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Royal College of Art and Extreme E announce innovative ocean research partnership - FAD Magazine

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Royal College of Art and Extreme E announce innovative ocean research partnership

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Extreme E ship

The Royal College of Art (RCA) and Extreme E, the off-road electric motorsport series, today announced a partnership that will give students and researchers the data and inspiration they need to develop innovative responses to the climate crisis.  

For students, the RCA Grand Challenge is an annual initiative that sees interdisciplinary teams from across the College’s School of Design working to address some of the world’s most intractable problems by combining science with design. Students will collaborate across a variety of disciplines including: Design Products, Fashion, Global Innovation Design, Innovation Design Engineering, Service Design and Textiles. Extreme E partners with the RCA for the 2021/22 Grand Challenge alongside Logitech and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation – three organisations all firmly committed to a sustainable future.

‘Europe is experiencing its second hottest July ever, and over 550,000 hectares of forest across the continent have burned in wildfires already this year. The latest IPCC draft report makes it clear: average temperatures in Southern Europe are due to be 20% higher than other parts of the world in the coming decades. As the St Helena moves on from Greenland towards Europe’s climate change hotspot, it will capture many terabytes of data on the Atlantic Ocean which will inform RCA staff and students as they embark upon critical research to save the world’s oceans. We are honoured and thrilled to bring together the creative thinking of the RCA’s School of Design with the scientists and organisers of Extreme E.’

Dr Paul Thompson, RCA Vice-Chancellor.

The theme of this year’s Grand Challenge – a New Economic Model for the Ocean (NEMO) – will investigate global topics including environmental sustainability, plastic pollution, loss of marine habitat and new ocean economies. Academics from the RCA’s School of Design will travel to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, this month to install data-gathering equipment aboard Extreme E’s floating centrepiece, the St Helena ship. This equipment will monitor and collect vast amounts of data about the world’s oceans as the ship travels to the series’ forthcoming race locations, enabling students and research staff to access real-world scenarios and vital data to inform their thinking around possible solutions. 

RCA Students will be encouraged to identify opportunities for strategic and system-level design innovation that can stimulate cultural change around people’s values and attitudes towards the environment. Teams will be tasked with generating proposals that align with local needs through products and services that can potentially stimulate and generate economic and social transformation for communities. 

This unique partnership between Extreme E and the RCA will allow talented designers to be engaged in developing proposals with leading scientists, supporting new forms of multidisciplinary education and research, and promoting the value of sustainable approaches to our relationship with the ocean.

‘The RCA is the world’s leading art and design university so naturally we are delighted to join forces on this innovative approach to research. The St Helena has a dual purpose; to transport the championship’s cargo to each race location as sea travel is less carbon intensive than air freight, and to also act as a research hub informing the world about the impacts of the climate crisis on our oceans – it even has its own scientific laboratory onboard which will be used throughout the remainder of the year. I’m looking forward to seeing the data collected by the RCA and understanding how it can help inform decisions about the climate crisis and solutions we can all be a part of.’

Alejandro Agag, Founder and CEO of Extreme E

Electric off-road racing series Extreme E travels to locations around the world which have been severely impacted by climate change. At each location a host of world-class teams, including entries owned by Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg, compete in electric SUVs with the aim of using sport to highlight some of the biggest environmental issues facing the planet, such as desertification, rising sea levels and Arctic ice melt. In its inaugural Season, the series has so far visited the deserts of AlUla, Saudi Arabia, and the West African coastline of Lac Rose, Senegal. 

Extreme E’s next event – the Arctic X Prix – is in Greenland as its melting ice cap epitomises the challenges and severity of the global climate crisis. In the space of one week this summer, according to the Denmark Meteorological Institute, Greenland lost 8.5 billion tonnes of surface mass, enough to cover the entire state of Florida in two inches of water. Extreme E is using its sporting platform to educate global audiences on these issues and the solutions we can all be part of.

From there, the series will head to Sardinia, Italy for the Island X Prix – the penultimate round of Season 1 – from 23 to 24 October. The location of the concluding X Prix of the Season is to be confirmed. 

About the Royal College of Art

The Royal College of Art is the world’s leading university of art and design. Specialising in teaching and research, the RCA offers degrees of MA, MPhil, MRes and PhD across the disciplines of architecture, arts & humanities, design and communications.

A small, specialist and research-intensive postgraduate university based in the heart of London, the RCA provides 2000 students with unrivalled opportunities to deliver art and design projects that transform the world. 

The RCA’s approach is founded on the premise that art, design, creative thinking, science, engineering and technology must all collaborate to solve today’s global challenges. 

The University employs around 1000 professionals from around the world – professors, researchers, art and design practitioners, advisers and visiting lecturers – to teach and develop students in 30 academic programmes. RCA students are exposed to new knowledge in a way that encourages them to experiment. The RCA runs joint courses with Imperial College London and the Victoria & Albert Museum. 

InnovationRCA, the university’s centre for enterprise, entrepreneurship, incubation and business support, has helped over 70 RCA business ideas become a reality that has led to the creation of over 750 UK jobs.

Alumni include David Adjaye, Christopher Bailey, Monster Chetwynd, David Hockney, Tracey Emin, Thomas Heatherwick, Lubaina Himid, Clare Waight Keller and Rose Wylie.

The RCA was named the world’s leading university of art and design in the QS World Rankings 2021 for the seventh consecutive year.www.rca.ac.uk 

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