Ecosulis hosts Tech Challenge to support UK rewilding projects

15 April 2019 4 min. read

Bath-based environmental consultancy Ecosulis has launched a contest to support the reintroduction of species of wildlife into the UK via technology, with a collective prize pot of £10,000 to be split between the three winning entries. The Rewilding Tech Challenge hopes to foster collaboration between various facets of the public and private sectors to preserve and enhance the nature found in Britain.

Over the past few years, discourse regarding nature conservation has shifted rapidly across Europe and the world. While for years, the tone was set by experts who simply sought to safeguard what little was left of the globe’s wildlife, decimated by centuries of hunting and deforestation, there is now a growing appetite for ‘rewilding’. That means that rather than preserving an ever more precarious status quo, a number of countries have actively sought to restore and enhance natural processes and core wilderness areas, with the reintroduction of keystone species, and even apex predators, into their ecosystems.

As has been seen with the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone Park in the US, such initiatives can have major and unforeseen benefits for other species. The wolves in this case provided a natural control mechanism for the local deer population, and in turn this enabled the return of large swathes of forest, which in turn have strengthened riverbanks, protecting against flooding.

Ecosulis hosts Tech Challenge to support UK rewilding projects

The UK, meanwhile, is scrambling to assemble expensive man-made flood defences – as previously forested areas and former wetlands struggle to soak up rain, leading to alarmingly regular flooding events. While it is some way from introducing wolves to the countryside, a project in Somerset has seen the introduction of beavers to the local ecosystem. Beavers were hunted to extinction in the UK in the 1600s, but as shown by their reintroduction in France, Germany and Denmark, dams which the creatures build increase river capacities, acting as natural sluices.

The process of rewilding the UK comes with a unique set of major challenges which require innovative new techniques to address. Without the adequate collaboration between organisations across the public and private divide, it is unlikely that the potential of rewilding will be realised.

Founded in 1990, Ecosulis is a consultancy and contractor which works with clients to help protect and improve the biodiversity of multiple sites across the United Kingdom. Alongside its headquarters in Bath, the firm also holds offices in London, Birmingham and Cardiff, with more than 30 employees working with organisations across those locations. In order to help foster the necessary culture of co-operation to produce technology to meet rewilding’s needs – involving tech start-ups, policy makers, NGOs, big business, local communities and environmental consultancies – Ecosulis recently launched its first Rewilding Tech Challenge.

Open to any UK-based individual, team or company willing to work with Ecosulis on the development of rewilding-related technology, the challenge aims to drive conservation technology development and enterprise hubs which launch new solutions into the field. It also hopes to advance rewilding-related technology in the UK, and introduce new talent and ideas into the field.

The Rewilding Tech Challenge boasts a first prize of £5,000 as well as on-going support from the Ecosulis team, and the hosting of the winning idea on Ecosulis may also decide to invest in the winning technology further, if it is deemed commercially viable. There is also a second prize of £3000 and a third prize of £2000. The entry process closed in early April, and candidates will now be carefully evaluated, before a shortlist of submissions will be put to a judging panel of Ecosulis representatives, conservation scientists, and tech-focused professionals, entrepreneurs and investors.

Summing up the initiative, Ecosulis Managing Director Cain Blythe explained, "We now have an opportunity to define a shared vision for how technology can have maximum impact on conservation practice. The idea of the challenge is to introduce new tech talent and ideas into the field of rewilding, and hopefully develop a solution that makes a real difference to practical conservation."