Welcome back to our Everyone’s Exeter guest blog series, focusing on one of the 12 Goals each month over the next year. We will be hearing from business leaders on the impact that the featured goal of the month will have on their business and what their organisations are already doing to tackle the goal.

We are joined this month, for the Analytical and Entrepreneurial City goal, by Kathryn White, Innovation Manager for Environmental Futures & Big Data Impact Lab, and the University of Exeter.


Hi, I’m Kathryn White and I’m Innovation Manager for University of Exeter at the Environmental Futures & Big Data Impact Lab, based at the Exeter Science Park. The Impact Lab is a programme funded by the European Regional Development Fund that unites seven of Devon’s world-class research organisations to help our local businesses to innovate with technology and build new products and services.

We offer free support from our core team of advanced technical specialists, who can support businesses to develop solutions that require complex data analytics, and/or use technology to benefit the environment. Our projects range from developing new types of solar panels to using satellite data to understand urban tree coverage.

We are proud to count Exeter City Futures as one of our seven partners, working alongside the Met Office, University of Plymouth, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Plymouth College of Art, Rothamsted Research and of course University of Exeter.

For more information on the Impact Lab, please visit our website at www.impactlab.org.uk

I moved down to Exeter nearly two years ago to take this role at the Impact Lab, and also support the development of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the South West. I have spent most of my career working in innovation, moving from corporate innovation into ecosystem research and startup support. Following a few years working in Silicon Valley, I spent a year researching early stage innovation ecosystems across the world to understand how to support and grow entrepreneurial activity. I was drawn to Devon because of the investment that Exeter is putting in to developing their own innovation ecosystem, with support programmes coming out from the educational institutions and other groups, and the development of the Exeter Science Park. I feel like there is a real opportunity here to grow the ecosystem and have a positive impact on the local economy.

Because I’m passionate about supporting tech and entrepreneurship, I wear quite a few other hats beyond my day job – as a leader of TechExeter (techexter.uk) and curating events for the Exeter Initiative for Science & Technology (ExIST – www.existexeter.co.uk).

One of the pieces of advice I often give for developing an innovation ecosystem, is to focus on a particular strength of the region. The South West is intricately connected with nature and we have an amazing wealth of expertise in environmental science, as well as a passion for sustainability. The creation of Exeter City Futures and the 12 Goals highlights the value we place on these topics as a region, and I believe it will be our environmental expertise and sustainability leadership that help build a strong entrepreneurial reputation for the South West.

However, in order for the ecosystem to develop, we need to make sure that the region has the right skills and talent to support entrepreneurial growth. It feels like every day there is a new story in the papers about the importance of data in modern society, and businesses are increasingly realising that without the ability to access and analyse data, they won’t be able to compete in the future. This is why I feel that the Analytical & Entrepreneurial City Goal is such an important piece of the puzzle. Achieving this goal will underpin our ability to deliver on every single one of the other targets, and will provide essential skills to grow our economy.

The Analytical & Entrepreneurial City Goal says that “Exeter will be an engaged data-aware and entrepreneurial city which has the skills to analyse and address the challenges that it faces.” This doesn’t just mean that civic leaders and large businesses will crunch data, Exeter City Futures is passionate about democratizing data access for the entire community. Part of this mission is the development of the Exeter Data Mill –  an open data platform to share civic data and make it accessible to startups, citizens, and communities. Its aim is to make the city’s data more open and deliver insight into the ways in which we can all make our city a better, more fulfilling place to live.

The Data Mill is an important component of the Impact Lab project. By joining this data access up with the technical support offered by the Impact Lab and the business support provided through the Exeter Velocities accelerator programme, we hope to enable local businesses to find innovative solutions to tackle sustainability challenges both here and across the world.

If you have an innovative data solution of your own that you’d like to explore, then get in touch at info@impactlab.org.uk