Often used by industry and policy makers.

Under this foundation we include extended analyses such as:

  • Social life cycle assessment
  • Life cycle costing
  • Life cycle sustainability assessment
  • Supply and value chain analysis etc.

2. Food, energy, water (and nexus)

Research that encompasses diverse aspects of practice and policy for the development and management of these key underpinning provisioning services for sustainability.

The Nexus concept considers the interdependencies and interactions between the food, energy and water systems within the context of sustainable development. It reflects an approach to simultaneous, integrating thinking about these systems that transcends individual, isolated sectoral, policy and disciplinary silos.

3. Climate change science

Research on all aspects of the science of climate and especially climate change that impinge on earth systems and their functioning. The application of insights from this to inform policy and responses to climate change.

4. Sustainable living and behaviour

Research that considers the ways in which livelihoods and lifestyles impact on, and respond to, perspectives about living sustainably and well. Includes evaluation of the ways that human and systems behaviour can adjust to support sustainable living.

5. Industrial ecology and circular economy

Research on resource conservation and efficiency in industrial and business systems to reduce burdens on the environment. Includes evaluation and modelling of industrial ecosystems, waste management and recycling and business models.

  • Temperature and alkali stable polymer electrolytes for hydrogen and carbon dioxide alkaline electrolysers; funded by EPSRC - Materials Research Group
  • RENESENG: Renewable Systems Engineering Grant; funded by European Commission
  • Process & Information Systems Engineering Research Centre (PRISE) - Chemical and Process Engineering
  • Novel low energy plasma/catalytic gas cleaning process to deliver high quality syngas from the gasification of waste biomass - Energy and Materials
  • Computational modelling and optimisation of carbon capture reactors; funded by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council - Energy and Materials
  • Manufacture of safe and sustainable volatile element functional materials; funded by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) - Centre for Engineering Materials

6. Policy and development and governance

Research on concepts of sustainability e.g. UN sustainable development goals, absolute sustainability and planetary boundaries, corporate social and environmental responsibility that inform policy, civil society and business models. Includes support for, and analysis of, voluntary and regulatory schemes and policy impact analysis.

  • Centre for the Evaluation of Complexity Across the Nexus; funded by ESRC - Sociology
  • Out of sight, out of mind: the problem of invisibility for environmental policy; funded by British Academy - Sociology
  • Formalisation of artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) through taxation: the case of Zambia - Business Transformation and Sustainable Enterprise
  • SESAME: Development of tools and a regulation framework for the security of the European power grid against natural, accidental and malicious attacks; funded by European Commission - 5GIC

7. Pollution management and mitigation

Research focused on the harmful effects of anthropogenic emissions to water, land, air and human health. Includes systems analysis of pollution mitigation options and developments.

Contact us

  • Phone: +44 (0)1483 683742
More research themes

Find us

Map of the University of Surrey


Research and Innovation Services
Senate House
University of Surrey