Upfront flood defence
WHEN storms batter Britain in the future, it could be the super accurate flood forecasting developed by Loughborough University spin- out Previsico that saves lives and livelihoods. An emerging force in the insurtech sector, the business pinpoints risks in real time – known as nowcasting – down to property street level and can generate a new forecast every three hours.
Other hazards such as hail, wind and snow melt are also covered in its subscription- based service model.
Originally a specialist in surface flooding, the main type causing havoc domestically, “we’re now the only forecast that covers all forms of flooding,” says chief executive Jonathan Jackson. He is predicting a £ 500,000 turnover for Previsico this year and plans a growth funding raise in 2021.
Extreme weather events and climate change generally, as well as spreading urbanisation on unfit land such as flood plains, have been driving factors worldwide for the increase in floods and their devastating aftermath. In the UK some 40 per cent of businesses hit by severe water damage fail to recover.
Previsico’s clients range from the public sector, the Cabinet Office, to councils, insurers and the emergency services, a new emerging sector using precise forecasting to improve response times.
Internationally, new clients in Asia are in the pipeline as well as the US, where it has recently launched.
Founded by Loughborough academics and majority shareholders Professor Dapeng Yu and Dr Avi Baruch, an approach by the Cabinet Office for its modelling expertise led to the spin- out and then its ResilienceDirect service last year, followed by its FloodMap Live system. It now employs 15, integrates precipitation forecasts from IBM’s The Weather Company, and offers a “48- hour forecast across all flood forms and at 25m throughout the UK. We also have a dashboard and warnings service by email or text for property level warnings,” says Jackson.
False alarms are a common experience but Previsico significantly reduces that, he explains.
“This reliable aspect of our service has been particularly successful. It enables people to move valuables to safety and put up flood defences to protect property. We can also forecast small rivers and streams not covered by the Environment Agency.”
A £ 177,000 grant and a £ 700,000 loan from government- backed Innovate UK have helped expansion.
While Previsico has a commercial imperative, Jackson is aware of the support the company can contribute to disaster relief in countries on the frontline of climate change. “This is the most pressing issue of our age,” he says. “Where we can help we will.”