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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)


The Nexus Network was a three-year initiative to foster debate, innovative research and practical collaborations across the linked ‘nexus’ domains of food, energy, water and the environment. Participation in the network was open to researchers from all disciplines, and to decision-makers in government, business and civil society.


Food, water, energy and the environment are intimately interwoven and impacts upon one of these can affect the others too – known to academics as a 'nexus' of interactions. A growing global population and climate change are putting global resources under pressure, and we haven't yet found a way to meet society's demand for energy, water or food without degrading our natural environment.

The network was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and is being co-ordinated by a team from the University of Sussex, University of East Anglia and University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership.

The aims of the Nexus Network were to:

  • Encourage debate, fund innovative research and improve decision-making across the linked ‘nexus challenges’ of food, energy, water and the environment.
  • Support interdisciplinary, cross-sector collaborations between social and natural scientists working on nexus topics, and between academic researchers and those in government, business and civil society engaged in these debates.
  • Enable researchers and stakeholders in business, policy and civil society to develop and share new methodologies, data, conceptual frameworks, skills and practices directed towards nexus challenges.


Sustainability in Turbulent Times – Lessons from the Nexus Network

The Nexus Network launched a report, Sustainability in Turbulent Times, which highlights their learnings on how to tackle the nexus challenge – the interdependency between food, energy, water and the environment.


Nexus2020: the most important questions for business

The Nexus2020 project was designed to further bridge research and business practices by asking the right questions. CISL has worked with the Department of Geography, other researchers and business practitioners to identify knowledge gaps and research priorities that could help make business practices more sustainable. Following a process of collecting submitted questions from academics, business practitioners, policymakers and civil society, we held a two-day event with leading researchers and businesses to rank over 700 questions that were submitted.

Read the published academic paper about the project’s process and findings.

Read the business report on the most important research questions for business sustainability.

Related links 

Thought piece by Dr Jake Reynolds and Dr Gemma Cranston, Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), for the Nexus Network: Nexus thinking: can it slow the Great Acceleration?

Nexus Network website



Gemma Cranston


Dr Gemma Cranston, Director, Business and Nature Team

The Nexus2020 project in under 3 minutes