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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.

Exeter City Futures role as a partner of The Environmental Futures & Big Data Impact Lab is to develop a city data store (Exeter Data Mill) to underpin and analyse city challenges and to enable innovators to access data to build new services, as well as helping us move towards a policy of evidence-based decision making.

The Exeter Data Mill will enable the City to measure progress towards goals as well as supporting the development and validation of new products and services that are born out of the Impact Lab and local startup and investment experts Exeter Velocities

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.”