OR/13/043 Stakeholder engagement

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Wang, L, Kingdon, A, Shelley, W A, and Smith, N A . 2013. OneRTM: a pilot study for exploring the business case for the next generation of online real-time numerical modelling and data services. British Geological Survey External Report, OR/13/043.

A series of separate stakeholder interactions was undertaken to publicise the development of OneRTM which would allow the system to be further developed. This formed four separate requirements:

  • Potential business partners in developing and commercialising the system
  • Potential public-sector end-users
  • Potential water industry end-users
  • Potential finance industry end-users

Potential business partners in developing and commercialising the system[edit]

Discussion at the NERC Pure Associates meeting in Oxford on September 10 and elsewhere have identified three potential business partners with the capability to develop OneRTM as a commercial service. The requirement of this process demands that the company involved have a number of the following series of attributes:

  • Involvement in a relevant field of business, such as scientific software development
  • Familiarity with environmental modelling systems
  • Consultancy in the environmental industries, for example water companies, environmental protection agencies, central or local government
  • Relationships with key stakeholders
  • Expertise in information on environmental risks

Because of the commercially sensitive nature of the discussion with potential partners it is not possible to identify them in this report. Non disclosure agreements have been signed to protect their identities. However their principal areas of business are:

  • A research consultancy with strong links to environmental modelling and the water industry
  • A scientific software developer with links to environmental modelling and provision of data to UK government
  • An IT Company software and with interests in high performance computing

Discussions are ongoing regarding identifying the most suitable of these companies for development of a consortium for inclusion in the forthcoming TSB competition ‘Solving business problems with Environmental Data’. Such a consortium would require the involvement of an academic partners (BGS singly or with others).

At an earlier stage of the project the involvement of a more general software company was considered with North 51 Digital (a Nottingham based website and app development company approached. Unfortunately no response was received and subsequently the specific role and requirements for a potential business partner have been clarified. It is clear that more specialists skills than these are required to fully commercialise OneRTM.

Specific considerations needed to take onertm to market[edit]

In a follow-up application to the TSB ‘Solving Business Problems with Environmental Data’ call it is presumed that amongst the issues to be fully considered the following will be included:

  • Development of a details business plan to commercialise OneRTM working with possible business partners.
  • The different administrative models under which this could be taken forward (sale of IPR, licence to value added data reseller, joint venture, spin out)
  • The different delivery models under which this expertise could be taken to market (e.g. retailed software product, as a service provided by third party, service directly supplied by BGS)
  • How to professionalise delivery of OneRTM by working with business partner(s) to produce a better end-user experience
  • Customising OneRTM to meet the requirements of its real business applications including integration of specific company models for example groundwater models of other areas than were including in the initial pilot, including those developed in different groundwater modelling packages
  • Long-term opportunities for OneRTM as a platform to deliver a wider array of environmental models including delivery of modelling outputs supplied by other institutions in the NHP and ESSP which are outside BGS’s specific area of expertise
  • Potentially the long-term opportunities for OneRTM as a platform to deliver a different types of modelling outputs (eg traffic forecast models) outside BGS’s area of expertise
  • Examination of the potential to use OneRTM as a way of providing easy to understand warnings of potential environmental threats or risks to businesses, and local and central government functions who are unlikely to have either the capacity or capability to deal with detailed modelled outputs of the type that OneRTM is currently configured to deliver

Potential additional academic partners[edit]

During the lifespan of this project consideration has been given to widening the academic partners within this project to facilitate a wider range of outputs to be supplied by OneRTM. Contacts were sought through the Environmental Science to Services Partnership and also directly with the University of Nottingham geography Department (who have pertinent skills in many aspects of the project) but lack of a satisfactory response to these contacts has led to these activities being discontinued.

Potential public sector end-users[edit]

Contacts with UK Environment Agency have identified two potential areas of EA which OneRTM could directly assist the EA flood forecasting centre and EA abstraction licensing department.

Potential water company end-users[edit]

A series of contacts have been made with UK water companies to identify potential areas of interest in resolving problems within their regions. Amongst the companies contacted are Anglian, Severn Trent, Thames and Yorkshire Water as all of these have a significant component of groundwater input to their existing supply infrastructure. Whilst there are as yet no specific offers of direct involvement both Thames and Yorkshire have shown interest in the system and could constitute potential partners. Both companies have groundwater reserves that provide a significant proportion of their total supply (around 60% and 20% respectively).

Public sector data supplier[edit]

The majority of the data that are currently used in the production of the output from the OneRTM system are provided by BGS (or through the BGS hosted NGDC) or other NERC institutes (notably CEH) and access to these data streams for the research component of this work has been straightforward. Existing NERC mechanisms can be applied for access to these if OneRTM approaches commercialisation.

However a key component of the developing business case must be the provision of forecast models to help end-users scenario plan potential opportunities and threats depending upon groundwater levels. This will require the implementation of new functionality within OneRTM. This will only be possible if BGS is able to input weather data streams provided by the UK Met Office. Unfortunately the Met Office has thus far proven unreceptive to supporting the development of this product, possibly because they have seen conflicts with their own existing commercialisation efforts. Ideally there should be a clear mechanism to facilitate interactions between the Met Office and other public sector research establishments and data suppliers. In the meantime there are a number of possible models which could be followed to bypass this roadblock:

  1. Direct involvement by the Met Office in future research bids
  2. Support for this research by the Natural Hazards Partnership/ESSP as these initiatives includes both the BGS and the Met Office) as in particular this should facilitate provision of data
  3. Given the lack of assistance received from the Met Office thus far any action to commercialise this product may simply require the purchasing of the appropriate data streams to facilitate forecast product development

Wider potential opportunities[edit]

Beyond the simple opportunities described by this the pilot project a wider opportunity exists to deliver a range of environmental models to a wider group of stakeholders. Many organisations and companies develop modelling outputs which serve a wide range of the stakeholders to multiple end-users. A significant number of these outputs could potentially be delivered to these end-users in a dynamic way by a mechanism such as OneRTM with the advantages that this confers. Whilst the next stages of this project are likely to continue to concentrate on environmental modelling with envisaged end-users in existing sectors which BGS already serves. However in the longer term it is imaginable that this technology will provide a platform for a wider distribution of time-variant spatial model outputs which will not necessarily involve an environmental component. For example, information on time variant industrial processes might be served in the same manner as environmental model outputs through a common portal.

This technology therefore meets a need that is currently unfulfilled; this offers a significant opportunity for information technology companies to both industry and government.