Environment and Sustainability Institute website

ESI is a great place to work because we have this fantastic mix of people from different disciplinary backgrounds who are working on a wide range of aspects of environmental change. I think that there’s no one disciplinary approach to understanding complex problems of change.

Professor Katrina Brown, Chair in Social Science

Environment and Sustainability Institute

The Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) is a world-class research institute finding cutting-edge solutions to complex problems of environmental change.

We explore environmental issues using Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly as a living laboratory, and taking advantage of the marine and terrestrial environments and local renewables expertise.

Our researchers have backgrounds in Ecology, Renewable Energy, Mathematics, Biosciences, Social and Political Sciences, and Industrial Chemistry.

To date the ESI has attracted research funding in excess of £7 million.

The ESI is directed by Chair in Applied Ecology Professor Juliet Osborne.

Why we are here?

"The environment is not an abstract theory or an academic discipline. It’s our world as we experience it every day – our air, water and food."

Founder and Past-director of the ESI and award-winning ecologist Professor Kevin J Gaston explains what the ESI is for, and why it matters.

Three central research themes

Our research is interdisciplinary across three related themes:

  • Clean technologies
  • Natural environment
  • Social science and sustainability

Partnerships with local businesses

The challenges we address are global in scale, but we are developing solutions in partnership with Cornish businesses, which has a direct impact on the regional economy.

The ESI business network has 400 members and facilitates collaboration and business growth. We give businesses access to the latest research and work with them to develop new products, processes and strategies. 

Facilities at the ESI

  • ESI DroneLab – a dedicated drone laboratory with heavy-lifting and lightweight aircraft for environmental monitoring
  • Dark room
  • Wildlife pathology laboratory
  • Large research hall and dedicated workshop
  • Creative studio
  • Eight Controlled Temperature (CT) rooms
  • State-of-the-art harmonic radar
  • Lab-rover- a portable laboratory for studying pollinator behavior
  • Central interactive area comprising a cafe, conference and social space 

The ESI building itself has been designed to be environmentally sustainable, in line with BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ criteria. Its creation has been enabled by a £30 million investment from the EU European Regional Development Fund (£22.9m) and the South West Regional Development Agency (£6.6m).