DecarboN8 has funded the following projects from our Seedcorn Fund. For information about future calls and how to apply visit our funding page. To find out about other funding opportunities subscribe to our newsletter.
Round 2 Seedcorn Projects
The role of societal and behaviour change in meeting the UK’s Net Zero emissions target by 2050 is fundamental. To achieve this, millions more journeys need to be walked or cycled. However, across the UK, we do not yet walk and cycle enough short trips to make a difference. There are several reasons including: many people find it difficult to get out of the habit of using a car for every journey, there are not enough safe routes for people to use for walking or cycling, and lower participation within some communities. This project aims to encourage critical consciousness of active travel by using the Photovoice method, and consequently facilitate change. The plan is to co-engage with Pakistani origin families in Bradford. Participants will be asked to reflect on everyday journeys by discussing photos they take of what matters to them in the travel environment, good and bad. Hence, allowing them to speak up and voice opinions about the challenges they perceive and identify solutions which they consider can best match their social and cultural needs. The results will be shared with decision-makers by holding a community exhibition of the pictures and inviting them to engage in policy-dialogue with participants.
CarbonFreePorts: Freeports as opportunities, not threats, for place-based decarbonisation of transport
Professor Matthew Cotton, Teesside University and Professor David Tyfield, Lancaster University
Freeports are a flagship initiative to “level-up|” (primarily) coastal regions after Brexit and Covid-19. Freeports are designated areas for import, processing, and re-export of goods. Freeport business enjoy lighter taxes, tariffs, and paperwork. In parallel to this, are Government commitments–and planetary urgency–to decarbonise transport, including new commitments towards long-neglected emissions from shipping and aviation. This project aims to bridge these two policy agendas in two key Freeport regions of the North–Teesside and Liverpool. We aim to promote transport decarbonisation for regional freight and shipping within place-based Freeport development strategy by engaging diverse regional stakeholders through qualitative research and facilitated workshops to build localised capacity. Our research will first assess the regional socio-economic, industrial development and environmental qualities of these two places, and the climate impacts of shipping, freight, and commuter traffic. We will then engage stakeholders with the concept of a carbonfreeport – aiming to align the socio-economic benefits of Freeport development with positive, expedited and place-relevant innovation in regional freight and shipping transport decarbonisation; and improved localised environmental quality. The project will thereby build the conditions to forge win-win solutions for both prosperity and net-zero emissions targets as we build back better in the North of England.
UnCCUT – Understanding Change in Car Use over Time
Dr Malcom Morgan, University of Leeds
For the UK to meet its climate change targets, we need to significantly reduce how much we drive. New technologies, such as electric cars, will not be enough to reduce our carbon footprint without an overall reduction in car use. Reducing car use is also expected to bring many other benefits, such as reducing air pollution and improved public health from more active travel and fewer vehicle collisions.
Yet almost every year both the number of cars in the UK and how far we drive them increases. Reversing this upwards trend will be very difficult, so we must learn from places that are already succeeding. Car ownership per person varies a lot at a local level, from as low as 0.05 to over one car per person. In many areas, it is rising, but in a few, it is falling.
Our research proposes identifying the areas where car ownership has declined and then work out what is different about those areas. We will look for possible explanations, such as the construction of a new rail line, which would be expected to reduce car use. We aim to produce a set of case studies that can be replicated across the country to help meet our climate change targets.
OPTIC – Operation and Performance of Transport Infrastructure Chargepoints
Dr Craig Morton, Loughborough University
Over the next 10 years, Electric Vehicles (EV) will move from being a niche technology to representing every new car registered for use of UK roads. To facilitate this low-carbon transition towards EVs, the UK Government is investing heavily in supporting public infrastructure to allow people to charge their EVs when away from home. Nascent networks of chargepoints have already been installed in UK cities, which provides an opportunity for researchers to consider how existing chargepoint networks are being used, what the implications are for sustainability, and how this information can be assist in designing networks in the future.
This project will examine the charging event data derived from the operation of the chargepoint network currently installed in Manchester to produce a spatial-temporal appraisal of the infrastructure. This network represents 131 chargepoints, recording a total of 65,000 charging events during 2018. Data processing scripts will be written to transform the raw data into a pliable format. Once transformed, carbon accounting techniques will be applied to calculate the emissions generated and mitigated through the operation of the network. Following this, data visualization techniques will be applied to display the temporal and spatial variation in emissions and power demand.
The final step will be to develop a modelling framework which provides a deeper examination of the observed spatial-temporal variation in charging to  offer a means through which to forecast power demand/emissions into the future and  determine how the context in which the chargepoint is located affects its popularity.
This project will work with communities in Liverpool City Region (LCR) to co-design neighbourhoods that prioritise low-carbon transport in ways that work for the people who live there.
We will do this by exploring with residents how the ‘15-minute city’ idea can be applied in specific neighbourhoods. The idea of the 15-minute city is that most daily needs (shopping, work, school, recreation etc) can be met through travelling no more than 15 minutes from your home via active travel (e.g. walking or cycling).
Combining our previous experiences in data-analytics, transport and community planning the project will examine these issues, working with local residents and local authorities in LCR to co-design 15-minute cities which work for them. We will support planning for a case study neighbourhood in LCR, which we will identify through a walking and cycling accessibility model (already created by the team) that has potential as a 15-minute city neighbourhood.
To support this plan, we will provide a detailed sensor-based analysis of the neighbourhood, focusing on residents’ neighbourhood mobilities. Second, we will undertake a community planning consultation within the neighbourhood to understand how data is understood, mediated and accepted/challenged within local low-carbon transport planning.
Rapid Response Road-space Reallocation (RRRR)
Room to Move – Impacts of road-space reallocation (REMODEL)
Dr Stephen Parkes, Sheffield Hallam University
Sheffield City Council (SCC) and Lancashire County Council (LCC) are currently implementing road-space reallocation measures to facilitate social distancing and increase levels of active travel in the post-lockdown landscape. The adaptations address road-space capacity issues for non-vehicle users along key commuter routes. These measures are an important element of the creation of a ‘climate-smart’ recovery and support the longer-term goal of de-carbonising transport.
This study is a collaboration between Sheffield Hallam University, the University of Central Lancashire, and the respective local authorities to evaluate the impacts of the road-space reallocation programmes. The study will offer a critical evaluation of diverse urban areas in varying states of preparedness for a rapid uptake in active travel. For example, Sheffield – as part of the wider city region – has already undertaken considerable work prior to the coronavirus pandemic to encourage higher levels of active travel and in Lancashire it has been almost a decade since the introduction of 20mph zones in residential areas across the county.
The study will use a combination of online data collection techniques over a 12-month period to gather longitudinal data on travel behaviour, attitudes to active travel and the use of the temporary road-space reallocation measures.
The rapid reallocation of road space in Liverpool City Region (LCR) is a unique period in the history of decarbonising transport. LCR and Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council’s have announced major funding in conjunction with LCR to provide new temporary and permanent cycle lanes that will connect to the LCWIP corridors. This cycling infrastructure could support a significant modal shift and the attendant air quality and economic benefits associated with a reduction in fossil fuel-based transit modes.
Planning for and the implementation of the rapid reallocation of road space in LCR has begun, but the full extent of the reallocation has not yet been determined. Cycling infrastructure will be rolled out first to align with the LCWIP and immediate and significant transit routes for employment in the city centre.
Contemporaneous evaluation of the social acceptance and societal readiness of increased active travel facilitated through these interventions will enable policy makers to respond rapidly to support infrastructure provision over the longer term.
This social and demographic evaluation will bring together local authorities, businesses, innovators, community insights and academics to share knowledge and support the long-term decarbonisation of transport through road-space reallocation in the city region.
Round 1 Seedcorn Projects
As cities respond to pressures of development, the reduction of carbon emissions in non-commuting transport continues to pose many logistical challenges. It is essential to understand mobility technologies and practices as well as their societal readiness.
Urban expansion has led to increases in freight and in car trips that are primarily taken because of the need to transport loads considered difficult to carry by public transport or non-motorised modes. One solution may be found on two wheels. Electric cargo bikes, or e-cargo bikes, provide a means of sustainable transport operating within the compact confines of city centres, often congested spaces. Alleviating stresses on these freight flows can have a positive impact on productivity, congestion, health and wellbeing, and carbon management.
Cargo bikes are already being used to a small extent in some cities. This study aims to understand the potential of introducing more substantial schemes. Focus groups will be carried out to identify and evaluate the potential uptake of cargo bikes across different business sectors in the city-region. The results will provide new knowledge that is valuable to both academic study and urban practitioners, planners and decision makers with a remit to reduce carbon-intensive travel and boost healthy active transport.
Leading the way to lower carbon transport: how, when and why do older, more experienced drivers make a change?
Dr Julie Clark, University of the West of Scotland
This proposal aims to support a fair and socially acceptable transition (Newell and Mulvaney, 2013) towards the early and substantial reduction of carbon emissions from transport in the North of England. In preparation for a larger funding bid, the project will identify and test which policy interventions might be most acceptable to older, long-established drivers, in order to generate a robust and place-sensitive methodology for reducing levels of car ownership and use. It will create a dataset to inform policy-makers by evaluating the design of place-sensitive, demographically appropriate measures to achieve rapid and lasting reductions in vehicle use, whilst maintaining wellbeing and inclusion into later life (Musselwhite et al, 2015). Additionally, it will investigate the potential for successful reductions in mobility to act as an exemplar to others in society more broadly, scoping how a narrative of collective action to manage the carbon transition according to the principles of inter-generational justice might be achieved in the UK (see Jones et al, 2018). It builds on previous research undertaken by the PI into transport, policy and social inclusion (Clark and Curl, 2019; Clark and Curl, 2016; Minton & Clark, 2016).
The Hydrogen for Sustainable Waterways (H4SW) project aims to investigate the techno economic case for converting diesel powered light watercraft to zero-carbon (fuel cell) or low-carbon (combustion) hydrogen powered units. This is a pre-feasibility study for underpinning a pilot case for submission for future funding to UKRI councils or Innovate UK. There are approximately 82,000 motorboats and 38,000 canal boats registered in the UK, all powered by diesel, making this sector an ideal candidate for decarbonisation using hydrogen as a fuel. As well as decarbonisation, a fuel cell power train has zero ‘tailpipe’ emissions addressing both water and air quality issues in the sensitive and fragile environments these craft operate in. In the seed phase, it will focus on two types of craft: firstly, a small ferry operating in the Lake District National Park and secondly a passenger canal boat operating on the Lancaster canal. This will serve as a steppingstone towards a larger proposal for implementing the pilot conversions and to extend the use cases for other waterways across the country. If successful, the project has a strategic significance, as it will position Lancashire and Northern England on the forefront of applied hydrogen transportation in inland water environments.
How we charge our Electric Vehicles (EV) has substantial impact on electricity transmission networks and on electricity demand forecasts. Electricity network reinforcements are extremely costly and disruptive. Hence unnecessary network capacity will be both costly and inconvenient. Similarly, electricity generation is costly. In a scenario with many more people owning EVs, current low voltage (LV) electricity networks may not cope with large number of EVs charging simultaneously. However, the solution is not simply to add more capacity to LV networks but to manage the demand in more efficient manner. More specifically, spreading the demand across various times of the day. This is referred to as managed charging or smart charging where sophisticated load balancing algorithms are used to spread the demand across the times.
For this smart charging to become efficient and applicable on a mass scale and be fair, proper understanding of charging choices and preferences is required. Understanding the factors that form the basis for charging decisions in terms of time and place will prove extremely useful in better forecasting of EV electricity demand, which in turn enables smart demand management. In this project, we will use choice models to analyse these factors.
Transforming the North of England requires increased investment in new transport infrastructure whilst meeting ambitious national carbon reduction targets. Data on the carbon emissions from construction and maintenance of infrastructure assets (’embodied emissions’, ‘capital carbon’ or ‘CapCarb’) are routinely gathered during construction projects but not incorporated into the long term modelling and scenario analyses that inform strategic plans as there is no comprehensive single data source for modellers to reference. Embodied emissions in infrastructure already exceed 10 MtCO2e/yr and are likely to increase with future infrastructure development. Under highly decarbonised, net zero, scenarios such embodied emissions increase in significance. Therefore, quantifying their scale and potential for mitigation, is an important, but currently poorly understood, component of scenario analysis. This project will develop the prototype of an open extendable tool for the modelling community, including a database detailing the capital carbon embodied in different construction materials, products, components, projects and asset types. The research team will use this data to estimate the impacts of future scenarios for transport infrastructure in the North, including both the construction of new assets and maintenance of existing roads and railways.
Serious Games for Serious Energy Solutions: A Case Study of Diversity for Innovation in Bradford
Dr Zoe M Harris, Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College London
More diverse groups result in more innovative solutions. Innovation is necessary for decarbonisation, and diversity begets innovation; hence diversity should be integral to decarbonisation goals. Homogenous teams lead to homogenous thought processes and solutions. This is detrimental in the policy arena wherein one size fits all policies translate very differently across diverse populations living in the same place. Central to pathways required to decarbonise is creative thinking, and diverse teams are better equipped to deliver decarbonisation pathways. Following this stream of research, we argue that diversity in decision-making surrounding decarbonisation enhances innovation efficiency through generating significant benefits throughout the innovation process. The resultant innovative ideas can be synthesised into economically viable pathways to decarbonise the UK transport sector.
The purpose of the study is to develop the methodology for a larger bid to understand ‘what is the baseline level of diversity required to effectively decarbonise the UK energy system?’ We will use the transport sector in Bradford as a case study to test our methodology, and further develop the proposal to cover the whole UK energy sector. Using a ‘serious game’, we will develop and test a methodology to assess the impact of diversity on problem solving and solution innovation.
Decarbonising Transport with Neighbourhood Plans in Northern England
Dr Caglar Koksal, University of Manchester
Transport is now the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the UK, with 55 per cent coming from passenger cars. Road transport causes air pollution in urban environments and contributes to traffic congestion, which costs approximately £7.8 billion per year to the UK’s economy. This research uses Carnforth, Lancashire, as a pilot, to establish how the development of planning policies in its neighbourhood plan can contribute to the decarbonisation of local transport. Neighbourhood planning, introduced by the Localism Act 2011, gives communities direct power to develop a shared vision for their neighbourhood and shape the development and growth of their neighbourhood area. In spite of being compact and having an accessible railway station, Carnforth suffers from congestion in its town centre and large volume of car-borne commuting trips. This research, therefore, aims to contribute to the development of planning policies and an evidence base for the Carnforth neighbourhood plan to decarbonise travel choices and transport infrastructure. This can be achieved by collaborative knowledge co-production with different transport providers and key stakeholders via roundtable discussion sessions. The engagement with providers and consumers will help to explore alternative options and approaches of developing a neighbourhood plan that has a sustainable transport focus.
Development of a co-designed zero-carbon urban freight system
Dr Daniela Paddeu, University of the West of England
By 2050, 70% of the world population will live in cities. This will generate an increased number of people and freight movements in, between and intro urban areas, resulting in increased carbon emissions. Therefore, city-logistics will play a key role in reducing carbon emissions due to urban goods distribution.
The project aims to explore stakeholders’ perspective towards freight systems in order to co-design a series of scenarios to reduce carbon emissions in the North of England, identifying potential drivers and barriers to their implementation. Stakeholder engagement is a key element to maximise the effectiveness of the co-design scenarios, as these will respond to different needs and expectations of all the parties involved (e.g. logistics/freight operators, receivers, citizens). The focus on the North is important because despite only 24% of the total UK population lives in the North, one third of UK road, rail, port and logistics activities happen in this area. The main output of the project will be a system-level-solution to decarbonise urban freight based on a co-design approach. The project represents a pilot for a larger study that will allow the North to design an integrated zero-carbon governance for transport.
COVID19 Transport, Travel and Social Adaptation Study (TRANSAS)
TRANSAS aims to understand the transport and travel related impacts of COVID-19, and to inform responses to this. Data will be collected over the course of 18 months through a longitudinal multi-site series of surveys and interviews.
The study will seek to address the following questions:
- Where have virtual activities taken the place of physical activities? To what extent? What would need to happen to maintain this?
- Has the reduction in how often we do different activities led to new patterns of we get things done?
- Longer-term, how will social distancing impact the attractiveness of public transport, cycling and car use?
- Which changes are due to social distancing itself, and which are due to the wider changes in the economy and people’s finances?
The aim is to promote sharing of understanding of the conditions on the ground, to debate options based on the evidence provided, and to understand implications for long and short term policy making.
Department for Transport: Secondment
As the UK prepares to host COP26, this project brings Richard H. Walker, an experienced Department for Transport transport planning and policy specialist to the University of Leeds, to bring together a series of high-profile transport and climate change project findings to produce a new approach to accelerating decarbonisation.
The secondment provides an in-depth understanding of the policy process at a national scale to be integrated with the place-based and research-led findings of DecarboN8 and CREDS at the University of Leeds. It will identify effective, equitable and implementable policies for demonstration and implementation, creating a new path from research to action in the transport sector.
Local Government Association: Policy Briefings
Stakeholder workshops held in London and Leeds in early 2020 to identify topics that would be most useful for local authorities working to establish climate action plans to lower transport carbon emissions in their areas.
The series is now online: