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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/K003593/1
Title: Digital Economy Sustainable Society Network+
Principal Investigator: Mulligan, Dr CEA
Other Investigators:
Nelson, Professor JD Rettie, Professor R
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Imperial College Business School
Organisation: Imperial College London
Scheme: Standard Research - NR1
Starts: 03 May 2012 Ends: 30 June 2016 Value (£): 1,496,406
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Design Engineering Energy Efficiency
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Energy Transport Systems and Vehicles
Healthcare Information Technologies
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
Sustainable Development and Sustainability are some of the most commonly talked about concepts in media today. "Sustainable Society", however, remains very difficult to actually define. For the purposes of this Network+, however, we have selected the following as a working definition:

"A Sustainable Society refers to one that takes into account the benefit of future generations of both the UK and the earth in its decision making processes through the protection and appropriate use of our economic, social and natural resources".

While the potential role that ICT can play has long been touted in the commercial sector, true interdisciplinary research covering the multitude of aspects involved in economically, socially and environmentally viable solutions for society is sparse. Some pockets of evidence exist that indicate the potential for ICT to have on sustainability, these remain pockets, however, and there is a need to ensure the continued collaboration around these important topics.

At the same time, digital technologies are in the process of tearing down traditional barriers between sectors, and the mobile and cloud computing platforms may be viewed as forming the "nexus of contracts" of the global economy. The role that these platforms play has a distinct role in the development of sustainable regions and nations as new communities, businesses and structures of government are formed in response to the incredible rise in data streams. For example, the vision of responsive and agile local services was traditionally hampered by a shortage of information. Today, the problem is opposite - information overload.

Research into the role of ICT in supporting the development of a sustainable society covers an extremely large number of research areas, from water, waste, energy, local and national transport infrastructures, national and international supply chains, rural and urban enterprise infrastructures, community development and social infrastructure support mechanisms. The systems that form the basis of our society are now extremely complex systems, with multiple layers and multiple interactions between the economic, social and environmental spheres - it is not possible to affect one without affecting the others. Research is required to understand the nature of these interactions and how to best deliver services within them.

In such complicated systems, it is extremely difficult for academics working in these areas to know the right people in other research groups and areas. Often, researchers have to bypass opportunities to apply for research grants because they do not have the right research partners, be they academic, industrial or third sector/NGO. As a result, opportunities to address policy and research challenges within Digital Economy are missed. In addition, UK companies are unable to take advantage of a multidisciplinary approach to their problems so the opportunity to create genuine, lasting, real-world change and value creation is also missed.

Over the next three years, we aim to redress these missed opportunities. This Network+ aims to change the landscape of connections between research communities in order to create a vibrant network of researchers who take not just a Digital Economy approach back to their home disciplines, but a Sustainable Society approach as well. We aim to seed a grassroots movement across Britain of researchers who naturally approach research questions from an economic, social and environmental perspective, with a particular focus on creating links between current researchers and the next generation of researchers. Through establishing these links, we will also identify the emerging research challenges within the Digital Economy.

Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.imperial.ac.uk