Business • Birmingham, Leicester

Predicting and preventing flood impacts through next generation flood forecasting.

  • Previsico senior team; Jonathan Jackson
  • Dr Avi Baruch
  • Dapeng Yu.

Previsico's story

The ability to forecast surface water flooding is vital in strengthening preparedness and building resilience. Previsico provides this service to a wide spectrum of public and private sector organisations. More recently, it has delivered successful trials with the humanitarian sector including the Kenyan Red Cross.

Having an accurate advance warning detailing depths and times of flood gives people time to deploy crucial flood defences before a flood occurs, limiting the damage to people and property. Third generation flood forecasting technology is vital to help many more communities build resilience to the local impacts of climate change.

Surface water flooding is the UK's greatest and Europe's fastest-growing cause of floods. Yet there is no hyperlocal surface water forecasting solution on the market, other than Previsico's solution. Existing technologies only provide regional, coarse, infrequent and often inaccurate guidance which people struggle to interpret.

Previsico uniquely provides an all-flood forecasting solution, including surface water flooding. We uniquely combine our proprietary live hydrodynamic modelling software with a range of open source and complex proprietary data to provide intuitive, hyperlocal and actionable alerts.

As well as flood mitigation, the core technology also helps reduce anxiety caused by experiencing flooding and the implications it can have on everyday life as well as the financial burden. When individuals and communities are made aware of any risks in advance, they can prepare and live their lives in a more stress-free way which could have a significant positive impact on community resilience and well-being.

The accessibility tool Previsico co-created with the London Fire Brigade will allow it to improve its flood response rescue during storm events to reach the required response target of 6 minutes. Our flood alerts and analytics help save lives as incident mortality rates are positively correlated with time waiting for ambulance arrival.

Mitigating flood impacts will help to support business continuity as assets are less likely to be destroyed and needing replacing with appropriate early warnings allowing flood defences to be employed and high value assets moved to higher ground before the flooding hits.

Foresight Group, a listed private equity and infrastructure investment manager, recently invested £1.75m growth capital into Previsico, jointly funded by the Midlands Engine Investment Fund and Foresight Williams Technology. This will enable Previsico to further develop its game-changing platform, allowing it to be used in more cities, and support the creation of new jobs in the East Midlands at its Loughborough HQ. This significant investment is anticipated to increase the workforce from 20 to 70 by 2024.

Useful learnings from Previsico

Flood forecasting systems are increasingly being employed to protect people and assets from the devastating impacts of flooding. Typically these systems are only available for major river systems and coastal flooding as they rely on gauges to indicate water levels. However, surface water floods, which occur when excessive rainfall overwhelms local drainage systems catch people off-guard. Surface water floods will become more frequent with rapid global urbanisation and climate change. The recent tragedies in Western Germany, New York and Henan Province, China, highlight the urgent need for a robust early warning system as local communities adapt to living in a more volatile climate.

It is fitting that Previsico's flood forecasting solution was piloted in Leicestershire, which has a history of highly disruptive localised flooding. Leicester is ranked 16th out of 4215 UK settlements for surface water flood risk with 36,900 properties occupying flood-prone areas (Defra, 2009).

In 2016 the Cabinet Office, Environment Agency and Met Office invited Loughborough University to develop a high-resolution surface-water forecast method to integrate with its ResilienceDirect platform for councils, emergency services, utilities, transportation companies and government agencies. Previsico now provides surface water flood nowcasting for the new ResilienceDirect mapping platform – a world first for an emergency planning system. Previsico has partnered with IBM Weather company, using its world leading GRAF weather forecasts to drive live hydrodynamic models for real-time flood extent forecasts.

Collaborating with the London Fire Brigade and local resilience forums, housing associations, flood resilience practitioners (including Watertight) and insurers (including Zurich), Previsico co-creates risk communication approaches which allow complex forecast data to be easily interpreted, and acted upon to protect belongings, buildings, critical infrastructure and lives.

We initially believed most businesses in flood risk areas would already have plans and resilience measures. However, we realised the need to educate the market on an integrated approach which required combining flood plans, resilience measures and warnings. Individually, each had some benefit but combined they were far more effective.

Conducting research, the Cabinet Office, Environment Agency and Met Office taught us the different approach taken by central local government and the emergency services compared to commercial organisations.

Finally, data availability has proved much more challenging than expected. Whilst flood events can create over £1bn of damage there's little openly available data on which properties flooded, to what depth and level of damage. This is important for Previsico to prove its efficacy in reducing flood loss globally.

Previsico's metrics

Number of people helped.

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Birmingham, Leicester

Response to climate crisis





Business, 10 to 49 people

Shared by

Midlands Net Zero Hub

Updated Nov, 2023

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