A successful UGPN 2024 Annual Conference

Check out the highlights of the conference that took place between May 13th and 15th hosted by the University of Surrey at the Stag Hill Campus, Guildford.

Under the theme “Securing a Sustainable Society: New Approaches and Inclusive Practices”, the conference brought together the University of São Paulo, NC State University, and the University of Surrey. We showcased our commitment to sustainability, shared best practices, connected academic colleagues, and fostered new collaborations in research and education.

Watch the video below to get a sense of the conference opening day and reflections from UGPN partners:

The conference began with a warm welcome from the University of Surrey’s President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor GQ Max Lu, alongside UGPN Chair Professor Amelia Hadfield. We also heard from senior leaders Prof. Carlos Gilberto Carlotti Junior (Rector, University of São Paulo) and Dr Amy Conger (Vice Provost for Global Engagement, North Carolina State University), who reflected on the strategic value of the UGPN to their institutions.

The opportunity to foster relationships between colleagues from the three member universities is key to our success in building impactful collaborations in education and research. Collaboration and sustainability were the key themes for this conference, highlighted in the opening showcase of the UGPN network's achievements.

Dr. Alex Seal and Dr. Deanna Dannels shared successes from the previous year's UGPN Academy, an initiative that promotes collaborative online projects for students within the network. Researchers funded by the UGPN Research Collaboration Fund (RCF) also showcased impactful collaborative research projects in sustainable construction, global cancer inequalities, WaSH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene), and carbon nanomaterials.

Professor Lorenzo Fioramonti (UoS), Professor Christopher Galik (NC State), and Professor Julio Romano Meneghini (USP) concluded the opening session with a keynote address emphasizing the critical importance of sustainability to the UGPN. The network provides an excellent platform to support the delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and provide solutions towards a more sustainable global society.

In the afternoon, participants learned more about Surrey's pan-University Institutes, the Institute for Sustainability and the Institute for People-Centred AI. Speakers participated in a panel to discuss civil and academic engagement that can be facilitated by the UGPN, harnessing the considerable capacity of the three member universities.

UGPN is a very important initiative from 3 universities. We have the same goals, so we are here to talk to each other, to transfer knowledge and to be a better institutions within our countries...
Professor Carlos G. Carlotti, Rector, USP

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Throughout the conference, two main academic themes were the focal points of a series of research workshops: Planetary Health and Technology for an Inclusive Society. These sessions were aimed at addressing the UN SDGs, providing an interdisciplinary environment for participants to engage deeply with these critical issues and make connections for future research collaboration.

Participants had the opportunity to discuss the development of the UGPN Academy. They jointly discussed ideas to design innovative and inclusive formats for global experiential learning, as well as new projects for Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL). This initiative underscores the network's commitment to fostering accessible educational opportunities for all our students.

The conference also hosted a Research Funding Session, which prepared participants to develop proposals for research funding via a range of national and international agencies. Colleagues from Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP), International Research Development (University of Surrey), and the Office of Global Engagement (NC State) presented current and upcoming opportunities for research and mobility funding and worked with conference delegates to plan for funding bids.

Other activities included visits to Surrey's AI Institute & Centre for Vision, Speech, and Signal Processing (CVSSP) and Surrey Research Park, which provided further insights into the exciting innovations happening at the University of Surrey in cutting-edge research and engagement with industry.

"Hosting the 2024 UGPN Annual Conference at Surrey this year was a fantastic opportunity to showcase the Network’s collaboration in research and education for sustainability, and the enormous value-added that UGPN offers each of its three partners: University of Surrey, NC State, and University São Paulo. We were privileged to work intensively with executives and scholars from our partners throughout the UGPN 2024 Annual Conference, sharing our research, teaching, and best practices and ensuring our activities remain relevant and impactful within our local, regional, and global communities"

Professor Amelia Hadfield
UGPN Chair and Dean International (UoS)

The final day of the conference featured closing plenaries where the workshop leads provided feedback on their sessions, offering ideas for future bilateral and trilateral initiatives within the network. Professor Lisa Collins, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation, summarized the event's highlights and encouraged the development of new pathways for future collaborations within the UGPN.

Reflecting on the conference, Professor Amelia Hadfield noted the unique opportunity to host such a significant event on the Surrey campus. She emphasized the importance of the UGPN's collaborative research efforts, which will continue to address key challenges in sustainability and education.

As the delegates departed, there was a renewed sense of purpose and optimism about the future of the UGPN. The 2024 conference not only showcased the network's commitment to sustainability and global collaboration but also set the stage for continued innovation and increased impact in education and research. With the insights and connections gained, participants are poised to drive forward the next wave of collaborative projects, contributing to a more sustainable and inclusive global society.

We look forward to seeing our colleagues at the 2025 UGPN Conference, which will be held in Raleigh - USA, hosted by North Carolina State University