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Category: Business

Ep 10 – Rezatec: Finding Solutions, Fixing the Planet from the High Frontier

At a recent Bessemer Society event in Oxford, amongst discussions about new space, disruptive technologies and the cubesat revolution, one of the participants made the following observation.

“Earth is surrounded by layers that act to protect life on the planet from the harshness of space: we know about our atmosphere and the ozone layer, but in the Anthropocene, we’ve added another layer that is becoming just as critical: a thin veneer of data.”

We have become increasingly reliant on the ever growing swarm of satellites that orbit our planet: navigation, communications, security, and the monitoring of everything from natural disasters to climate change. But turning that stream of critical data into high-value intelligence for decision makers is becoming big business: estimates for the booming Earth Observation (EO) market vary from between $8.5bn to $15bn by 2026.

One company in the vanguard of the EO revolution is Harwell-based Rezatec.

Rezatec take data from a wide range of sources, and use geospatial analytics to transform it into something called ‘landscape intelligence’ – usable information on forests, crops, water catchments and even city planning. Increasing numbers of governments, NGOs, utilities and businesses around the globe use this intelligence to do everything from stopping the spread of crop diseases to better safeguarding the security of water supplies.

We sat down with Chief Operating Officer Philip Briscoe and Chief Technical Officer Andrew Carrel to better understand what Rezatec does and why Earth Observation science is becoming so critical: from improving crop yields to making our cities more sustainable.

It seems as if Rezatec use almost every cutting-edge area of science and technology to bear on this data layer: data analytics and machine learning, climate science and biosecurity.

It’s genuinely exciting and Rezatec are growing fast, winning awards, and recently moved into a spanking new HQ building on the Harwell Campus (‘Quad One’). This Autumn, Rezatec joined forces with the European Space Agency (ESA) in contributing to the Invisible Words exhibition at the Eden Project.

Earth Observation is transforming our relationship with the planet, and as we’ll discover, we’ve only just scratched the surface…

(Listen now on SoundCloud – iTunes – Stitcher – for a comprehensive set of show notes, including links, analysis and organisation contact, consider becoming a supporter through Patreon – or email us for more details)

Ep 8 – Destination Detonation: Renee Watson and her journey to The Curiosity Box

I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be curiosity.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

There are many people in life who are passionate about STEM, education and science, and who work hard to connect with children, to unlock a lifelong love of science. But outside mainstream education, it would be difficult to find anyone who has so consistently and brilliantly applied herself in the service of science and education as Renee Watson.

We have been excited to talk with Renee and share her story for a while. Partly this is because you cannot help but swept up in her revolutionary fervour – Renee and her team at The Curiosity Box are leading a bona fide Curiosity Revolution after all. But her own story is so utterly compelling and, well, unlikely.

(Listen now on SoundCloud – iTunes – Stitcher – for a comprehensive set of show notes, including links, analysis and organisation contact, consider becoming a supporter through Patreon – or email us for more details)

Growing up in rural Australia, with no obvious mentors or scientists to ignite her own spark (save one, which we learn about in this episode of Stories from Science) she is almost uniquely qualified to identify and connect to her diamonds in the rough. These are the smart, motivated, curious children who fall through the cracks of mainstream education and yet are exactly the kinds of young people who will see things differently, and provide the new ideas and creativity in science that will solve problems and move society forward.

After tremendous success in science – academically and commercially through her WATS.ON consultancy, Renee set up The Curiosity Box two years ago. She has built a team – and created an ethos – that has led to awards, recognition, and earlier this year she was called out by philanthropist Melinda Gates as one of eight women in STEM to watch worldwide.

The Curiosity Box allows children and their families to do science and experiment in their own homes through a subscription service which sees a regular box crammed full of science fizz through the letterbox (metaphorically), with the aim to make science as common a topic to discuss around the kitchen table as politics and TV shows.

She is ‘Head of Explosions’ at The Curiosity Box – but she is also motivated by social justice, untapped potential, entrepreneurship and a lot of love: for science, and for the families that share back what they do with the science they get sent.

It’s difficult not to get swept up in this enthusiasm for revolution. In this inspiring hour-long interview, we discover why science capital is like carrying a suitcase, we learn the constituent parts of Unicorn Poo, and go toe-to-toe with STEM Barbie.

 

(Listen now on SoundCloud – iTunes – Stitcher – for a comprehensive set of show notes, including links, analysis and organisation contact, consider becoming a supporter through Patreon – or email us for more details)

Ep 3 – The billion dollar question: science as a tool for wealth creation

Hollywood tends to do two things with science. Let the imagination (and the CGI) run wild, or else focus in on one of the biggest clichés in the business: the lone genius battling against odds on a breakthrough that will change (or save) the world.

Sadly, this isn’t how scientific breakthroughs tend to happen…

There’s nothing we love more on ‘Stories from Science’ than a hoary old stereotype that we can bust apart, and this one is particularly dangerous and pernicious. Because whilst there are individuals who slave away in a lab, science breakthroughs that can be moved successfully from research environment into business – science commercialisation – are long, complicated, expensive and often heartbreaking journeys.

Many entrepreneurs think it’s all about the idea. In reality, it’s about everything but, from people and politics, to finance and legal wrangles. Above all it’s not for the faint-hearted.

No-one knows this better than Stephen Bennington, founder and director of science spin-out consultancy Krino Partners. His science journey took him from one of the world’s biggest research facilities (the ISIS neutron source at Harwell), to helping spin-out science and technology companies at universities including Sussex University and University College London (where he was visiting professor for Nanotechnology).

In 2011 he founded his own science spin-out – hydrogen storage company Cella Energy. His experience of the highs and lows on the cutting edge of science commercialisation forms the core of our interview.

As well as being a primer on hydrogen storage and the future of 3D printing, we cover teamwork, transferable skills and the often harsh reality of venture capital. And we get to the core of why science and technology start-ups can fail, and the changes you can do to allow them to succeed. It’s about creating an environment where scientists and engineers can work together in harmony…