Whilst the public health emergency brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has eclipsed it in the news headlines for now, climate change and the more frequent extreme weather events coming in its wake, remain the most critical challenge humanity faces this century. Events this winter – including the flooding damage wrought by the recent Storm Christoph – serve as a reminder all too close to home, of the power of extreme weather to damage property and impact communities.
The increasing salience of flooding as a risk for businesses and the financial services companies who insure them has led to increased interest in dynamic new methods of predicting where is at risk. Previsico – a company which spun out of MICRA partner Loughborough University in 2019 – are at the forefront of this fast growing industrial sector.
According to CEO Jonathan Jackson, Previsico came into being because the founders Prof. Dapeng Yu and Dr Avi Baruch realised there was “a major gap globally in accurate surface water flood forecasting which has become the UK’s biggest flood risk of all. In the UK this threatens over 3 million English properties – more than those at risk from river and coastal flood combined.”
Their work is informed by 20 years’ worth of academic research at Loughborough University, which has enabled them to developed software tools which allow insurance companies and other users to model and prediction the likely extent and impact of flooding events, and take action to make provisions to mitigate these as much as possible. Previsico service users have access to a two dimensional FloodMap modelling tool, which enables them review historical flooding data as well as to predict how future scenarios might unfold. In addition to these visualisation tools the company offers both bespoke and “off the shelf” analytical tools as well as real time tailored alerts, to inform clients when a particular asset location or geographical area is likely to flood.
Initially supported by funding from Britain’s Natural Environment Research Council, and then through Innovate UK’s prestigious ICure programme, Previsico has now emerged as an exciting, field leading insurtech company. Jonathan Jackson points to the company’s success and rising prominence as a partner to the insurance industry, explaining that they decided to focus on the insurance industry because “there’s a compelling return on investment for using our service and insurers understand flood risk and are searching to fill the gap in surface water flood”. Recently he says “Lloyds of London chose [Previsico] for their Lloyd’s Lab accelerator to develop products and services for the Lloyd’s market, and we’ve progressed to the final round of Lloyds Banking Group product development programme.” Government has also taken an interest in Previsico’s offer with the UK’s Cabinet Office now having its services live on the Resilience Direct portal.
Looking ahead to the near future Jonathan Jackson says that Previsico are looking to expand further by securing Series A round funding and are looking to enter the market in the United States. Whilst efforts to combat and mitigate the effects of global warming are gaining traction and continue apace, increasingly extreme weather in previously unseen or foreseen patterns is unfortunately likely to become even more of a fact of life. Something which weather events and patterns in the UK and across northern Europe – such as Storm Christoff – attest to. The tools offered by Previsico however, offer hope that it might be possible for individuals, communities and the firms which underwrite them through insurance, to better plan and take steps to protect themselves from the flooding effects of our increasingly unstable climate.