Event shows how £6.4m project can have positive impact for businesses

Impact Lab

Business leaders from across Plymouth have been finding out how the region’s environmental and technological expertise can benefit them.

Dozens of companies attended the Plymouth launch of The Environmental Futures & Big Data Impact Lab (Impact Lab), held at Plymouth Science Park.

The Impact Lab is a £6.4 million project, part-funded by a £3.4 million grant from the European Regional Development Fund.

Its aim is to harness the knowledge held within those institutions as a resource for collaborative projects with businesses in the county to solve a key technical challenge in the development of a new product, service or process.

The Impact Lab brings together seven world class Devon-based organisations – the University of Exeter, Exeter City Futures, the Met Office, the University of Plymouth, Plymouth College of Art, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, and Rothamsted Research.

This launch event was specifically designed to reach out to firms in and around the city, and was coordinated by the three Plymouth partners.

It included talks about some of the environmental and technological challenges businesses might face, and how the organisations’ expertise could individually and collectively help overcome them. A further interactive panel discussion provided the opportunity for questions and discussion.

Professor Iain Stewart, Director of the Sustainable Earth Institute at the University of Plymouth, said: 

“We live in an era where everyone, whether they employ one person or one thousand, is more environmentally aware than ever. And every company, regardless of the size and sector, faces challenges that they might not have the expertise to address themselves. With funding of up to £50,000 available for new projects, the Impact Lab is perfect for small businesses looking to overcome obstacles and take advantage of opportunities now and in the future.”

Oli Raud, Strategic Funding Manager, Plymouth College of Art:

“Businesses in the South West are already accessing the skills and resources available within the Impact Lab project to help them design and launch new products that solve environmental problems through digital technologies and academic expertise. At Fab Lab Plymouth, we can offer local businesses support and expert guidance in areas such as digital design, prototyping and manufacturing, as well as innovative use of media and big data visualisation.”

Dr Tim Fileman, Business Development Manager, Plymouth Marine Laboratory:

“The Impact Lab is a great initiative that encourages our academics to engage with SMEs across Devon. By creating a Devon knowledge network and giving local businesses free access to the world class academic expertise held within organisations like Plymouth Marine Laboratory, we can work together on innovative projects to boost jobs and wealth in the region. For me the highlight of the day was the lively engagement and enthusiasm of so many local SMEs who will all, hopefully, benefit from our help and expertise.”

<p>Professor Iain Stewart - Impact Lab</p>
Professor Iain Stewart
<p>Dr Antonio Rago Impact Lab<br></p>
Dr Antonio Rago
<p>Sarah Fear, Impact Lab Project Manager</p>
Project Manager Sarah Fear
<p>Dr Zaki Ahmed</p>
Dr Zaki Ahmed

Assisting Devon-based SMEs with big data and environmental challenges

The Environmental Futures and Big Data Impact Lab project gives Devon-based SMEs the opportunity to work collaboratively with our scientists and technologists to develop new products, services or processes with a focus on big data and safeguarding the environment. 

Larger enterprises can be involved through challenge events, where collaborative working with businesses and individuals can work on solving the most pressing environmental and big data issues.

Upcoming events

  • Sustainable Food Systems Challenge (11 June 2019) - hosted by Rothamsted Research
  • Venturefest South West (17 June 2019)
  • Property Investment Group meeting: A focus on our carbon footprint – a talk by Professor Iain Stewart (3 July 2019) – members only
  • Immersive data and visualisations workshop (July 2019) – booking opening soon
  • Social media workshop (Autumn 2019)
  • Life cycle assessments for small businesses workshop (October 2019)
  • Dataplay event in collaboration with Plymouth City Council (October 2019)

Access research expertise and facilities

Through Impact Lab you can access a variety of research expertise and facilities at the University of Plymouth, including:

  • Collaboration with experts in earth and environmental sciences, computing and mathematics, and digital arts and creative media
  • Free business support to solve a key technical challenge in the development of a new product, service or process
  • Physical facilities such as workstations, meeting rooms and demonstration space
  • Access to the University's Immersive Vision Theatre and other facilities
  • Grants for products and services to make your project successful (such as development and testing costs, or intellectual property applications).
This £6.4m part-funded ERDF project is delivered by the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth with the Met Office, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Rothamsted Research, Plymouth College of Art and Exeter City Futures. The University of Plymouth's partnership is housed in the Sustainable Earth Institute.

Sustainable Earth Institute

The Sustainable Earth Institute is about promoting a new way of thinking about the future of our world.

We bring researchers together with businesses, community groups and individuals to develop cutting-edge research and innovative approaches that build resilience to global challenges. 

We link diverse research areas across the University including science, engineering, arts, humanities, health and business.

Find out more about our institute