A spin-out from the University of Leeds, Slingshot Simulations uses advanced computer simulations fed by diverse, often disconnected, sources of large-scale data to help businesses and government bodies make important decisions more quickly and efficiently.
Initially focused on tackling the challenges brought about by climate change and the race to net zero, the company believes its technology platform can be used to help companies across a broad range of sectors.
We spoke to Dr Robert Harwood, Chief Operating Officer at Slingshot Simulations, about the company's ambitions in the US and how academic and tech talent in Leeds has helped underpin its growth.
What does your company do?
In the next several years there are going to be 60 to 70 billion devices connected to the internet, all generating an unprecedented amount of data. We need to be able to transform that data into insights that we can take action around.
This data comes in lots of different forms from weather data, street cameras tracking vehicle movements and monitoring air quality to smart watches capturing health data.
We are about taking this data and converting it into insights so that people can make better, faster decisions at much lower cost and in context with how it affects everything else.
We offer a software as a service (SaaS) platform. We take all those disparate data sets and bring them together into a single platform to give it context. You can then start making correlations and patterns and start to look at relationships between data in ways you could never do when it was separate. With this “digital twin”, you can then build models and run simulations and answer 'what if' questions.
So, for example, around areas like the drive to net zero, sustainable infrastructure and environmental protection, a council or a planning authority can better plan where it should put mobility hubs or EV charging infrastructure.
Our commercial product currently serves four key customer types: traditional architecture and engineering companies; councils and planning offices; environmental companies; and big consulting companies advising their customers on net zero strategies or sustainable initiatives. We also offer a completely free community version because we believe anyone, anywhere should be able to leverage the power of our platform to make a positive impact on some of the biggest challenges facing society today.
Tell us about your UK and global operations.
We spun out of the University of Leeds in 2019. The company was based on over a decade of academic research. We are now 16 people and growing fast.
We are based in the Nexus building in Leeds which is an amazing facility stood up by the University of Leeds to foster and accelerate commercialisation of technology. The talent and the leading academic research facilities on our doorstep, combined with the Nexus network, have been a great help to us. We have great support and resources wrapped around us here.
We received funding from both the University of Leeds and the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund which enabled us to further develop our technology and break into new markets.
We are based in the Nexus building in Leeds which is an amazing facility stood up by the University of Leeds to foster and accelerate commercialisation of technology. The talent and the leading academic research facilities on our doorstep, combined with the Nexus network, have been a great help to us
What are the main benefits to being based in the UK?
There is an amazing tech community up here in Leeds. We have almost 50,000 people participating in the Leeds Digital Festival. Outside of London, it is the second biggest digital tech event in the UK. There is an amazing cluster of tech companies here.
At the national level, the UK is a thought leader at the forefront of digital transformation. Organisations like the Centre for Digital Built Britain, which aims to understand how buildings and infrastructure can be better designed for climate change challenges using digital technologies, is helping create the environment within which companies like ours can thrive . There are few if any countries in the world that can match this pace of change”
Organisations like the Centre for Digital Built Britain, which aims to understand how buildings and infrastructure can be better designed for climate change challenges using digital technologies, is helping create the environment within which companies like ours can thrive. There are few if any countries in the world that can match this pace of change
Tell us about your company's growth ambitions.
We are focused on sustainability, climate change and environmental protection. But we are also looking at things like food scarcity and supply chains and logistics. In the future we may potentially look into the health sector as well.
The digital transformation industry is growing exponentially. There was a report by McKinsey saying that, if there are any positives to come out of Covid-19, it is that digital transformation has been accelerated by between 7 and 10 years. We are feeling that. We are getting pulled into so many different projects so we will continue to grow as that market grows exponentially.
We are also in the process of incorporating in the US. Penetrating the US is our next big goal. We see that as the next large opportunity for us. The Infrastructure Bill that President Biden has put forward is a trillion dollars of investment going into infrastructure refresh. A lot of that is going to rely on digital technology and digital tools and we are at the forefront of what is happening in that area.
Getting into that trillion-dollar opportunity is a priority for us so we will probably open an office in the US in the next 12 months.