Ideas to strengthen national resilience exchanged at University of Manchester publication launch

Senior figures from local and national government, non-governmental organisations and business have met with leading academics from The University of Manchester to discuss a new publication which advances a series of solutions to bolster the UK’s national resilience.

Produced by the university’s policy engagement unit, Policy@Manchester, On Resilience presents academic thinking on an assortment of subjects including the pressing need for domestic low-carbon renewable energy sources, how AI can mitigate risks to food production, tackling water shortages, the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance, resilience in the national grid and sourcing critical mineral requirements.

Matthew Paterson, Professor of International Politics and Director of the Sustainable Consumption Institute (SCI) at The University of Manchester, told the gathering in Manchester Hall that On Resilience focuses on two key policy challenges associated with sustainability: energy transitions to address climate change, and food systems.

He said: “The University of Manchester has very wide expertise on both these challenges, integrating natural science and social science expertise to provide additional insight.

“On energy, our expertise ranges from specific technologies – including nuclear, hydrogen, renewables and electricity grid systems – to broad social dynamics of transforming energy systems such as geopolitics, political economy, consumption practices, socio-technical systems and community action.”

Professor Paterson told guests that his own contribution to the 40-page report drew from ongoing SCI research on the impacts on climate action of COVID-19, inflation and the war in Ukraine.

He said: “The broad picture is modestly optimistic, we argue, but is driven by political desires to disentangle from supply chains whose vulnerabilities have been exposed by these crises.”

The University of Manchester academic said “an underlying hunch” in On Resilience and “an interesting question for policymakers to think about” was that “most policy models assume that a decarbonisation or net zero process have nice, neat downward curves of fossil fuel energy and uptake of renewables.”

He continued: “Of course, what the last four years should have told us is that if we look forward to 2050, there are going to be at least six more of those sorts of crises.

“The question then becomes, in terms of resilience and achieving net zero, is how do we take advantage of those crises?

“How do we make sure that those crises become things that accelerate transformations and increase resilience rather than somehow be magical surprises that no one anticipated even though we know that they happen all the time?”

On Resilience is available to read on the Policy@Manchester website.