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Multi-million-pound project will put Devon at the forefront of solving global environmental and big data challenges

By September 27, 2018January 26th, 2021Member News & Updates, Why Exeter blog

A £6.4 million initiative to boost Devon’s expertise in solving future global environmental and big data challenges has formally launched in Exeter – The Environmental Futures & Big Data Impact Lab (Impact Lab).

140 guests attended the launch, including business leaders, regional influencers, technical specialists and local and national government representatives. The event was a chance to learn about the Impact Lab and hear from some of the businesses it has already helped, since its inception in January 2018.

Led by the University of Exeter, the Impact Lab is based at the state-of-the-art Met Office HPC Complex and part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.  The initiative brings together Devon’s leading scientific research centres to help Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to create innovative products and services.

The Impact Lab is a partnership of seven organisations: University of Exeter, Exeter City Futures, Met Office, Plymouth College of Art, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, University of Plymouth and Rothamsted Research.

Robert Kathro, Impact Lab Programme Director, said: “The Impact Lab is a service for SMEs in Devon who need deep technical support to help them solve a key business challenge in the fields of big data, data science and environmental futures.

“Each of our clients receive a bespoke package of support, tailored to their requirements and addressing their specific challenge. Experts from our seven partner organisations ensure the highest quality support and advice is offered.”

Mr Kathro added: “The Impact Lab is supported by the European Regional Development Fund, which means that most of our services are free. We also have grants available for SMEs to partially recoup certain costs.”

Since January 2018, the Impact Lab’s Innovation Support Team has engaged over 100 businesses. It is now delivering a number of projects, creating innovative new products and services with Devon-based businesses through the exploitation of environmental intelligence and data science.

These companies include City Science, whose ‘Last Mile’ project looks at how autonomous vehicles can be used to ferry commuters quickly and safely to and from transport hubs, such as train stations.

Kathryn White, Impact Lab Innovation Manager, said: “Bringing Last Mile to the Impact Lab has enabled us to create a team that combines City Science’s data and subject knowledge with the University of Exeter’s expertise in artificial intelligence and machine learning. This collaboration will enable City Science to build a more robust model for urban planners and transport authorities to reduce congestion in cities around the world.”

Mark Goodwin, Deputy Vice Chancellor (External Engagement), University of Exeter said: “The University of Exeter is delighted to be leading this initiative. The Impact Lab represents a major step forwards, towards delivering a transformational economic agenda that builds on the presence of world class assets in the area, like the University and the Met Office, and which develops our region as a national and international centre for environmental intelligence and data analytics.”

The Impact Lab offers access to free collaboration space, innovative support and expertise from its seven partner organisations.

For more information about the Impact Lab, visit or contact the team on 07867 341750. Follow the team on Twitter (@efbd_impactlab) or LinkedIn (