New hub will combine data to improve communities and environment

Ecology data screen woman

A new digital hub will facilitate access to environmental data spanning decades, help organisations respond to climate change and improve public health.

A new programme will exploit the rich diversity of environmental data to create innovative digital services that deliver economic, societal, and environmental benefits across the UK.

A team of researchers, led by the University of Manchester, will work closely with the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and a broad range of partners to develop a digital solutions hub.

The hub will:

  • provide a gateway to a broad set of inter-connected toolkits and resources, using data held by NERC and other organisations
  • facilitate the use of this information by businesses, government and society.

The data will help the NHS, local authorities and government plan their infrastructure spending to respond to climate change and improve public health in their communities.

Helping communities

Information available through the platform will bring together existing data sources relevant to:

  • pollution
  • flooding
  • biodiversity
  • geology
  • carbon capture
  • environmental health.

It will integrate economic, health and societal data from other trusted sources including the Office of National Statistics.

Researchers plan to consult stakeholders who may use the hub to ensure its design and content is user orientated.

Improving access to data

The programme is being funded by NERC, part of UK Research and Innovation, and led by Richard Kingston, professor of Urban Planning, at the University of Manchester.

Professor Kingston said:

We are really excited to be embarking on this hugely important programme of work with NERC at a time when decisions about our natural and built environment are crucial to the future of the UK. This is a fantastic project which recognises the depth of expertise we have at the University of Manchester.

Our team will be working with key decision makers across the public sector and industry. This is to ensure they have access to cross-sectional data which enables a much greater understanding of environmental, social, economic and health matters.

Over the next four years the hub will benefit society by improving decision makers’ ability to make informed decisions through the integration of data that has benefits for the future prosperity of the UK.

This will allow them to make informed decisions for the future and help them target investment in services and areas in a wide range of sectors including health, transport, urban and regional planning and utilities.

Supporting informed decision-making

Professor Sir Duncan Wingham, Executive Chair of NERC, said:

NERC holds a unique and hugely significant treasure-trove of data, collated over many years by our funded scientists and institutes. By combining this with data from other sources and using it in new ways, we will unlock new insights to support more informed decisions, changing communities for the better.

As we host COP26 in Glasgow, this investment demonstrates how NERC funding is making a real-world impact on people and areas impacted by climate change and pollution.

The Digital Solutions programme has received £7 million funding from NERC over more than four years, and will use data from the Council’s Environmental Data Service. Researchers will also collaborate closely with:

  • Cardiff University
  • University of Exeter
  • Newcastle University
  • University of Southampton
  • the Turing Institute
  • Data and Analytics Facility for National Infrastructure (DAFNI)
  • the Connected Places Catapult.

Further information

Find out more about the programme by contacting

Partners of the programme include:

  • Environment Agency
  • Defra
  • Natural England
  • SEPA
  • Natural Resources Wales
  • Northern Ireland Environment Agency
  • Climate Northern Ireland
  • Health and Safety Executive
  • NHS Digital
  • Public Health agencies
  • Government Actuaries Department.

Top image:  Credit: Laurence Dutton, Getty Images

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