At King’s, the Faculty of Natural, Mathematical & Engineering Sciences facilitates problem-solving research to address some of the most pressing real-world challenges such as climate change. Encompassing the Departments of Chemistry, Mathematics, Engineering, Physics and Informatics, our research fosters innovation and entrepreneurship through internal and external multidisciplinary collaborations.

With our concentration of expertise and in response to the climate crisis, we have launched a new Net Zero Centre. The Centre will underpin rapid and large-scale systemic climate action and set the agenda for what a new net zero world will look like.

What is Net Zero?

It means cutting greenhouse gas emissions to as close to zero as possible, with any remaining carbon emissions re-absorbed from the atmosphere by oceans and forests, for instance* (United Nations).

* Carbon will primarily be disposed of underground by pumping liquified CO2 back into gas and oil reservoirs – a process called ‘carbon capture and storage’ (CCS).

Urgency of climate action

Without doubt, and as reiterated in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report as a ‘final warning’, urgent immediate action is needed to avoid climate catastrophe. The planet is warming dangerously and dismantling our use of fossil fuels isn’t going to be enough. We need to reshape every facet of our lives – from business, building and manufacturing, to transport, clothing, and food and water – across the public and private sectors.

More and more governments and companies are setting ambitious net zero and biodiversity targets, particularly following COP27. However, there remains a massive gap between what could be done and what is being done.

Finding clean, technological solutions to fill this gap that are socially, economically and politically feasible is essential for all our futures.

What does the Paris Agreement call for?

To keep global warming to no more than 1.5°C, emissions must be reduced by 45 per cent by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050 (United Nations).

A new hub for hope

Officially launched in April 2023, King’s Net Zero Centre is an interdisciplinary hub that will harness science and technology research to find solutions for decarbonising our economy and society and for addressing key environmental issues.

Combining informatics, natural and environmental sciences, business, social sciences, public policy and global health, the Centre will ensure that solutions are put into practice from the local to the global. Furthermore, by partnering with governments, industries and the third sector, it will generate and disseminate ideas that will shape a rapid transition to an equitable and just zero-carbon world.

Professor Barbara Shollock, Director of the Net Zero Centre and Head of the Department of Engineering, says: ‘The Faculty plays a vital role in achieving global goals for net zero and sustainability. King’s has a strong legacy in engineering and reaches across the College to develop solutions that will work for people and our world. Now with the new Net Zero Centre, we can develop new knowledge, skills and solutions to address the pressing challenge of climate and sustainability.’

‘The Centre opens up fascinating opportunities to consolidate, co-ordinate and plan our research activities in the net zero space at the interface of physics, engineering, chemistry and material science,’ adds Professor Anatoly Zayats, Co-Director of the Net Zero Centre and Professor of Experimental Physics.

Read more about the Centre’s inaugural event.

Interdisciplinary research projects

The Net Zero Centre will be at the frontier of research and engagement that helps move the UK and the world towards net zero, ahead of the United Nations’ 2050 target. It will focus on three areas: manufacturing, food and energy.

  1. Case study 1
  2. Case study 2

Quorn, King’s and converting food waste to protein

New waste-to-protein technologies offer promising alternative protein sources that could increase food sustainability and security and address global malnutrition.

King’s researchers have found using just one of these processes to convert agricultural food waste could provide three times the amount of daily protein every person in the world needs, every day.

Fermentation is one example:

Quorn food products convert carbohydrates (glucose from wheat) into protein to make mycoprotein using a specific fermentation process of a specific microbe.

Collaborative research is in place between Quorn and King’s on developing future mycoprotein to convert the carbohydrates found in arable waste (called lignocellulose) to protein. Find out more.

Using energy from light

Professor Zayats from the Department of Physics and Co-Director of the Net Zero Centre is leading a team of physicists, chemists and material scientists to understand light-driven (rather than heat-driven) energy conversion at the nanoscale for stimulating chemical transformations.

The research will look at how we can use and control light – in particular, the light-harvesting capabilities of metallic nanostructures (plasmonics) – to control chemical reaction pathways in photocatalysis and photo-electrocatalysis.

The research has the potential for wide-reaching applications in energy production, environmental clean-up and the pharmaceutical industry – and may ultimately be used for developing devices that exploit sunlight as their primary energy source. Learn more about the project.

Wider ecosystem of climate research, education and action

King’s research is interdisciplinary by nature, and thus we are uniquely positioned to connect our climate expertise across the College in various fields of study. These include politics, law and geography, as well as peace and security, health and wellbeing, and innovation and entrepreneurship.

Now with the new Net Zero Centre, we can develop new knowledge, skills, and solutions to address the pressing challenge of climate and sustainability.


King’s Climate & Sustainability is a cross-university drive to rapidly scale King’s response to the climate emergency. In February 2023, Frans Berkhout, Professor of Environment, Society & Climate, was appointed Assistant Principal (King’s Climate & Sustainability) to accelerate transformative multidisciplinary research and embed sustainability more deeply into King’s teaching, impact, partnerships and operations. He says:

‘At King’s, we believe that the net zero transition is one of the greatest, most urgent global challenges. We are committed to embedding climate and sustainability in everything we do: research, education and by decarbonising our own operations. The Net Zero Centre led by Engineering at King’s is a major new initiative which will develop new knowledge, technologies and solutions supporting transformative change across business and social life. Great universities like King’s will play a crucial role by providing the ingenuity and skills enabling the net zero transformation.’

King’s aims to become a net zero institution by the year 2030, and we are already on the right path to create a better future.

Our impact to date

In 2021, we fully divested from investments in fossil fuels almost two years ahead of target.

We have successfully reduced emissions under the university’s direct control by more than half in the last 15 years.

Wind farm

Wind farm

Other climate and sustainability focus areas across the College

  • King’s Climate & Sustainability Action Plan defines 13 areas of impact that span our research, education, operations, profile and funding and puts climate ambition in action, beyond King’s walls. Learn more about the project, all overseen by King’s Climate Action Network.
  • King’s Climate Hub in the Department of Geography is looking at ways to ‘bring climate change home’; that is, making climate change a tangible object that has resonance with people’s everyday lives. Find out more about the Hub.
  • The Centre for Climate Law & Governance in The Dickson Poon School of Law focuses on legal and governance approaches to climate change and sustainability within and across countries in the Global North and Global South. Learn more about the Centre.
  • In September 2023, King’s Business School is launching MSc and Executive MBA courses focused on ESG management.
  • The Faculty of Arts & Humanities has launched an Environmental Humanities Network that will address planetary wellbeing and highlight the ethical and moral considerations that underpin responses to environmental challenges. Explore more about the Network.

Through all of this, and with the ability to respond to the technological and social advances that are to come, King’s is leading the way in proactive, globally impactful climate and sustainability research, education and action that puts people and the planet first – and makes the world a better place now and well into the future.

Support groundbreaking research and innovation by making a donation to King’s today.

Great universities like King’s will play a crucial role by providing the ingenuity
and skills enabling the net zero transformation.