Douglas branches out into £20bn green data market

Nigel Douglas is poised to exploit opportunities in the amount of carbon held by trees
Nigel Douglas is poised to exploit opportunities in the amount of carbon held by trees
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A START-UP in Edinburgh is on the verge of raising £400,000 from a syndicate of investors as it aims to grab a slice of the £20 billion global carbon-reporting market.

Global Surface Intelligence (GSI), which was set up last year by serial entrepreneur Nigel Douglas, is raising the cash to bring its environmental data services to market.

The company, which is chaired by Scottish Environment Protection Agency deputy chairman Bob Downes, uses satellite data from Nasa and information about rainfall, soil and temperatures to calculate how much carbon dioxide has been absorbed by forests and other vegetation.

Measuring the amount of carbon held by plants and trees is becoming big business, with the data used by forestry companies that have planted trees to offset firms’ carbon dioxide emissions.

Insurers and other financial services companies are also starting to use the information for picking investments.

Douglas told Scotland on Sunday: “HSBC was recently criticised for investing in a company that was chopping down the rainforest in Borneo to grow bio-fuel crops. So investors are becoming more vigilant about where money is being used.”

Douglas said his firm’s data-­mining and analysis systems had been built to meet the “good practice guidance” laid down by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the scientific body set up by the United Nations to monitor changes to the world’s climate.

He added: “I could have set up the business in the United States because that’s the biggest market. But I chose Edinburgh because of the expertise at the university, which will make it easier to recruit expert staff, and the support from Scottish Enterprise.

“There is also an impressive cluster of ecosystem-­related companies in Edinburgh, like Carbomap, Ecometrica and LTS International.”

Douglas bought the intellectual property from Edinburgh-based Carbon Auditors and the US-based Carbon Value Company, giving him an office in Pennsylvania which is run by Matthew Tyburski, who invented some of the technology behind GSI.

Richard Beattie, from Scottish Enterprise’s high-growth start-up team, said: “We’ve been working with Nigel and his team since October to ­secure the company’s investment round, assist with post-investment planning, help with introductions to our academic institutes and work together on how best to source and recruit key personnel.

“The company’s biggest growth opportunity is from its unprecedented resolution and scale of coverage to carbon stock and sequestration data. There’s an ambition and capacity in GSI for significant growth.

“This year we’ll be working alongside the company to expand and grow overseas, focusing initially on the North and South American export markets.”