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Sustainability collaboration leads to launch of first Earth Observation Lab


he relationship between the University of Edinburgh and Scottish environmental and sustainability software company Ecometrica dates back to 2008 when the University hosted Gary Davis, the company’s co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, in setting up the company on campus under an Edinburgh Research & Innovation company start-up initiative Gary was hosted in the School of GeoSciences during a two-year period to develop his business idea. From a single employee in 2008, Ecometrica has grown into a global organisation of more than 25 employees across Europe and North America, providing real data solutions to worldwide problems and allowing businesses to improve their sustainability. Over the past eight years, Ecometrica has worked closely with the School of GeoSciences on a number of land-use mapping and earth observation projects. The University has also been an early champion of the company’s technology. Dr Ed Mitchard’s Comparing Global Carbon Maps application was an early demonstrator of how it can be used to disseminate research outputs, and is used by Ecometrica for live demos. Now, the company has established the first Earth Observation Lab (EO Lab) at the University to support the development and use of models and tools for earth observation.

Professor Mathew Williams

The EO Lab partnership emerged out of the UK Space Agency-funded ‘International Partnerships Space Programme’ (IPSP), aiming to develop international partnerships that matched UK expertise in space technology with emerging economies. Ecometrica worked with the University, along with other UK partners, to collaborate with leading organisations in Mexico and Brazil on the Earth Observation of Forests and related aspects of forest monitoring, resource management, planning and policy making. The EO Lab at the University was one of the direct outcomes of the project. Dr Richard Tipper, Ecometrica’s Executive Chairman, said: “We aim to develop a global network of EO Labs, all based in world-class institutions in the fields of remote sensing and earth sciences. The University is a recognised leader in this area and will be an excellent demonstrator to roll out this model to other organisations and research institutes.”

As more EO Labs join the global network, researchers around the world will be able to share data and create customised applications to monitor environmental changes in forests, agriculture and coastal ecosystem. Professor Mathew Williams, Head of Global Change Research Institute in the School of GeoSciences, said: “The Edinburgh EO Lab will utilise Ecometrica’s cloud-based spatial management software to build and develop a range of applications for sharing and distributing valuable spatial content, from Earth Observation derived data mainly for land cover, forestry and agriculture.” Ecometrica uses open-source data and imaging from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel satellites to bring clarity to environmental and natural resource challenges, by combining data from satellites with local information and business intelligence. Given international agreements on climate change, forests, food security, biodiversity and bioenergy, the market for downstream services for satellite data relating to forests and ecosystems is expected to exceed £4 billion per year by 2025. Products will include, for example, Earth Observation for targeted precision agriculture, which uses Edinburgh crop process modelling under a changing climate to forecast and map the impact of water and nutrient stress on yield. Ecometrica sees this as a long-term partnership and hope to see the use of the EO Lab moving beyond research in the School of GeoSciences to be used across the University of Edinburgh for research and teaching.



Ecometrica uses imaging from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel satellites


If you are interested in partnering with the University of Edinburgh on projects like this, contact Stuart Simmons, Business Development Executive, School of GeoSciences: Stuart.Simmons@ed.ac.uk


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