Arc Universities

The programme for this year’s AUG Student Panel recently began with the students meeting industry specialists to share learnings and insights on the Quality of Life and Place and Sustainable Environment.

The event provided a platform for insightful discussions on the future trajectory of the Oxford to Cambridge region, shedding light on key issues and opportunities shaping the region’s development.

Zoe Metcalfe: Pioneering Digital Twins for Regional Development

Zoe Metcalfe, Client Director, Local and Central Government UK at AtkinsRealis, shared the innovative work taking place around digital twins for the Oxford to Cambridge region. The research, being led by Cranfield University, together with Oxford, Cambridge and the Open University, focuses on creating a comprehensive digital replica of the region, leveraging expertise from various fields to enable predictive analysis and visualisation of complex systems. Zoe emphasised the significance of this initiative in facilitating proactive planning, enhancing resilience against climate change, and fostering interdisciplinary collaboration.

Zoe highlighted the importance of citizen science in gathering data and insights from communities, empowering individuals to become active participants in addressing environmental and societal challenges. She also advocated for integrating nature-based solutions into regional development strategies, with the need to balance economic growth with environmental conservation.

Dr Tom Hambley: Advocating for Inclusive Policy Development

Dr Tom Hambley is a postdoctoral research fellow at Anglia Ruskin University, specialising in human geography. His research explores the intersection of place, identity, and community engagement, focusing on the importance of local perspectives in shaping policy interventions.

Tom stressed the need for transparent and participatory approaches to policy development, highlighting the role of community engagement in building trust and accountability. He underscored the significance of balancing sustainability and equity in regional development initiatives, advocating for strategies that prioritise local needs and values.

Professor Dave Valler: Navigating Challenges in Regional Planning

Professor Dave Valler is a planning academic at Oxford Brookes University. He shared a comprehensive analysis of the challenges and opportunities in defining and governing the region. He discussed the complexities of regional identity and governance, highlighting the importance of addressing political, social, and economic challenges in shaping the region’s future trajectory.

Like the other speakers, he championed the role of community perspectives in regional planning, underscoring the need for inclusive and participatory approaches. He also addressed critical issues such as housing crisis and spatial framework collapse, urging stakeholders to prioritise sustainable and equitable development.

As the session concluded, the panelists shared valuable career advice for the Student Panel:

  • Zoe emphasised the importance of self-awareness, compassion, and networking, urging the students to enjoy their work and navigate challenges with resilience. 
  • Tom encouraged PhD students to prioritise self-care and seek support from peers, promoting the value of collaborative learning. 
  • Dave reassured students to persevere through setbacks and challenges, highlighting the importance of persistence and resilience in achieving their goals.

The session provided a platform for engaging discussions and valuable insights into the future of the Oxford-Cambridge region – highlighting the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration, community engagement, and inclusive policy development in shaping sustainable and equitable regional development.

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