Air Quality spinout company shortlisted for Guardian University Award

University partnership nominated in Business Collaboration category.

A joint venture between the University of Leicester and Bluesky Ltd has been shortlisted for the Business Collaboration Award at the 2019 Guardian University Awards. Winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in London on Wednesday 10 April.

Spinout company EarthSense, was created to tackle air pollution - a growing global issue - and applies the University’s cutting-edge research to develop and launch new commercial services to provide better air quality for current and future generations.

Since the company’s launch in 2018, air quality specialists have created the first ever high-resolution nationwide map of air pollution - MappAir®. MappAir® uses complex modelling to integrate data from emission estimates, satellite data, EarthSense Zephyr air quality sensors and published datasets to map pollution and highlight the scope for further developments.

EarthSense has also demonstrated the effectiveness of community action to tackle air pollution in King’s Heath, Birmingham. EarthSense Zephyr® air quality sensors were installed in key locations on the King’s Heath High Street and around St. Dunstan’s School taking air pollution measurements before, during and after an experiment for the BBC programme Fighting for Air.

A variety of interventions such as working with the local council and bus companies to enforce car-free zones, setting up hedges to form a shield from the air pollution and using walking buses and alternative forms of transport on experiment day were implemented in a bid to reduce air pollution.

The team managing the project quickly recognised the scope of this project as well as the positive engagement from the general public and proposed a follow-on article featuring a postcode checker to the BBC using MappAir® data.

Members of the public can use the BBC postcode checker to check the air quality around the area they live in – helping raise awareness and drive behavioural change. By simply entering their postcodes, users can access a score of 1 (Good) to 6 (Heavily Polluted). The overall score for air pollution is based on Nitrogen Dioxide [NO2] levels - the harmful gas formed from vehicle emissions. In the first 24 hours of publishing the article, the page received more than 2.9 million views.

EarthSense is the clear demonstration of how our fantastic research can be applied to real-world problems/grand challenges. The particular focus of the collaboration on Earth Observation, Geographic Information Systems and Air Pollution is a key activity of the Enterprise strategy of the University.