Loughborough researchers are part of new £6.5million flood research centre to combat climate change

drone shot of a town and fields

A scientific consortium including Loughborough University researchers has been given millions to launch a research and training centre intending to better understand and manage flooding which has caused havoc across the UK this month.

The £6.5million hub will work to develop a talent pool of environmental experts invested in protecting against rising river, rainfall and sea levels. It is also aiming to make the UK more resilient to flooding.

The FLOOD centre is led by the University of Southampton, with experts from the universities of Loughborough, Bristol, Newcastle, National Oceanography Centre, UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and British Geological Survey, with an additional 37 partner organisations.

It will be led by Ivan Haigh, Professor of Sea Level and Coastal Impact at the University of Southampton.

He said: “Flooding is the most destructive natural hazard that humanity faces with nearly two billion people exposed to its risk. We need to act now and come together to improve the way we manage the large and growing threat of flooding in the UK and elsewhere in the world.

“We will train experts to best understand how to tackle the challenges of floods in future years, not only for the UK but countries globally who are facing extreme problems from climate change.”

Currently one in six households in the UK are in flood-prone areas. The biggest drivers of flooding are increased river flow, surface runoff, storm surges and waves, which are compounded by climate change and shifting populations. The new hub will work to combat these growing challenges.

Professor Dan Parsons, Pro-Vice Chancellor Research and Innovation and Professor in Geosciences at Loughborough University, said: “I am absolutely delighted with this award that will train the next generation of flood researchers. The new Centre will work to combat the growing challenges associated with the increased magnitude and frequency of flood events.”

He added: “The recent flooding across the Midlands and in other parts of the country is a timely reminder of the critical need to focus research into building a society resilient to flooding.”

Funding for the multimillion-pound centre has been provided by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) together with the seven centres and other partners.

Loughborough researchers from Geography and Environment and Architecture, Civil and Building Engineering will input into the new centre to improve their understand of flooding using advanced monitoring and new forms of computer modelling, artificial intelligence and machine learning to map and forecast future flooding risks.

Previsico, the ClimateTech company behind the world’s first surface flood forecasting service, underpinned by more than two decades of Loughborough research, is one of 37 UK organisations spanning the public and private sector which will support the new NERC centre.

The announcement has been welcomed by industry.

Dr Sean Longfield, a lead scientist from the Environment Agency, said it is a fantastic opportunity to train a new generation of practitioners and researchers in flood and coastal risk management.

He added: “We look forward to working closely with a diverse range of people, skills and academic perspectives over the next seven years to develop world-leading research to improve our understanding of and resilience to future flooding and coastal change.”

Tyne Rivers Trust CEO Dr Ceri Gibson said: “Having just returned from the Trent catchment, where thousands of people and businesses are suffering from flooding, I cannot think of a better time to get this exciting initiative up and going.”

Dr Helen Jay, senior national consultant at the National Trust, said “As climate change projections become impact reality the National Trust is seeing first-hand what flooding looks like at its precious places. This work would enable the charity to be more on the front foot in understanding the flooding risk and planning for them.”

Neil Gunn, Head of Flood and Water Management Research at WTW said “We are excited at the innovative and multi-disciplinary approach which will unite the latest data science, engineering and analytics with human factors to train scientists to the improve flood management in the UK and overseas”.

Applications for students to enrol onto the centre open in February – to find out more, visit the University of Southampton website.