New partners announced at official launch of the institute for environmental analytics

Press Release issued: Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Institute for Environmental Analytics (IEA), a new organisation bridging the gap between scientific research and industry, has been officially launched by DEFRA Minister Rory Stewart.

He joined Sir David Bell KCB, Vice-Chancellor of University of Reading, to meet CEO of the IEA, Colin McKinnon, and Partners including Sainsbury’s, Microsoft and Telespazio Vega, at London’s Digital Catapult on Tuesday, January 26th.

The IEA is a major initiative, funded by HEFCE Catalyst Fund and the IEA partners, to support the development of the environmental big data analytics market. It will act as an intermediary between world-leading scientific expertise and industry, undertaking pre-commercial R&D and the development of proof-of-concept demonstrators. Partners and clients will be able to tap into cutting-edge scientific research to help develop new products and services and improve their business operations.

It will work across five main sectors:

  • Agri-food
  • Insurance
  • Built environment and infrastructure
  • Logistics and transport
  • Utilities

The IEA will also deliver training courses to tackle skills gaps in environmental analytics.

Stewart said: “I would like to say how welcome this initiative is and what a very good time it’s coming at. We as a department have data at the very centre of everything we do, [whether we’re deciding how much to spend on flood defences or assessing air pollution], in every single case it is environmental data and environmental analytics and the quality of the data we collect, the quality of the models we construct and the kind of political debate we are then able to have with people, all comes back in the end to data.

“We’ve decided to open up more than 8,000 data sets. That’s about a third of the total data sets in the UK government opened up, and the result for us is absolutely fantastic because what we’re finding is that private sector companies are turning that data around. [To give just one example], companies like GaugeMap are making river gauge data available online so you can actually watch in real time exactly what’s happening to your river. And that makes a real difference to people’s lives.

“That is why I am incredibly excited today to have a small part in backing and launching the IEA. Many thanks to Colin for his inspiration and the University of Reading’s work.”

Sir David said: “There is a long and distinguished history of environmental and climate research at Reading. The IEA helps translate some of the outputs of this to specific challenges in a range of sectors.”

McKinnon said: “We are proud to see the reality of the IEA taking shape, with early project wins and most of the team in place – just last week we delivered our first training course on utilising the free data being generated by the new EU Copernicus satellite programme which was sold out; we are in advanced discussions with further partners; we have finished our first demonstrator for the insurance sector and we are working on two more, with seven or eight others in the pipeline.

“With the collaboration of our Partners, the IEA is looking forward to creating value and growth for the UK from the environmental data analytics.

“Businesses of all sizes need to be making commercial use of environmental data, or risk falling behind their competitors, and we can provide the expertise to support them.”

McKinnon announced three new Partners – BMT Group, ERM and Agrimetrics – who join the 13 founding Partners: University of Reading, Airbus Defence & Space, Deimos Space UK, Lighthill Risk Network, The Met Office, Microsoft UK & Microsoft Research, National Centre for Earth Observation, University of Oxford, Sainsbury’s, Satellite Applications Catapult, Science & Technologies Facilities Council, University of Surrey and Telespazio Vega.”