18 months in – 450 business contacts, 55 clients and more to come!Published: 1st September 2019

An Impact Lab mid-programme update from Robert Kathro, Programme Director

We are now half way through the 3 year Environmental Futures and Big Data Impact Lab programme and it’s going exceptionally well with huge demand from businesses in the region for the data analytics services and data that the lab partners provide.

A big ‘thank you’ to the 39 superb clients with whom we have already completed projects or who are working with us. It is a real pleasure working with each of them and providing assistance as they develop innovative new products and services.

Besides these 39 projects, we have another 55 technical problem solving sessions underway or completed. These are short, focussed working sessions to address specific data intelligence questions and they are proving very popular as they provide valuable insights into the world of data analytics.

We have provided grant funding to 16 businesses with a total value of £430,000 to date. These funds are normally provided to support the client with obtaining resources required for their project that cannot be provided by the 7 partners.

The lab also provides access to specialist mentors, free of charge, and we work within an extensive network of business support and funding – the lab is a part of a much larger set of initiatives designed to put the region on the map globally for Environmental Futures and Big Data – or data intelligence for short. 

We host a variety of events at the 3 locations from which the lab operates – at the Exeter Science Park, at the University of Plymouth and at Rothamsted Research, North Wyke, near Okehampton. The events cover a range of topics, all designed to create awareness of the business opportunities in each sector we operate in and the capabilities of the partners.

The lab has played a role in the creation of a number of new jobs as clients move on to develop and roll out their new product or service.

And well done to the delivery team members spread across the 7 partners, each of whom is  providing specialist content knowledge to our client businesses to make the programme such a success. We have 12 dedicated data analytics consultants on the team plus access to all the skills and knowledge within the 7 partners.

Details of each client project are on the client stories page, and they make compelling reading. We are working across a wide range of industry sectors and types of businesses, but there is one thing in common - all our clients come to us to benefit from free access to world leading data analytics capabilities and the rich sources of data within the partners.

The lab is working with regional businesses operating in the health and social care, agriculture, advanced engineering, marine and environmental sectors, plus a few that are harder to categorise. Our clients range from mature SMEs with established international sales to very early stage businesses with great potential. We have a few multinationals involved working on innovative products and services that they are developing with our regional clients.

It is also very encouraging that many of the lab’s clients go on to a longer term relationship with one or more of the partners as they continue to develop their products and services.

One theme that arises regularly as we engage with businesses is that the lab offers them 3 benefits. First, the innovation opportunities that they wish to address often require a cross discipline approach, for example a blend of knowledge from economists and engineers, or data scientists and designers, often from more than one partner. They may also have found it difficult to gain access to data and the lab can help with this too. Second, the lab provides streamlined access to the skills and knowledge residing in the 7 partners - we are able to quickly identify who is best placed to help. Thirdly, the lab aims to launch new projects quickly, within weeks if required, to deliver meaningful results in a short timeframe if required.

Finally, our pipeline of clients is encouraging and we are planning to continue to exceed the targets that we have set ourselves. We have met well over 450 regional businesses, stretching from Exeter to Plymouth and East Devon to North Devon and all the locations in between. We even have a few clients who have moved to Devon to take advantage of the lab offer.

The team and I look forward to continuing to deliver value for businesses in the region. Please do contact us if you have any data intelligence challenges that you need to address in order to grow your business.