Last week, the first ECR Net Zero Conference took place at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, with over 200 in-person and 75 virtual attendees.
It was a fantastic opportunity to gather early career researchers together from across the net zero community, giving them the opportunity to network and learn more about different but related disciplines.
It was also an incredible organisational collaboration between nine centres – C-DICE, CO2RE, CREDS, ERA, EnergyREV, IDRIC, TFI Network+, UKERC and ourselves.
Every session was a highlight, but most noteworthy were our two amazing keynote speakers. Mercedes Maroto-Valer, IDRIC Director, opened the conference by sharing her insights and experiences into “Net Zero: Past, Present and Future”, and Matt Winning, Senior Research Fellow at UCL and climate change comedian, closed the conference by giving career and communication tips, as well as showing us how to make jokes about climate change (!).
Full programme details can be found on the Conference page, and recordings and slides will be available soon (where we have permission to share).
Our ECR Meeting Fund helped support the attendance of many of our ECRs and here they are to share their experiences of the event…
Catrin Harris, Imperial College London
The ECR net zero conference was a great opportunity to meet researchers from a range of different research councils. I helped to organise and run one of the parallel sessions focused on “The social and environmental challenges of net zero”. The session involved ECR panellists giving their viewpoint on the main challenges, before breaking out into small group discussions. I learnt a lot from chairing this session, and it provided me with many interesting discussion points on the wider challenges of net zero.
Siqi Wang, Cranfield University
I found the “ECR Career Pathways and Knowledge Exchange” session very useful, in particular the workshop on developing elevator pitches. I had the opportunity to think about how I should present my PhD project according to the audience I am facing, and was able to practise it with fellow ECRs and receive feedback. It was also very interesting to hear about other people’s research and exchange my thoughts with them.
Jacqueline Penn, Newcastle University
The best and most surprising part of the Conference for me was the closing keynote speech from climate comedian, Dr Matt Winning. It was great to hear about his career journey and how he uses comedy to share important messages about climate change. His informative and entertaining speech was a great way to end the conference.
Oludayo Asuni, University of Sheffield
The ECR Net Zero Conference was the first academic conference I’ve attended as a Ph.D. student and it was an enlightening experience as I got to network with other ECRs and gain a new perspective on skills needed to address the Net Zero challenge. The Industrial Decarbonisation Panel was a personal favorite because I was able to discuss the key obstacles we are facing to foster effective stakeholder engagement and their potential solutions. After the completion of the conference, I was left with a deep impression of the importance of my work and the potential for significant impact if stakeholders were effectively engaged.
Doug Smith, BGS
We covered a lot of ground in the two-day conference, from reflections on COP27, industry engagement, implementing a just transition and obstacles to achieving Net Zero. It was great (and important) to hear how my research fits into the bigger picture and get a flavour of the many other projects that are underway. However, my highlight was meeting so many driven scientists at the outset of their careers who were keen to make a difference. It was also wonderful to meet some of the people that make the events like the ECR Net Zero conference and ongoing forums happen, as these connections enable (and sometimes force) us to come out of our own research bubbles.
Samuel Macpherson, University of Southampton
As researchers we often tend to focus in on our own area of research, but the ECR Net Zero Conference broadened my horizons hugely especially with regards to considering the effects of net zero technologies on society as a whole. The conference introduced me to “Just Transition”, the idea by which the transition to net zero must not negatively impact local communities and workers’ rights. This is something I will now take to heart going forward and will introduce to others, as well as incorporate the idea where I can in my future work.
Imran Ahmed, Newcastle University
For me, the best part of the ECR Net Zero Conference was discovering the increasing engagement from industry. This is exciting as it highlights the opportunities the push to Net Zero is generating for industry at all scales, from start-ups to larger companies.
Idris Bukar, Imperial College London
I’ve always wondered about how to get society more actively on board the journey to net zero; how to get the people to act beyond granting the social licence to deploy net zero technologies, and so I put that question to climate comedian and author Matthew Winning after he gave the closing keynote of the conference. The response I got was quite enlightening, which was that it is ultimately up to the people to decide to act, but that if I played my part and communicated my science clearly and passionately, it would make overcoming that inertia a whole lot easier.