Our mission is to provide a new basis for sustainability science, to push the boundaries of traditional sustainability research and find solutions to the challenges of diminishing resources and a changing climate.

We operate across all three Colleges of Cardiff University and work with a broad range of organisations. Bringing together over 100 researchers, we develop place-based responses and solutions to issues including climate change and resource depletion – this is being done on the specific requirements of individual places. Research within Sustainable Places focuses on the complex and dynamic interrelations between ecosystems, society and economy at different spatial scales.

Our current work

Since the Sustainable Places Research Institute began in 2010, we have developed a distinctive and unique research profile, now recognised locally and globally. Having been conducting research for four years, we have reviewed our progress, and renewed and refocused research areas to be developed for phase 2 of Sustainable Places.

We are continuing to engage in theoretically led, integrated and place-based research practice. By engaging across a number of academic disciplines and sectorally-based resource sectors and institutions, we are acting as an integrating hub. We will examine the interdependencies and trade-offs between key resource sectors, such as energy, food, water, and waste, while combining Place-based community, business and governance interests to derive solutions that can progress sustainable transitions.

Five new research areas are strategically targeted to take advantage of major external funding opportunities, with the aim of ensuring that the research can become financially self-sustaining in the future. Emphasis is now being placed upon the Institute's hub activities and encouraging collaboration between schools, departments, universities throughout Wales, the UK and internationally along with local, national and international organisations. We conduct core research activity that overlaps other work themes, especially in areas where original interconnections have been highly productive. We also provide incentives and opportunities for experimental, risk- taking research activities through pilot projects and selective secondments of academic staff.

Research is organised around three overlapping dimensions:

Integrating and priority research themes

The Sustainable Places Research Institute has developed a unique set of integrating themes, which engage a wide range of staff in conceptual and methodological development and outputs. We both focus and develop our research around four core, place-based themes:

  • spatial network analysis
  • the bio-economy
  • governance of sustainable places
  • social innovation.

We aim to broaden these themes, especially around understanding the distinctive requirements of place-based science, risk, identity, decision tools and public communication and we will develop a continuous programme of Scenario and sustainable place-making and design-building with researchers and stakeholder partners.

All researchers aim to ensure these interdisciplinary themes are embedded with all of their research, throughout each of the focussed research programmes

Our focussed research programmes are:

Key elements of these six research programmes have shown good potential in generating external grant income and are distinctive strengths of the Institute, building our international reputation and 'partner of choice' status in EU research grant bidding. We expect all programmes to be self-standing in terms of leveraged research grants by 2019.

Place-based empirical research

The research themes and research programmes are informed by the continued development of our current empirical research and act as observatories of place-based practices.

Here at the Research Institute we are facilitating collaborative work to identify problems and to find solutions to place based problems through working with stakeholders, including local community groups, public authorities and academic partners. We support methodological innovation for research into sustainable Place making while ensuring we link our research and impact.