20 May 2021
NatureScot has today launched the next phase of a £1.25 million project using artificial intelligence to improve the management of Scotland’s protected areas.
The project, funded through the UK-wide GovTech Catalyst Challenge, is exploring how new and emerging technology can improve access to information about our most valuable nature sites.
From a field of 24 tech companies that entered the challenge, two finalists - Informed Solutions and Astrosat/Intelligent Reality - have now been selected to develop the final product.
The aim is for a new online service that will combine previously under-used data on planning and protected areas with a range of new technologies, including artificial intelligence and remote sensing to provide immediate, clear information to land managers, developers and the public.
The project is being supported by the Scottish Government CivTech team and Scottish Enterprise. It is hoped that the final product can be adapted for wider use in Scotland, the UK and worldwide to improve access to land use information and advice.
Brian Eardley, NatureScot’s Protected Areas Manager, said: “Scotland’s protected areas safeguard our most special places for nature and provide many benefits to individuals, communities and society as a whole.
“It’s vital that any proposals for change on protected areas don’t compromise, and indeed preferably enhance, these sites. However one of the biggest problems land managers, developers or interested members of the public often encounter is getting hold of the relevant information they need and getting it quickly.
“This project aims to revolutionise that process with a platform that can predict potential impacts on protected areas and provide immediate tailored information and advice for any specific site.
“It has the potential to benefit a wide range of users from the developer unsure of whether to progress a proposal to members of the public interested in their local protected area. We look forward to working with our finalists over the next phase to make this vision a reality.”
Seth Finegan, UK CEO at Informed Solutions, said: “This is a proud moment for Informed Solutions. The NatureScot GovTech Catalyst challenge is an incredibly important initiative, not only for this unique project to help protect land in Scotland, but for environmental projects the world over.
“We’re excited to be able to use our digital experience and data integration and analytics platforms to deliver a unique service that will help look after environmentally sensitive areas for future generations in Scotland and beyond.”
Steve Lee, Astrosat CEO said: "Better Information for land managers epitomises every pro-environmental good that Astrosat stands for. We are thrilled to be working with NatureScot and Intelligent Reality on this project, which is the perfect application for demonstrating the power of Astrosat's geospatial data visualisation platform Orbis."
Richard Harris, Intelligent Reality CEO said: "Intelligent Reality is about making sense of the real world using big data. We are delighted to bring the unique capabilities of our analytic platform to the impact of human activity on the natural environment. This project with NatureScot and Astrosat will help to put Scotland at the global forefront of environmental forecasting.”