Amaratunga, D., Haigh, R. and Hayat, E. (2017), "News", International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment, Vol. 8 No. 3, pp. 322-323. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJDRBE-04-2017-0030
Emerald Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited
ASCENT project aims to reduce impact of disasters
In February 2016, over 30 experts from across Europe and Asia launched a new project funded by the European Union (EU) to strengthen research and innovation capacity for the development of societal resilience to disasters.
The project, called ASCENT (Advancing Skill Creation to ENhance Transformation), is supporting training, skills, leadership development, international collaboration and university–industry partnerships. It seeks to strengthen the ability of higher education to respond to research needs in disaster resilience. It will also empower individuals and organisations with the skills, competencies and credentials needed to continue to pursue research, and to lead research at institutions, aimed at reducing the impact of disasters.
ASCENT is co-funded by an EU Erasmus+ programme grant of €994,000.00, will run for three years and is led by the University of Huddersfield’s Global Disaster Resilience Centre, based in the UK. They are joined by a consortium of 13 European and Asian higher education institutions from Bangladesh, Estonia, Lithuania, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Thailand and the UK:
Programme countries (Europe):
University of Huddersfield, UK (Lead Partner)
University of Central Lancashire, UK
Lund University, Sweden
Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia
Mid-Sweden University, Sweden
Partner countries (Asia):
University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka
University of Colombo, Sri Lanka
University of Ruhuna, Sri Lanka
University of Naresuan, Thailand
Chiang Mai University, Thailand
University of Dhaka, Bangladesh
BRAC University, Bangladesh
Patuakhali Science and Technology University, Bangladesh
Over three years, the ASCENT consortium will identify research and innovative capacity needs across Asian higher education institutions in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Thailand to tackle the development of societal resilience to disasters. It will develop research infrastructure; prepare researchers to undertake advanced, world-class and innovative, multi- and inter-disciplinary research; and increase international cooperation among higher education. It will also explore, promote and initiate opportunities for fruitful university–industry partnerships. In doing so, ASCENT will provide the link between the research and the public, helping to reinforce the connection between education and society.
The project was inspired by the Sendai Framework for Action 2015-2030, signed by 187 UN member states in March 2015, as a 15-year, voluntary, non-binding agreement which recognises that the State has the primary role to reduce disaster risk but that responsibility should be shared with other stakeholders including local government, the private sector and other stakeholders.
The Framework identifies that international, regional, sub-regional and transboundary cooperation remains pivotal in supporting the efforts of States, their national and local authorities, as well as communities and businesses, to reduce disaster risk.
The first phase of ASCENT involved a detailed analysis of existing capacity for disaster resilience among higher education in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Thailand. This resulted in a series of institutional research and innovation capacity reports, culminating in three national reports that highlighted capacity gaps across the three target countries. These were presented and finalised at a major meeting in Huddersfield, UK, in October 2016.
Subsequent workshop discussions provided a basis for detailed training plans to be developed around four core areas of research and innovation capacity for resilience building:
supplementary and transferable research skills;
international cooperation; and
university and industry partnerships.
Functional requirements for the development of research infrastructure to support implementation of the project and provide sustainable capacity development were also documented.
The first major capacity-building event was held in February 2017, in Welligama, Sri Lanka, in proximity to areas that were devastated by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. A six-day programme of capacity-building training events and field visits was attended by over 70 researchers from across Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Future capacity-building activity will be delivered online and in at least three further intensive workshops. The next in-country workshop will be held in Naresuan, Thailand, immediately before the 7th International Conference on Building Resilience, which will take place in Bangkok from 27-29 November 2017 (www.buildresilience.org/2017).
The ASCENT project consortium receives financial assistance from the EU. The European Commission support for the project and its associated activities and outputs does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.