The Turner Kirk Trust Sprint Challenge | Turner Kirk Trust

The Turner Kirk Trust Sprint Challenge

About Imperial College London

Imperial College London, consistently ranking among the world’s top ten universities, is an internationally focused, world-leading institution. Imperial continues to push the frontiers of research, life changing education, and transformative innovation. Its academic strategy is aimed at delivering transformative impact for societal benefit on a global scale.

The Problem

Conserving the world’s biodiversity and natural ecosystems is an immensely complex task. It involves the conservation of various habitats, the protection of endangered species, and an understanding of the interconnectedness of the world’s ecosystems, as well as the means we already have, or could devise, for addressing this issue.

Addressing this issue requires constant learning, adaptation, and breakthroughs in academia, technology, policy, and practice. But there are still many data gaps and knowledge limitations – our understanding of the problem and its solutions is still incomplete.

There is also a lack of sufficient funding for global conservation efforts. Funding shortages are hindering progress and experimentation – this is especially true in the case of higher risk projects that have the potential to generate transformative breakthroughs. Philanthropists and other funding providers are too risk averse because, naturally, they want assurance of positive impact when providing funding. This is holding back progress.

The Solution

In partnership with Imperial College London, the Turner Kirk Trust Sprint Challenge was established to bring together conservation scientists and mathematicians from Imperial’s Centre for Environmental Policy, Department of Life Sciences, and Department of Mathematics.

The Challenge is designed to foster high risk-high gain activities at the intersection between conservation and mathematics to address unsolved and complex global conservation challenges. Applicants to the fund were invited to propose creative ideas and approaches for tackling issues in this space. Three teams were successful, and will receive combined funding of £50,000 to run their projects for a period of six months.

The Challenge is focused on facilitating highly experimental projects that would normally struggle to attract funding, generating the potential for a significant breakthrough in tackling global conservation problems.

The Impact

The three beneficiaries of the Challenge will begin their six-month projects in the summer of 2023 and report back on their findings upon completion. The projects include follow-up activity plans to ensure that, upon completion, potential breakthroughs in knowledge and understanding can be translated into policy and practice.

This page will be updated with developments upon completion of the projects and beyond.

By funding three teams to complete short-term projects that would otherwise struggle to gain funding, because they are too risky or experimental, we’re creating the opportunity for a breakthrough in our fight against biodiversity loss. But, most importantly, all the projects being funded have the permission to fail – if they fail, we’ve still learned something, and being open to failure is integral to experimentation.
Dr. Ewan Kirk, Founder & Co-Chair of the Turner Kirk Trust

Our impact. Recent programmes funded by the Trust