Institute for Sustainability

Societal Challenge Themes

Societal Challenge Themes

As a civic university with a global reputation for academic excellence, we are committed to solving the great challenges of our age. This helps to frame a more optimistic global debate.

By responding to some of the most pressing needs within society, we have developed the concept of Societal Challenge Themes. We now group a significant part of our research under these themes. We hope that society can better understand where we can help make a difference - and we can demonstrate our commitment to excellence with impact.

Our Societal Challenge Themes are chosen using three clear principles. They must be:

  • issues where we have real expertise to contribute
  • topics of major global interest with significant resonance in our own country
  • areas in which we have developed genuine engagement with the public and numerous stakeholder communities so that we have a deep understanding of the issues

The first of these, Ageing, was launched in 2010 and is led, on behalf of the University, by the Newcastle University Institute for Ageing, based within the Faculty of Medical Sciences.

The second, Sustainability, was launched in 2011 and is led by the Newcastle University Institute for Sustainability, based within the Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering.

The third, Social Renewal, was launched in 2012 and is led by the Newcastle University Institute for Social Renewal, based within the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.


The Sustainability Societal Challenge Theme, led by the Institute for Sustainability, encompasses a broad spectrum of research and other activities taking place across all three Faculties of the University, as well as within our central support services.

This breadth ensures that truly interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary work can be facilitated within the theme. Anyone who feels their work has relevance to, or impact on, issues of sustainability can feel part of it. As well as drawing together this diverse community internally, the Societal Challenge Theme also extends outward and into our partner organisations and stakeholders.

Many of our demonstration projects would not be possible without our partners, but are crucial to our success in showing the true potential that some of the solutions have which are being developed in Newcastle.

By working closely with partners, and by utilising the expertise that exists across the University, we are confident we can affect real and lasting progress in addressing some of the most pressing challenges facing us today.

If you would like to get involved in the Societal Challenge Theme, contact us at