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STP partners with Birmingham University to win £4m research grant to help tackle air pollution

Birmingham and Solihull STP is a project partner in the newly announced West Midlands Air Quality Improvement Programme. Air quality is a key priority for Birmingham and Solihull STP and addressing pollution’s impact on the health of local people is a priority within the STP strategy. Air pollution in the West Midlands affects some 2.8 million people, reducing average life expectancy by up to six months.

Led by Professor William Bloss at the University of Birmingham’s School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, WM-Air aims to support the improvement of air quality and its associated health, environmental and economic benefits.

Funded by the Natural Environment Research Council’s (NERC) Regional Impact from Science of the Environment (RISE) initiative, WM-Air will provide improved understanding of the sources and levels of pollution across the West Midlands.

It will also offer new capability to predict the air quality, health and economic impacts of potential policy measures. This will then contribute to specific case studies across the region, ranging from major infrastructure projects such as HS2 to making effective use of ‘Green Infrastructure’ (i.e., plants and trees) across the city. Commenting on the WM-Air award, Professor Bloss said:

Improving air quality will bring direct health benefits to millions of people, reduce direct and indirect economic costs and enhance quality of life across the West Midlands.  WM-Air will bring together the latest environmental science from air pollution, health and economic research experts, to support policy makers, key industry bodies and businesses to help reduce the impacts of air pollution in the region and support clean growth.

The STP has a number of aims to address air quality, such as using video technology to reduce the number of avoidable physical journeys being taken by patients across the health and social care system and introducing ‘green fleet’ vehicle policies to reduce emissions.

STP Strategy Director Lawrence Tallon, who co-leads the health workstream of WM-Air, explains the STP’s approach:

Air pollution has a significant and harmful impact on the health of our population, so we are one of the first STPs in the country to make clean air a priority within our strategy.  Winning this national grant helps to ensure we are pioneering new research and acting on the best available evidence. There is much that we can do as a health and social  care system to reduce harmful emissions, for instance by making greater use of video consultations to avoid patients needing to travel long distances for routine appointments.

Other WM-Air project partners include the West Midlands Combined Authority, Transport for West Midlands, local authorities across the region, HS2, and a number of private sector organisations and local businesses.

NERC is the UK’s main funder of environmental science; the RISE initiative funds the project for up to £4 million over five years.

The University of Birmingham has an extensive record of providing science advice to inform policy for national and international bodies, ranging from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)  and the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) through to the European Union (EU) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Research into air pollution in the United Kingdom is supported by three new air quality supersites across the country, one of which is based at the University of Birmingham campus. The supersites use state-of-the-art monitoring systems to identify harmful pollutants more accurately than ever before.

Birmingham scientists are working around the world to combat air pollution; from Delhi to Beijing and the University is also leading a major international research project looking at how rapid urbanisation in three African cities — Addis Ababa, Kampala and Nairobi — impacts upon air quality.

Watch a clip of Prof Bloss:

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