SME Member of the Week: Smith Institute
Smith Institute is the third of November's SME Member of the Week. This month, techUK are focused on sustainability to tie in with COP27. We'll be showcasing SMEs who have made an impact on the transition to net zero, either through developing technology to combat the climate crisis or showcasing what they've done to reduce their own carbon emissions.
The Smith Institute work with some of the biggest brands in energy, FMCG, transport, spectrum and defence. We harness the power of advanced mathematics, analytics and AI to help our clients to identify new opportunities, optimisations and efficiencies whilst having confidence in their business-critical decision making.
How did your company start?
Smith Institute's history begins with one of humankind's most significant achievements - the moon landing. Our founder, Dr Bruce Smith worked on the project, as his first job, before the use of computers and when calculations to safely put the astronauts on the moon was conducted on blackboards.
Bruce continued to use the power of mathematics to make societal, environmental, and economical impact throughout his career and founded the Smith Institute in 1997. Smith Institute has since grown to support businesses and governments to harness the potential of advanced mathematics, artificial intelligence, and analytics to make smarter, data-driven decisions.
How does your company contribute to this month's theme?
We provide our clients with confidence in their processes, data and decisions to ensure that their business is as efficient, effective and sustainable as possible. As such, we have supported major energy clients to become more sustainable and make progress towards net-zero objectives.
We have worked with the National Grid ESO (NGESO), the electricity system operator for Great Britain, to provide safe and economical electricity to the country and progress toward a net zero carbon grid by 2025. The rapid growth of renewable and embedded generation has led to increasing uncertainty when making decisions on how to move electricity around the country to keep supply and demand in perfect balance.
By harnessing the power of mathematics, the NGESO’s Electricity National Control Centre (ENCC) has been able to make more economical and secure balancing decisions, helped identify and quantify the inaccuracies in the existing forecasts and spotted opportunities for economic performance improvement.
We have also supported EDF to deliver low-carbon energy safely. EDF currently operates a fleet of 14 Advanced Gas-cooled (Nuclear) Reactors (AGRs), which play a crucial role in delivering clean, low-carbon energy to the UK. These 1,400 tonne structures currently generate one sixth of the UK’s electricity. Graphite at the core of these reactors cracks over time. It is important to accurately forecast the future rate of cracking to ensure the safe continuation of operations within current expected life.
Smith Institute developed CrackSmith forecasting and analysis software. It enables EDF to accurately predict future cracking, and to continue delivering safe, low-carbon energy to UK homes. This has enabled EDF to avoid taking reactors offline unnecessarily so they can continue to safely provide low-carbon, efficient power to their customers.
Finally, we have been working with Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) to identify potentially vulnerable customers. SSEN is seeing a significant uptake of low carbon technologies (LCT) on its network, typically from solar panels, electric vehicles and heat pumps, and is taking steps to manage the network to accommodate that increased electricity demand cost effectively.
In the face of the increasing costs of fossil fuels, it has never been more important to ensure that everyone who wishes to adopt clean, electrified technologies, can do so. However, the transition to new technologies carries a risk for more vulnerable customers who may be unwilling or unable to make the switch. We are collaborating with SSEN, Imperial College London and National Energy Action to identify consumers in vulnerable positions and forecast how those communities and their needs may change in the transition to net zero.
The project deploys foresighting, machine learning and expert validation to test whether a reliable forecast of vulnerability trends can be developed. The aim is to support better-informed operational practices and investment planning which in future will be able to take vulnerable communities into account.
Who's behind your company?
Smith Institute is driven by the passion and dedication of a group of incredibly skilled people that truly believe that the work they are doing benefits not only our clients but the UK and wider world. We are proud that our solutions help businesses and governments make smarter, more economical and sustainable decisions.
In addition to providing the guidance and support to improve operations and models in a wide range of sectors, a key tenet of uniting Smith Institute is our commitment to equality. This is evident throughout the business. At the top of the organisation, we have a majority female board. The team is also determined to do our bit to encourage and guide the next generation of male and female mathematicians to a successful career in STEM. We recently completed Summer Projects with undergraduates from Oxford and Cambridge. This gave our technical team the opportunity to indulge their intellectual curiosity on a topic not necessarily related to client work, and the selected graduates the experience of utilising their academic skills to solve real-world questions. One student used 3 words to describe her experience as ‘exciting, friendly, and fulfilling.’
What’s your perspective on the present and the future of this month's theme?
Sustainability is high on the agenda at Smith Institute. In order to achieve environmental targets such as net zero, and for industry to transition to the adoption of renewable energy, we know that businesses and sectors are going to need to make significant changes to their operations, policies and modelling. These changes can involve a major financial outlay. Therefore it’s vital that companies have confidence in their decision-making processes. Whether it’s the assurance that their current decisions are efficient and effective, supported by modelling that reflects reality, and can be trusted to base crucial decision on, or forecasting the impact of future decisions and the direction and strategy of the business. Having the confidence that the critical decisions being made are supported by the most accurate and reliable modelling, forecasting and insights means reduces risk and enables the march towards increased industrial sustainability can have a sure footing.
We know that sustainability also means minimising wastage and doing more with less. Our AI, machine learning and algorithms can identify efficiencies and optimisations that can help businesses identify areas and processes that can be made leaner. We can also help extend the lifespan of existing assets, from vehicles to nuclear reactors. Safe sustainability requires the identification of areas of improvement and the confidence that comes from understanding the results that the changes will have for key metrics.
The Smith Institute has won a Queen’s Award for International Trade for outstanding achievement in international trade. The prestigious accolade was awarded in recognition of our world-leading work in spectrum auction verification, including the validation of the most complex spectrum auction ever conducted.
What does the future look like for your company?
In a word, bright. We have a dedicated innovation team who are proactively developing pioneering solutions to significant challenges that organisations will face in an ever-changing world. This is particularly relevant in the unprecedented situation we find ourselves in now with effects from the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and climate change, and political unrest.
In sectors where data science is mature, we are looking ahead at how future technologies can play a key role. A perfect example is quantum readiness and helping organisations understand how this technology can be adopted to enhance their decision making, modelling or processes.
Where the use of data is less established, we can play a leading role in guiding businesses through the maze of data to understand what they should be tracking in order to enhance their operations and decision-making attributes. We recently helped a transport business prove the concept of a data-centric approach and became a key strategic partner, leading recruitment as they looked to establish a world-class in-house data team. There is so much data available in the modern world that filtering out the irrelevant pieces can seem like an insurmountable task.
SME Member of the Week: December, Social Impact
For December's SME Member of the Week, we’ll be focusing on tech SMEs that create positive value for the economy, communities, and society. With Christmas coming up, we want to showcase how our SME members are creating social impact through their businesses, including charitable or humanitarian causes, staff volunteering opportunities for employees, or community intiatives.. Submit your case study here.
techUK – Committed to Climate Action
Digital transformation is critical to the decarbonisation journey of organisations in every sector. Across supply chains and sectors, industries are converging with tech partners to find innovations that reduce carbon emissions and unlock efficiencies that drive down energy use. techUK focuses on the application of emerging technologies and data-driven decision making in traditional forms of infrastructure to deliver innovative environmental outcomes. For more information on our Climate, Environment and Sustainability Programme, please visit Climate Action Hub.