Peterborough’s credentials as a centre
for innovation in environmental technology have been enhanced with the
establishment of a research project designed to study the potential
impact of information and communications technology (ICT) on the
The SustainIT project has been launched
with a £58,500 grant from the East of England Development Agency
(EEDA) - the largest of seven grants made throughout the region under
the agency’s innovative fund to encourage the development of ‘clusters’
of complementary businesses in specific areas.
SustainIT will build on the existing
expertise of the UK Centre for Economic and Environmental Development
(UK CEED), which relocated to Peterborough in January 2000. Its
executive director Jonathan Selwyn said: “We have been working in
this area for five years but SustainIT will be the first stand-alone
centre dedicated to this research in Europe.
“Many organisations are formulating
policy and making far-reaching assumptions on their expectations of
how information and communications technology will influence our lives
and our environment in the future. We aim to establish the facts
behind the hype so that policy-makers are better informed.
“The fact that Peterborough has been
chosen for this initiative will enhance its reputation as a leader in
environmental technology. The city already has a sizable concentration
of public and private sector organisations at the leading edge of
environmental developments and the SustainIT Centre will help boost
that reputation regionally, nationally and, in time, internationally.”
Mr Selwyn said SustainIT would study all
aspects of the impact of ICT on the environment, including tele-working,
online shopping, e-commerce and the delivery of local government
services via the Internet.
He added: “We are already working with
the AA and BT on a project to measure changes in people’s travel
patterns as a result of tele-working from home. Our early research
results have shown that considerable savings in car mileage can be
made, although this needs to be balanced against increases in
out-of-office visits by managers to home workers.
“Other research has looked at home
shopping and has shown that while journeys to shops may reduce,
uncoordinated deliveries - often by white vans in urban areas - may
cause environmental impact.
“However, as more services become
available through the internet we also need to study whether people
without internet access will suffer a disadvantage.”
The initial grant from EEDA will be
invested in creating the SustainIT Centre and installing new computer
systems and will help cover the salary of one person.