University of Edinburgh
Engineering and Technology
Environmental and Forestry
Edinburgh & Lothians
Ecometrica is an end-to-end environmental software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider that is recognised as one of the world’s top sustainability brands. Incorporated in 2008, the company has unrivalled experience in helping businesses and governments identify risks and opportunities by combining satellite earth observation data with local information and business intelligence on the award-winning Ecometrica Platform. Ecometrica now has over 250 corporate clients, including ARM, Pearson, Compass Group, Etsy and Hertz.
Ecometrica brings together recognised experts in environmental and sustainability accounting, and their software supports all aspects of sustainability planning, operations and reporting. Their data and services are available from all their worldwide locations. Founded in Edinburgh in 2008, they also have offices in Montreal (2009), London (2012), Boston (2014) and Mexico (2017).
In 2013, a project team, led by the University of Edinburgh and comprising of local SME partners, LTS International and Ecometrica, successfully applied to the DFID (Department for International Development) Hectares Indicator Project – International Climate Fund (ICF) forestry programme. DFID awarded £32,000 to the team to review and suggest improvements to their methodology for quantifying hectares of avoided forest loss and forest restored as a result of international development finance.
SFC Innovation Voucher Follow On Funding
In 2014, a Scottish Funding Council (SFC) Follow On Innovation Voucher of £11,600 was awarded to Ecometrica and Dr Edward Mitchard from the University of Edinburgh (UoE) for a project titled Earth Observation support for assessing the performance of the UK government’s ICF forest projects.
This follow on funding allowed Dr Mitchard to undertake additional analysis over Brazil to test the suitability of different earth observation (EO) satellite products for monitoring forest change. The project results gave Ecometrica a better understanding of the accuracy of the EO products, and enabled them to improve their testing and performance assessment offerings to institutions such as DFID, DECC, DEFRA, World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank.
“The Innovation Voucher is a fantastic scheme that made it really easy for me to work with a local SME and conduct research with real and immediate impact. My relationship with Ecometrica has grown since the Follow On Innovation Voucher was awarded, with it contributing to the development of ideas towards our current much larger collaborative projects. I would strongly encourage other academics to engage with Interface, who administer this SFC programme”, said Dr Edward Mitchard, University of Edinburgh.
Benefits of the Collaborative Project
Edinburgh University and Ecometrica will continue to establish a leading position in Europe for this type of work. The benefits to the University of Edinburgh will be felt in terms of its international research and innovation ranking, and its reputation in the fields of forest ecology and the application of space technology. Ecometrica expects to continue its growth in this area:
- Academics and students at the University of Edinburgh School of Geosciences are among the first to gain unlimited access to millions of pounds worth of state-of-the-art Earth Observation, geospatial intelligence and satellite mapping applications, thanks to a groundbreaking memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the University and Ecometrica. The MoU formalises the ongoing collaboration between Ecometrica and the University of Edinburgh, which is expected to be worth around £4.5m to both parties over a five year period. Ecometrica will make its Mapping suite – a web-based, universal, disruptive geographic information system (GIS) – available on a limitless basis to the University, so that it can be used for research and teaching purposes.
- Ecometrica won a contract from the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Space Programme worth over £14m. The ‘Forests 2020’ project is to help countries improve the management and protection across 300 million hectares of tropical forests – 12 times the size of the United Kingdom – and sees Ecometrica lead an international consortium that brings together many of the world’s leading experts on forest monitoring. The University of Edinburgh contributes to this project by expanding and automating their accuracy analysis of the existing University of Maryland products, and research alternatives for when this performs poorly (as well as expanding the deforestation analysis into the future using full carbon models to help with scenario analysis). This project also funded 3-year licences for University of Edinburgh staff to use Ecometrica’s EO Labs to disseminate results of their analyses. The initiative, now involving seven countries, has already led to many new partnerships and collaborations worldwide, and has been invaluable in developing solutions, while ensuring they are ideally suited for monitoring every aspect of modern environmental concerns. ‘Forests 2020’ has recently been extended to include monitoring banana plantations, soya farms and palm oil plantations.
- Both Indonesia and Ghana have made commitments to working with Ecometrica in the decade ahead, enabling a greater focus on sustainable forest management and the conservation of tropical forests. The company is also working with a growing number of blue chip corporates, committed to better understanding their roles and responsibilities in tackling climate change.
- Through this project, Edward Mitchard at UoE developed a greater understanding of which forest cover change products work best in which landscapes. This knowledge led to a guidance document on forest change monitoring produced under contract from DFID, and to an understanding of areas and types of forest change where no current product works well. There is clearly a wide user base for forest change products. Dr Mitchard applied for funding from the EU and UK research councils and other sources to develop better, satellite radar-based methods for mapping forest change, with clear long-term commercial implications (that could potentially be developed in partnership with Ecometrica).