Launching a New EU Project Aims to Reduce Impact of Disasters

Mon, 14 Mar 2016 11:09:00 GMT

ASCENT partnership

Photo: ASCENT partnership

Over 30 experts from across Europe and Asia are meeting on the 14th March 2016, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, to launch a new project funded by the European Union to strengthen research and innovation capacity for the development of societal resilience to disasters. The four-day meeting will conclude on Thursday 17th March, and will provide a basis for a three-year work plan.

The project, called ASCENT (Advancing Skill Creation to ENhance Transformation) will support training, skills, leadership development, international collaboration and university-industry partnerships. It will strengthen the ability of higher education to respond to research needs in disaster resilience. It will also empower individuals and organisations with the skills, competencies and credentials needed to continue to pursue research, and to lead research at institutions, aimed at reducing the impact of disasters.

ASCENT is co-funded by an EU Erasmus+ programme grant of approx. € 1 million, will run for three years and is led by the University of Huddersfield’s Global Disaster Resilience Centre, based in the UK. They are joined by a consortium of 13 European and Asian higher education institutions from the Bangladesh, Estonia, Lithuania, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Thailand and the UK.  

“Asia experiences the most disasters globally and a major contributory factor to disaster risk is capacity. Asian countries need to improve their capacity to produce knowledge domestically and absorb the knowledge produced elsewhere”, Professor Amaratunga from the Global Disaster Resilience Centre at Huddersfield, said. “At the same time, there is a need for higher education to undertake and communicate high quality and policy relevant research.”

Over three years, the ASCENT consortium will identify research and innovative capacity needs across Asian higher education institutions in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Thailand to tackle the development of societal resilience to disasters. It will develop research infrastructure, prepare researchers to undertake advanced, world-class and innovative, multi- and inter-disciplinary research, and increase international cooperation among higher education. It will also explore, promote and initiate opportunities for fruitful university / industry partnerships. In doing so, ASCENT will provide the link between the research and the public, helping to reinforce the connection between education and society.

The project was inspired by the Sendai Framework for Action 2015-2030, signed by 187 UN member states in March 2015, as a 15-year, voluntary, non-binding agreement which recognises that the State has the primary role to reduce disaster risk but that responsibility should be shared with other stakeholders including local government, the private sector and other stakeholders.

The Framework identifies that international, regional, sub-regional and transboundary cooperation remains pivotal in supporting the efforts of States, their national and local authorities, as well as communities and businesses, to reduce disaster risk.

The first phase of ASCENT will involve a detailed analysis of existing capacity for disaster resilience among higher education in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Thailand. This will provide the basis for future capacity development activities.

For further information on the ASCENT project, contact Professor Dilanthi Amaratunga ( and Professor Richard Haigh ( or visit the website at

The ASCENT project consortium receives financial assistance from the European Union. The European Commission support for the project and its associated activities and outputs does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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