Skip to main content


New Thematic Areas

Collaboration under the first three years of the QUEX Institute was focused around three interdisciplinary themes: Healthy Ageing; Physical Activity and Nutrition; and Environmental Sustainability, led by an academic theme lead at each institution. These themes were chosen based on a review of synergistic and world-leading research and teaching strengths, where combining each institution’s respective expertise and resources would enable the QUEX partnership to find solutions to issues of global significance.

The 2019 QUEX Institute Symposium presented an opportunity to review these themes. The first two have been consolidated under one health-related theme: Healthy Living. The revised theme of Global Environmental Futures showcases Exeter and Queensland’s research expertise in environmental science to deliver impactful research on a range of environmental futures. Digital Worlds and Disruptive Technologies has been developed to bring together a range of interdisciplinary research areas to explore the technology and behavioural elements of digital change. A fourth new theme Mineral Security and Sustainability will address global sustainability challenges in the discovery, supply and use of mineral resources.

Theme Leads: Rob Anderson (Exeter) and Nicolas Gilson (UQ)

Ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all is fundamental to building thriving societies. Across rich and poor countries alike, a health crisis has the potential to tip individuals, communities and societies into bankruptcy, poverty and / or civil unrest. In short, healthy people are the foundation of productive economies and happy societies. While progress has been made in the realms of child and maternal health, global life expectancy, and in our understanding of serious diseases such as HIV/AIDs and cancers, a concerted effort is still required to achieve a comprehensive and sustainable health coverage for all, regardless of geography, class or wealth.

The Universities of Queensland and Exeter are committed to the UN Sustainable Development Goal of ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all. Both institutions are world leaders in relevant fields of research ranging across dementia, diabetes, health economics, genomics, gerontology, and human movement and nutrition. This Healthy Living theme will allow us to join forces and expertise in order to lead the way in supporting global health and well-being through innovative ground-breaking research and translation into policy and practice for impact. In addressing the UN Sustainable Development Goal (3) Good Health and Well-being, this theme will seek to engage a multi-disciplinary range of research areas including, but not limited to, biomedical science; biophysics and engineering; [health] economics; cultures of health; medicine and nursing; health technologies; psychology, human movement and health policy.

Theme Leads: Ruth Thurstan (Exeter), Sarit Kaserzon (UQ) and Peter Mumby (UQ)

Exploring new science frontiers, finding solutions to intractable problems, and influencing public policy, are at the heart of the QUEX program on Global Environmental Futures. The Universities of Exeter and Queensland are both world-leading in environmental science, delivering research breakthroughs across many environmental challenges such as climate change, clean energy, marine, coastal and reef science, biodiversity, air and water pollution, antimicrobial resistance, food security and sustainable agriculture.

By combining the strengths of the two universities, there is an opportunity for the QUEX partnership to deliver impactful research on a range of environmental futures, including the sustainable management of natural resources, understanding weather systems, improving the resilience of climate-vulnerable communities, promoting effective environmental governance, and examining the agency of social movements (such as Extinction Rebellion) who are committed to tackling the potentially catastrophic threat of climate breakdown. This theme is closely aligned to a number of UN sustainable development goals, with a particular focus on (2) Zero Hunger; (6) Clean Water and Sanitation; (7) Affordable and Clean Energy; (9) Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure; (11) Sustainable Cities and Communities; (13) Climate Action; (14) Life Below Water; and (15) Life on Land. 

Theme Leads:  Achim Brucker (Exeter) and Stephen Viller (UQ)

Digitalisation is transforming who we are, what we do, and how we act. Present and future digital worlds mean that wars can be fought without soldiers, medical procedures can be undertaken without surgeons, travel can occur without the physical movement of people from place to place, societies can be powered without iron, coal and oil, and education can take place with a teacher on one continent and students on another. At the same time, new digital worlds present challenges to older industries and technologies, threats to businesses, governments and societies through cyber-attacks and question the future of work and workplaces. What will be the next sector to be wholly disrupted, as the media industry has been? Accounting, retail, healthcare, supply chains, transport, even democracy, are being disrupted by new technologies and new behaviours.

This QUEX theme brings together a range of interdisciplinary research areas to explore these twin elements of digital change. On the technology side, both Exeter and UQ have world-leading capabilities in Artificial Intelligence, Data Science, Machine Learning, Cyber Security and Virtual Reality. On the behavioural side, both universities have teams across their social sciences and humanities scholars who are looking at the social, cultural and economic elements of this digital transformation. Cross-disciplinary teams will seek to address some of the challenges and opportunities related to digital change.

Theme Leads:  Professor Karen Hudson-Edwards (Exeter) and Professor Daniel Franks (UQ)

Minerals are essential ingredients of the Sustainable Development Goals and mineral security is said to exist when all people have sufficient and affordable access to the minerals necessary for human development. 

Minerals provide the bricks and concrete for our shelter, the mineral fertilisers fundamental for agriculture, the copper that enables global communication, the lithium that is fuelling the renewable energy transition, and the gravel and stone that builds bridges and paves rural roads. However, there are major challenges in the supply of minerals and the environmental and social consequences of their extraction, processing and use that demand innovation and practice change.

Further, minerals are currently the only natural resource not featured explicitly in the Sustainable Development Goals, with a potential outcome of this theme greater international recognition and understanding for how minerals can meaningfully contribute to human development whilst supporting and enabling the SDG targets.

The University of Exeter and UQ are both world-leading in environmental science, delivering research breakthroughs across many challenges such as:

  • development minerals
  • mineral and energy security
  • decarbonisation

The mineral security and sustainability theme will address global sustainability challenges in the discovery, supply and use of mineral resources. Research will advance fundamental science as well as global practice change for impact.