The STEPPING UP project is a collaboration between researchers at eight universities and research institutes across the UK. We are working to understand the interactions of water, energy and food (WEF), and how niche innovations across these systems could be built upon to deliver a STEP-change towards improving sustainability, in the context of a world responding to climate impacts and policies.

Researchers in the STEPPING UP team will testing whether a small innovation that aims to cut resource use, tackle greenhouse gas emissions or achieve other key sustainability indicators at the Water-Energy-Food nexus, can lead to even greater success at a larger scale. If it is feasible to roll out the innovation across a town, region or country, do the benefits still exist? And what if the climate changes? Will the innovation still make a difference in a world that is 2°C or 4°C warmer?

Overall project objectives

To achieve our aims, we have brought together a team with expertise across water, food and energy with physical science, engineering and social science backgrounds. This team will build models of a few case studies that have achieved low-impact across the WEF nexus. These models will not only capture physical attributes such as the source of electricity or food supply chain, but also be able to model how governance, power and behaviour have influence. By considering what might change over time - e.g. rainfall - the model will not only test if an innovation can operate at another scale, but also if it works under changing conditions. The data gathered will involve building solid relationships with stakeholders involved with our case studies, as well as a wider set of policy and decision makers. These stakeholders will be engaged with directly in the research through workshops and interviews. They will also have an opportunity to work with researchers to build a tool that uses both the findings from the modelling exercise and stakeholder views, to provide assistance with strategic decision making of relevance at different scales. The research will deliver a package of robust numerical and descriptive insights alongside a formal decision support tool and findings will be shared widely with academic as well as government, industry and civil society audiences.

Further information

STEPPING UP project website

Research areas