Impact lab

Multi-million-pound project will put Devon at the forefront of solving global environmental and big data challenges


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.

The initiative brings together Devon’s leading scientific research centres to help Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to create innovative products and services. Plymouth Marine Laboratory is a partner of the Impact Lab which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

Other partners include the University of Exeter, Exeter City Futures, Met Office, Plymouth College of Art, University of Plymouth and Rothamsted Research.

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.”

Tim Fileman, Innovation Manager at Plymouth Marine Laboratory, mentioned: “The Impact Lab is supported by the European Regional Development Fund, which means that we can provide certain access to scientific expertise and related services for free. In addition, grants can be made available for SMEs to partially recoup certain costs. This is an exciting opportunity for Devon based SMEs to engage with local academic experts to build the latest thinking into their innovations."

Since January 2018, the Impact Lab’s Innovation Support Team has engaged over 100 businesses. It is now delivering a number of projects, creating innovative new products and services with Devon-based businesses through the exploitation of environmental intelligence and data science.

These companies include City Science, whose ‘Last Mile’ project looks at how autonomous vehicles can be used to ferry commuters quickly and safely to and from transport hubs, such as train stations.

Kathryn White, Impact Lab Innovation Manager at Exeter University, said: “Bringing Last Mile to the Impact Lab has enabled us to create a team that combines City Science’s data and subject knowledge with the University of Exeter’s expertise in artificial intelligence and machine learning. This collaboration will enable City Science to build a more robust model for urban planners and transport authorities to reduce congestion in cities around the world.”

The Impact Lab offers access to free collaboration space, innovative support and expertise from its seven partner organisations.


For more information about the Impact Lab, visit or contact Tim Fileman on 07818 402631. Follow the team on Twitter (@efbd_impactlab) or LinkedIn (

Other recent news articles


Plymouth scientists play key role in understanding future threats to the Atlantic

Plymouth’s world-leading ocean scientists will play a key role in an international project that aims to map and assess the current and future risks posed across the Atlantic Ocean.


New project links climate change, marine biodiversity and ecosystem services

FutureMARES is an EU-funded research project examining the relations between climate change, marine biodiversity and ecosystem services. It hosted its kick-off meeting online through 22-24 September.


Arctic phytoplankton face competition in warming seas

As Arctic seas warm, important phytoplankton communities could find themselves competing for nutrients with encroaching Atlantic species, suggests new research from Plymouth Marine Laboratory.