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Press release

  • 25 April 2008

University of Sussex helps to shape rural future of region

Energy researchers at the University of Sussex will be helping to tackle the South East's most pressing rural problems as part of a major new partnership, launched on Thursday 24 April.

Members of the Rural Research and Strategy Partnership (RRSP) met for the first time in London with regional policymakers at a special launch event, entitled A Breath of Fresh Air, to debate the most pressing concerns for the South East. Findings from the event will be developed through a series of seminars at leading research institutions throughout the summer.

Members of Sussex Energy Group, part of SPRU, the science and policy research unit at the University of Sussex, were joined at the event by fellow researchers from the University of Surrey, University of Reading and the University of the Creative Arts at Canterbury, Epsom, Farnham, Maidstone and Rochester.

The aim of the RRSP, led by Forest Research (the research arm of the Forestry Commission) is to create interdisciplinary research and promote dialogue between academics from top-rated research establishments, key organisations and policymakers across the region.

Subjects for research could include sustainable energy solutions, pollution and climate change, waste disposal, affordable housing, biodiversity and environmental health.

The formation of the RRSP answers the need for quality collaborative research and innovative approaches to the challenges faced by the South East. The region is densely populated, yet over 80 per cent of its land is classified as rural. One third of its countryside is protected for its landscape quality and it holds 10 per cent of the UK's farms.

The Rural South East is also an area for action identified in the Government's Regional Economic Strategy. This means that there will be change that will impact on the whole region. The key challenge for the region's economic future is to maintain economic prosperity which is sustainable in the face of increased global competition and without further damage to the environment.

Despite the UK's highest density of tertiary education and research establishments, there has not been, until now, any formal rural research network in the South East.

Professor Bob Allison, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at the University of Sussex, says: "This partnership is a real opportunity for researchers to come together and contribute to the continued economic success of the region. It is also an opportunity to develop innovative solutions for protecting our rural heritage and rich natural assets. I am proud that Sussex is playing its part in this venture."

On behalf of the partnership, Professor Peter Bunyan of the University of Surrey says: "The South East is the economic powerhouse of the UK, and our rural heritage and assets play an important role in that. But one of our big problems is understanding how can we maintain and improve rural sustainability alongside the demands of economic progress. I believe that the RRSP will lead the way to resolving the dilemma through enabling targeted, appropriate research, and in doing so, provide a model transferable to similar areas of the world."

Rural research - a fresh approach

Notes for editors


  • The RRSP launch event, A Breath of Fresh Air: Exploring how multi-disciplinary research can support the regional rural agenda, took place on 24 April 2008, 10am to 3pm, at Woburn House Conference Centre, 20 Tavistock Square, London, WC1H 9HQ.
  • RRSP is supported by the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA).
  • Forest Research is an agency of the Forestry Commission (the Government department for forestry) that undertakes world-class scientific research and technical development for internal and external clients to support and enhance forestry and its role in sustainable development. For further information visit
  • For further information about the RRSP, contact The Partnership Co-ordinator Dr Anja Ueberjahn-Tritta. Ttel: 01420 22255; e-mail:  
  • Forestry Commission Press office contact: Charlton Clark 0131 314 6500; e-mail:
  • To find out more about the work of the Sussex Energy Group, which specialises in relevant areas of energy policy, please see or contact the University of Sussex Press office.

University of Sussex Press office contacts: Maggie Clune and Jacqui Bealing. Tel: 01273 678 888 or email

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