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Ramboll’s first UK SPARK event highlights role of AI and collaboration to meet the biodiversity challenge

Innovation challenge brought together industry experts and students to solve biodiversity net gain challenge set by SSE Renewable.

Ramboll, the global engineering, design and sustainability consultancy, held its first UK SPARK innovation challenge in Glasgow last month. In a day-long event, 30 students from Scottish universities worked with experts from Ramboll and SSE Renewables to devise sustainable and scalable solutions to apply nature positive actions at onshore windfarm sites operated by SSE Renewables, a leading developer and operator of renewable energy generation.

Mixed teams of students from The University of Edinburgh, The University of the Highlands and Islands, Scotland’s Rural College and The University of Strathclyde, collaborated across their various specialist study areas, such as peatland and resilience; innovation and circularity; and biodiversity net gains and quantification. After workshopping ideas, the teams presented solutions to a panel of Ramboll and SSE experts.

The winners proposed a biodiversity digital twin to support the selection, management and long-term monitoring of biodiversity enhancements. The winning team have been invited to develop their idea further with Ramboll and SSE Renewables – drawing on existing expertise, such as Ramboll’s sustainable land management and biodiversity restoration tool Galago and SSE Renewables’ use of digital twin technology for asset management at Griffin Wind Farm.

The digital twin team concept also highlighted the potential to support community engagement through citizen science – for example, by encouraging the public to participate in habitat condition monitoring by sharing their own pictures at windfarm sites within geo-fenced areas, with QR codes positioned on sites to demark monitoring zones. The citizen science would be used to supplement digital inputs e.g. from remote sensing data, and could be used to verify enhancements and support the ongoing development of the digital twin and future interventions to achieve SSE’s biodiversity enhancement goals.

Commenting on the event, Michael Simmelsgaard, Ramboll Chief Operating Officer said:

The SPARK programme recognises that innovation begins with a well-defined problem, before ensuring diverse expertise, interests and opinions collaborate to find a solution so that no opportunities are missed in the journey to a sustainable future. It’s an exciting initiative to be a part of, and particularly fantastic to see the first UK SPARK challenge highlight AI. This technology is undoubtedly vital in finding optimal climate and biodiversity solutions at a pace in which we need them.”

Kate Wallace Lockhart, Head of Sustainability at SSE Renewables said:

It has been exciting to work with Ramboll and a range of experts with different perspectives to think creatively about everything from peatlands to digital innovation in order to come up with commercial, scalable solutions to the important challenge of biodiversity net gain across our operational fleet of almost 50 onshore wind farms. Its motivation for the power of thinking differently about how we approach known challenges.”

It builds on two previous successful SPARK innovation challenges held in the US, bringing industry and academia together to promote cross-collaboration and support the next generation of leaders into green jobs.

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