The Policy@Sussex initiative

Policy@Sussex is a bridge between policy relevant social science research across several departments of the University of Sussex and the policy makers, influencers and shapers who act on evidence. A strong interdisciplinary approach and rigorous academic research offers innovative insights on current policy challenges.

Posted in About Policy@Sussex

An infrastructure evolution – The NIA: A transformative opportunity for UK infrastructure

By Dr Ralitsa Hiteva, Research Fellow at SPRU (University of Sussex)

A new policy brief discussing the transformative potential of the National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA) has been published by the SPRU Infrastructure team. The key message of the policy brief is that – to realise its transformative potential – the NIA needs to be based on a forward-looking, innovative and systemic approach. It advocates developing a systemic approach building on interdependence, and a systemic NIA methodology.

The brief responds to the UK government and industry agenda on creating a more strategic vision for UK infrastructure and introducing more coordination between different infrastructure institutions, projects and objectives. The National Infrastructure Commission was set up in January 2016 to analyse the UK’s long-term economic infrastructure needs, outline a strategic vision over a 30-year time horizon and set out recommendations for how identified needs should begin to be met, through the publication of a NIA once per Parliament. This policy brief summarises the key points from the ICIF response to the NIA consultation submitted on 5th August 2016. Read more ›

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Posted in Technology and Innovation

Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB): Recognising our differences can be our strength

At a time when violent extremism, religious discrimination and oppression are making daily headlines, research led by Dr Fabio Petito (School of Global Studies, University of Sussex) seeks to guide Europe and North America’s next steps in Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) advocacy.

Upon completion of a collaborative trans-Atlantic research project funded by ‘Bridging Voices’ (British Council), the findings of the research have been encapsulated in a policy briefing to raise awareness of the research and facilitate policy engagement.

In the briefing, Dr Petito urges the need to recognise diversity as a potential asset. For example, despite a range of different church-state arrangements across Europe, there is widespread agreement on the core elements of FoRB – a powerful demonstration that a wide variety of historical and cultural factors can lead to robust religious freedom. Read more ›

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Posted in Equality and Diversity

Exploring the meaning of ‘energy security’ in the United Kingdom

By Claire Copeland, Research Assistant, Policy@Sussex

SPRU researcher Emily Cox has conducted a thorough analysis of what is meant by the term “energy security” in the UK. In this policy brief she examines a range of definitions with implications for energy policy.

Most people, certainly in the UK and other developed countries, can understand that a secure energy system is vital for our day-to-day functionality. The UK government are also often using the term “energy security” as justification for particular actions or policy direction. exploring-the-meaning-of-energy-security-in-the-united-kingdomHowever, if asked to define “energy security” people are likely to provide different answers. Emily sought to find the key factors underpinning the meaning of “energy security” with a particular focus on the transition to a low-carbon energy system. The data for her analysis is collated from the literature and interviews with 25 UK energy experts from a range of organisations and backgrounds.

Generally, “energy security” tends to be used in the context of energy self-sufficiency or dependence on energy sources from unstable regions. The transition to a low-carbon energy system – where there will be a higher proportion of intermittent renewable sources – adds a necessary further dimension to the definition of “energy security”.

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Posted in Energy and Environment

Nuclear industry in the UK: Back to the future?

By Claire Carter, Research Assistant for Policy@Sussex

In the 50th anniversary year of SPRU (Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex), Dr Phil Johnstone looks at the history of its research in the UK nuclear sector.

In light of the government’s recent go-ahead for the controversial Hinkley power station – and a commitment to allocating 50% of its energy research to nuclear over the next five years – Dr Johnstone’s report comes at a pivotal time.

Dr Johnstone argues that history is in danger of repeating itself, with plans in the UK to build at least three new reactor types, as well as plans for Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) that are commercially unproven. Nuclear economics has always been a hotly debated topic for SPRU’s Professor Gordon MacKerron, who was critical of the government’s optimistic cost appraisals for nuclear new builds in the 1980s and 1990s. Professor MacKerron explains that increases in costs, due to more complex reactor design and higher safety standards, are not offset by cost reductions achieved through experience.

In addition to nuclear economics, the handling of nuclear waste is another highly contentious area. In 2013, Cumbria County Council rejected an application for the siting of a geological waste disposal facility – an indisputable knock to public acceptability of an ambitious nuclear new build program.

nuclear-industry-in-the-uk-back-to-the-futureIt should further be noted that the UK has the largest stockpile in the world of civil plutonium (a by-product of spent uranium fuel) and there is yet to be government clarity on dealing with this issue. Professor MacKerron, who is Chair of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM), has conducted an evaluation of the policy options for plutonium.

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Posted in Energy and Environment

Industry collaboration and consumer pressure key to stopping ‘conflict minerals’ trade

Responsible sourcing of raw minerals from conflict regions could be achieved if firms were to collaborate and if there was more pressure from consumers.

Research by Constantin Blome, Professor of Operations Management at the University of Sussex, has found that simple measures such as companies developing and sharing lists of certified smelter and refineries could make a big impact in the global drive to stop profits from mineral trade falling into the hands of armed groups.

mineral 2More than five years after international efforts to reduce trade in conflict resources through the the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (US) and the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas (global), Professor Blome’s research on ‘Stopping conflict minerals with the OECD Guidance for responsible mineral supply chains: Status Quo in Europe’ reveals not only that few firms are fully implementing the OECD Guidance, but why.

Certainly, cost is not an issue. The study found that while the cost of implementing the guidance is higher for small firms, the average cost is 0.0002% of annual sales. Moreover the research found that firms will benefit if they source minerals responsibly by enhancing their reputation, improving investor relationships and better risk management.

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Posted in Trade Policy