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Foreword: Fostering the Environmental Imagination

The Sustainable Places Research Institute was an exciting investment in developing solutions to global problems of sustainability and the environment. By rejecting the specialised and siloed nature of academic research the Institute looked to challenge academics to consider work within a place-based context.

Thinking for this institute began in the late 1990s, when leading environmental scholars at Cardiff University began to collaborate via the development of research centres, networks and individuals, notably the ESRC research centre for Business Relationships, Accountability, Sustainability and Society (BRASS), directed by Prof. Ken Peattie. From these ever-broadening collaborative networks developed the idea for a research institute focused on place-based sustainability research that allowed researchers from across all colleges and schools within Cardiff University to work on interdisciplinary sustainability problems. In 2010, Cardiff University funded this network as a University Research Institute.

The Institute emerged at the international forefront of debates on sustainability, taking a distinctive place-based approach, and using that as a basis for further embedding (as this document testifies) interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research. Working closely with partners from both academia and civil society, the Institute’s scholars succeeded in pioneering new approaches and place-based concepts across a range of substantive environmental areas. If interdisciplinary working was something of a novelty in the early days, it became commonplace as the Institute matured. The Institute also created a significant sustainability science ‘foot-print’, with early-career colleagues going on to occupy more senior positions both in the UK and overseas.

The Institute’s work and approaches will continue to create intellectual energy and a vibrant diaspora, both at Cardiff and beyond, over the next critical decades in resolving the questions of how to create more sustainable places and communities for current and future generations.

Emeritus Professor Terry Marsden