Environmental information driving local action

The Challenge

The environment sector generates reams of data every day. Taking opportunities to pause and explore the possibilities and potential that the data insights can offer could revolutionise environmental management.

Recognising this, the Environment Agency wanted to explore how their environmental information could be better shared and communicated to enable local action. They partnered with The Water Hub to source ideas and solutions from the digital and data business community to:

  • develop a wider appreciation of the potential uses of environmental data used in river basin management planning
  • improve accessibility and usability of environmental data for local bodies and communities, and
  • engage and empower more people to participate in River Basin Management Planning by making the information more meaningful for local people

What we did

The Water Hub hosted a two-day hackathon at Sunderland Software City to spark the transfer of skills and ideas from the digital and data business community into environmental management. Teams could access the data sets used in river basin management planning and examples of different end user requirements.

Eleven ideas were pitched by nine companies and two university teams. The range and quality of ideas were outstanding. Four awards were made; joint first to Jumping Rivers (see their blog here for a demo of their solution) and Tracerco Flare, joint second to Virtual Tailor and River Action. Find out more here.

In the three months since the event we:

  • submitted applications for funding to the Environment Agency to further develop two concepts pitched at the hack
  • created opportunities for businesses to present their skills and ideas to environmental organisations who may be interesting in their products and services
  • scoped an application for R&D funding from the Environment Agency in partnership with one company
  • are scoping projects to submit to large national funding schemes that would bring companies who participated in this event in as partners
  • commissioned one company to undertake some design work for an upcoming Water Hub event

Professor Louise Bracken, Scientific Director of The Water Hub, commented:
‘The hackathon was a huge success. It is a real pleasure to be able to award funding to innovative ideas that can inform environmental management practices and to now be able to work with the organisations to try to bring these ideas to life’.

“My team has developed a great relationship with The Water Hub and their passion and professionalism is evident in all aspects of their work. We greatly value their open and creative approach they bring when working together, as well as the opportunity to gain fresh insgight into our business challenges through exposure to technologies and companies we wouldn’t ordinarily meet” Damian Crilly, Environment and Business Manager, Environment Agency.

One Year On

Following the hack, the Environment Agency commissioned Jumping Rivers to work with The Water Hub and the end user community to explore what the Catchment Data Explorer could look like if designed with end users in mind. Find out more in our Case Study or jump straight to the Water Body Explorer to see what they produced.


Jumping Rivers

Tracerco Flare
Virtual Tailor
Our values: Open and inclusive collaboration; Integrated networks for practice
Our challenges: Data insight, catchment management