13 May 2015

Five successful scientists from the worlds of business, academia and conservation have taken up residence at the Lancaster Environment Centre

The Professors’ expertise covers toxicology, aquatic systems, environmental engineering, tropical ecosystems pollination and biological pest control, with backgrounds ranging from multinational companies, to an environmental SME and a conservation charity.

They will be actively pursuing collaborative research projects, delivering world leading publications, co-supervising masters and PhD students, and contributing to teaching that supports the practice and principles of ecoinnovation.

“This is a great initiative and innovative within UK higher education,” said Professor Rob Lamb, chief scientist of environmental and engineering firm JBA Consulting

“There are Professors in Practice in UK business schools but they are associated mainly with teaching, while  Lancaster Environment Centre is looking at the concept in a broader sense. We will be involved in research and impact as well as teaching, whether through developing direct applications of research outputs or influencing policy.”

“The Environment Centre is already very good at working with people in industry and the third sector. This is a systematic attempt to build on those links and we are keen to support it.”

Professor Felix Wäckers, from international biological pest control and pollination company Biobest, has worked both in academia and business and knows how the two sectors benefit from working together.

“This is a good example of how you can help bridge the gap that still exists between academic research and industry. For our type of business it is important to participate in research projects and to get a direct link with curtting edge research at universities. For the university, it offer a fast track opportunity to bring academic research to application in the real world and access to more funding possibilities.”

The five Professors in Practice are:

Paul L Carmichael, Unilever.

Paul works in Unilever as a senior toxicologist and has been collaborating with the Lancaster Environment Centre (LEC) for seven years.  He co-ordinates, with Professor Frank Martin, an industry-led Masters module, Safety and Environmental Impact Assessment: An Industrial Perspective, which is delivered exclusively by Unilever scientists. Within his current industrial role, he is pioneering a transformative change in thinking in the field of toxicology, termed ‘Toxicity testing in the 21st century’ (TT21C).

Jon Grey, Wild Trout Trust.

Jon is a former Lancaster graduate (Ecology, 1992) and has focussed on aquatic ecosystems throughout his research career, particularly  the sources of nutrients fuelling food webs. He is a Research and Conservation Officer for the Wild Trout Trust, a charity that uses brown trout as a sentinel species for ecosystem health.  His role will in part be to coordinate and foster links between academic departments, research institutes, and grass roots organisations, and to communicate the science underpinning effective river management and rehabilitation.

Rob Lamb, JBA Consulting

Rob is chief scientist with JBA Group, a UK-based engineering and environmental management company employing 280 people. His time is split between consultancy work and his role as Managing Director of the JBA Trust, a not-for-profit foundation funded by JBA Group to advance research and education in the fields of environmental risks and resources. He co-supervises PhD students and teaches on the LEC/JBA PG Cert in Flood and Coastal Risk Management, and on the NERC Advanced Training Short Course programme.

Julio Louzada, University of Lavras, Brazil.

Julio investigates how tropical ecosystems respond to human activities, and how  biodiversity-delivered services and functions are affected by land use and forest restoration. He has been working in the Amazon and Atlantic Forests in Brazil since 1993, and in other tropical systems including savannas (Cerrado) and agricultural landscapes (pastures and coffee). Julio teaches alongside Dr Luke Parry and Dr Jos Barlow on the ‘Conservation and sustainable development in the Brazilian Amazon’ field course, offered to the Ecology and Conservation and Geography undergraduate programmes.  LEC’s Business and Enterprise Partnerships team are currently working with Lavras University to create a business engagement and knowledge exchange facility, which will act as a Brazilian node in our ‘International Ecoinnovation Alliance’.

Felix Wackers, Director of R&D Biobest.

Felix  has been working in the field of plant-insect interactions with applications to conservation biological control and pollination for over 25 years. Since 2009 he has been Director of R&D for Biobest, an internationally leading company in the production of pollinators and biological control agents. At Biobest, Felix has successfully developed some exciting commercial products including: The “Flying Doctors system”, a specifically designed dispenser incorporated in bumblebee hives that allows the use of bumblebees as vectors to distribute microbial products for targeted control of flower associated diseases and pests; “Nutrimite”, the first commercially available food supplement for boosting populations of predatory mites; “Dynamite”, a group of generalist predatory mite species previously considered impossible to produce on a commercial scale; and a range of new local bumble bees species, including a UK subspecies, to provide native pollinators for international markets.