Cranfield University is offering specialist advice to one of six new businesses which will receive part of a £180,000 award by Innovate UK to promote the sharing economy.

Innovate UK’s ‘IC tomorrow’ programme ran a competition to find solutions for a number of problems facing different industries in the sharing economy.

The sharing economy is changing the way people buy goods and services. It involves the use of internet technologies connecting distributed people and businesses to make better use of goods, skills, services, capital and spaces, allowing them to share access and reduce the need for ownership.

The winners of one of the six challenge areas, ‘Data analytics for sharing economy cities’ was Folk Labs’ MetroFlow proposal. Their £30,000 prize from Innovate UK will be used for a six-month project to develop a tool that visualises urban systems by using ‘crowdsourced’ data to provide communities with a better understanding of how they can increase and build upon the sharing capabilities of cities.

Cranfield is working in partnership with Peterborough City Council, led by Cécile Faraud, and Opportunity Peterborough to support Folk Labs. The company’s co-founders, Chris Wells and Paul Mackay, recently came on campus to meet with Dr Stephen Hallett from the Cranfield Soil and Agrifood Institute. This was together with recent Geographical Information Management (GIM) MSc student Rob Blackwell, who has extensive business experience and was the recipient of the Peterborough Smart City Student Bursary for 2015-16.

Dr Hallett said: “I was one of the judges back in May and there were eventually four finalists, narrowed down from 18 applicants, who pitched in a Dragons’ Den-style event. I was really impressed with the strong level of competition but Folk Labs’ bid was outstanding.

“We’re looking forward in continuing to support Peterborough City Council to ensure a successful project outcome and which continues Cranfield’s well-established academics links to the city.”

The entire competition attracted more than 200 entries with travel and tourism, construction, DIY, innovation and levels of trust the other challenge areas. It is still a growth area as 64% of organisations operating in the sharing economy have been founded within the last six years.

Chris Wells and Paul Mackay with Dr Stephen Hallett
Chris Wells and Paul Mackay with Dr Stephen Hallett

Notes for editors

About MetroFlow

MetroFlow is a living systems insight tool built on the ResourceAPI data platform. It yields visualisations of urban systems and resource flows, based on open and crowdsourced data, enabling local government, business and community to see the same picture and work together to increase the sharing potential of the city.

Cranfield Environment and Agrifood

For the past 50 years, Cranfield has been contributing to enhancing natural capital and ensuring that global food systems are more resilient for the future. We are recognised worldwide by industry, government and academe for our research and teaching in plants, soil, water and air.

We believe that environmental problems can be alleviated through technological innovation and risk management.

We are working with the UK government on two multi-million pound agricultural technology centres – Agri-EPI (The Agricultural Engineering Precision Innovation Centre) and CHAP (Centre for Crop Health and Protection).

Our education, research and consultancy is enhanced by our world-class facilities including the National Reference Centre for Soils, which houses the largest collection of its kind in Europe and is recognised as the UK’s definitive source of national soils information, and our big data visualisation suite, which has tools to analyse big data collections including environmental resources from 280 countries/territories worldwide.

About Cranfield University

Cranfield University is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.