RECIRCULATE: Driving eco-innovation in africa: capacity-building for a safe circular water economy

Lead Research Organisation: Lancaster University
Department Name: Lancaster Environment Centre

Abstract

RECIRCULATE will support new partnership-based approaches to enable African researchers to grow transformational impact through working with, in and for their communities

The vision, objectives and strategy for RECIRCULATE emerge from Lancaster's deep engagement with researchers and research users in sub-Saharan Africa. Africa is a strategic priority for Lancaster which is currently the only UK University to have a campus on the continent. With our partners Trans-National Education (TNE) we have invested in excess of £5M to establish our Ghana campus ("LU Ghana" opened in 2013 and now supports 450 students). Lancaster University is committed to grow LU Ghana as a research base, and are about to purchase an additional 6ha of land for a larger campus that will include laboratory facilities for engineering and environmental sciences.
In addition to our long-standing partnership building in Ghana and Nigeria, Lancaster University has grown national leadership in eco-innovation - innovation supporting both business growth and the environment. It has the capacity to translate high quality research into "real world impacts" as demonstrated by Lancaster's double award-winning Centre for Global Eco-innovation (CGE) http://www.globalecoinnovation.org . CGE has demonstrated that eco-innovation can deliver positive benefits to both the economy and the environment and is fundamentally underpinned by the need for end-user driven research. At the heart of our eco-innovation vision for Africa is the needs to promote medium-to-long term economic growth that is both resilient to future climate and where possible able to mitigate the impact of environmental change.

Informed by our experience and that of our core partners in Ghana and Nigeria, RESILIENCE focuses on the overarching need for a safer circular water economy that is research driven but community-led. Sustainable, equitable and community-appropriate management of water plays a key role in strengthening the resilience ofsocial, economic and environmental systems in the face of change. Equally, sustainable and equitable water management needs research that is fully engaged with communities to ensure that novel solutions are developed at the appropriate scale to meet specific needs, and so provides an excellent example of the need for research institutions to work with, in and for their communities.

RECIRCULATE is underpinned by four interlinked research areas: (i) water for sanitation and health; (ii) water for food production; (iiii) water for energy production, and (iv) water, pathogens and health. A fifth area of work integrates each of these work packages areas and focusses specifically on microbiology and the need to create new ways to reduce the impact of water-borne disease on vulnerable populations.

The RECIRCULATE work plan integrating both research and capacity building across environmental science, biomedicine, engineering, management and knowledge exchange with external stakeholders will support high quality research partnerships to establish the systems necessary to move from research to sustainable development solutions and in so doing support the long-term transition of Ghana and Nigeria from resource to knowledge economies.

Planned Impact

Working with African is a strategic priority for Lancaster University and is currently the only UK University to have a campus on the continent. Lancaster University has strong research links with partners in several African countries beyond our Ghana campus, including Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania and Ethiopia.

Who might benefit from this research?
Phase 1 partners in Ghana (CSIR and LU Ghana) and Nigeria (UniBen) represent our core West African partners for this project as we have worked with them extensively in the past. The capacity building aspects of our project and need to expand the model also demands a need to engage with a wider geographical spread of pan-African hubs. We have four Phase 2 partners: Copperbelt University (Zambia), BIUST (Botswana), ATPS (Kenya) and NCST(Malawi) who will commit time to support Level 1 training in research engagement and innovation. The development of these links builds on our award winning Centre for Global Eco-innovation and our newly formed Centre for Global Eco-innovation (Nigeria).

Influencing local and national policy makers is key to expanding the impact of our pilot. At the local level, we will engage with government representatives for water management during our research and invite their participation in local stakeholder workshops. Nationally, we will engage at ministerial and advisory levels throughout the project via our Steering Group and at our final dissemination conference, pan-African media coverage via our communication partner TNE and their integrated businesses at Forbes Africa and CNBC Africa, and by communication of academic and policy findings through research outputs, social and web-based media. Internationally, BBC World Service broadcasts, press articles and electronic policy briefings will also disseminate our findings. Through pilot projects, we expect that African communities and businesses not initially involved in the research may also become engaged and benefit.

How they will benefit from the research?
In order to achieve the anticipated impact from this project we must demonstrate that through working collaboratively, academic partners will have the capacity to bring a vital community engagement strength to their research, building in 'impact' from the start, something that is not currently done. We are co-developing a model of working through the research lens around water, a critical resource that connects and underpins many sustainable development challenges. Our strategy to build capacity and capability and to model new ways of working across sectors is fundamentally interdisciplinary. In addition to developing new models of collaborative working, partners will also gain knowledge on the core challenge of sustainable management of water resources for a wide range of uses. This will be interrogated under a number of different lenses including natural, social and management sciences.

Through our communications with policy makers at both national and international level we aim to influence country level strategies for Ghana and Nigeria in two main ways: 1) we will help shape the debate on the need for new models of academic engagement with industry and other non-academic groups and show that by co-designing research this will create and support the required research infrastructure for sustainable, inclusive economic growth and innovation and 2) through our research focus on water, relevant agencies will be interested in the findings of our pilot projects.

Local communities and businesses in Ghana and Nigeria have the potential to benefit in 2 ways: 1) directly through the implementation of new innovations around water supply, treatment and recycling, or the perceived need for innovation following research results in this area and 2) indirectly through the closer relationship between academic and non-academic partners leading to more robust and impactful research in a broad range of areas in the future.

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