University of Exeter: Exeter plays pivotal role in new digital hub

Led by the University of Manchester, a new programme named Digital Solutions will exploit the rich diversity of environmental data to create innovative digital services that deliver economic, societal, and environmental benefits across the UK.

A team of researchers, including Professor Gavin Shaddick from the University of Exeter, will work closely with the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and a broad range of partners to develop a digital solutions hub.

The innovative new hub will provide a gateway to a broad set of inter-connected toolkits and resources, using data held by NERC and other organisations from previous decades.

Information available through the platform will bring together existing data sources relevant to pollution, flooding, biodiversity, geology, carbon capture and environmental health.

The data will help the NHS, local authorities and government plan their infrastructure spending to respond to climate change and improve public health in their communities.

Researchers plan to consult stakeholders who may use the hub to ensure its design and content is user orientated.

Professor Shaddick said: “There is an urgent need to integrate environmental data and knowledge across multiple sectors, and to create decision support tools and solutions that help organisations better manage risks and opportunities associated with the environment.

Unlocking the full power of environmental data held across the NERC community, through interaction with stakeholders in both the public and private sector, will require development of AI driven services. The ability to fully exploit the power within these data will be crucial for the success of this pioneering hub, and I am delighted that the University of Exeter will be playing a central role in this endeavour.”

Professor Sir Duncan Wingham, Executive Chair of NERC, said: “NERC holds a unique and hugely significant treasure-trove of data, collated over many years by our funded scientists and institutes. By combining this with data from other sources and using it in new ways, we will unlock new insights to support more informed decisions, changing communities for the better.

“As we host COP26 in Glasgow, this investment demonstrates how NERC funding is making a real-world impact on people and areas impacted by climate change and pollution.”

The Digital Solutions programme has received £7 million funding from NERC over more than four years and will use data from the Council’s Environmental Data Service.

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