Edinburgh-based environment mapping firm Ecometrica has won a £14.2 million contract with the UK Space Agency’s recently launched International Partnership Programme (IPP).
Ecometrica has developed a web-based geographic information system (GIS) which collates satellite data and on the ground information to create detailed environmental impact assessment maps.
The deal with IPP is for the ‘Forests 2020’ project, which aims to help countries improve the management and protection of more than 300 million hectares of tropical forests.
Ecometrica will lead an international consortium which includes some of the world’s leading experts on forest monitoring.
The contract, the largest to date from the £150 million UK Space Agency programme, was secured following a competitive tender process.
Last September Ecometrica signed a five-year memorandum of understanding with the University of Edinburgh’s School of Geosciences to provide academics unlimited access to Ecometrica’s state-of-the-art Earth Observation, geospatial intelligence and satellite mapping applications.
In return, the University will incorporate the Ecometrica Platform into research applications in the geospatial area.
As part of the IPP project, Ecometrica will sub-contract experts from the University of Edinburgh, the University of Leicester, and fellow Edinburgh company Carbomap, a specialist in LiDAR forest mapping.
The project will also see Ecometrica bring together various partners in Brazil, Colombia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya and Mexico, where Earth Observation laboratories will be set up to assess threats to rainforests and help direct conservation resources.
The project is expected to complete by March 2020.
Commenting on the new contract win, Dr Richard Tipper, executive chairman of Ecometrica, said: “This will help to establish Ecometrica as a leading international provider of digital infrastructure for earth observation services.
“Working with several organisations in each of the six countries, including research institutions, NGOs and conservationists on the ground, this project will help improve the capacity to implement effective forest and ecosystem monitoring services.
“It is estimated that improved monitoring systems, which enable a more targeted approach, could help prevent the loss of four to six million hectares of forest over the next decade: that’s an area more than half the size of Scotland, or two to three times the size of Wales.”
Dr Tipper added: “We all know how important tropical rainforests are to the survival of the global ecosystem, but most people are only just waking up to the fact that we need to use technology to make sure conservation efforts are effective and properly directed.
“The Earth Observation platforms will ensure threats such as fires and illegal logging are detected sooner, and make the response on the ground faster and more cost effective.”
Ray Fielding, head of the International Partnership Programme at the UK Space Agency, said: “We are very pleased to be working with Ecometrica to address deforestation and sustainable forest management for developing nations.
“The programme will identify innovative ways that space technology can help in this important area, which has been identified by the UN as key for sustainable development, and we intend to make a real difference to the people on the ground working to preserve the world’s forests.”