A fast-growing Oxfordshire enterprise has partnered with Microsoft to employ artificial intelligence and satellite data to combat illegal fishing around the world.
Since EEN began working with the not-for-profit organisation in February 2019 annual turnover has risen by 64% to a projected £2.1 million for 2019/20.
As OceanMind has continued to grow in the fisheries market, including in Costa Rica and Vietnam, it has hired 10 more people over the course of the year. That has helped to boost workforce numbers from nine people to 22, with more to follow.
Support from the Catapult
The i2s coaching through EEN, which covered strategy, culture, brand development and an IP audit, has had a profound effect on the business, prompting a move from the Catapult to new, bigger offices at Harwell Innovation Centre, near Didcot.
Inga Wise, Director of Business Operations, said: “One of the key benefits was that our EEN advisers encouraged us to take time out from day-to-day responsibilities to stand back and look at the business from the outside.”
She added: “We still have support from the Catapult and work closely with them, continuing to use some of their services. Their CEO sits on our board.”
The i2s advisers, Craig Gordon and Linda Cheung, also helped maximise outreach opportunities from the partnership with Microsoft. Microsoft has been a strategic partner since 2016, supporting OceanMind as it moved its analytics programs to the cloud. That made processing quicker and enabled real-time application of AI.
EEN coaching sessions
A Microsoft AI for Earth grant, which will also reduce yearly IP licensing costs, saw OceanMind promoted at Microsoft’s own flagship event, Future Decoded 2019.
That led to 12 interviews with media outlets, including the BBC. An EEN coaching session prepared OceanMind management for the interviews and advised them on using social media before and after the event to boost visibility.
The company’s technology is currently analysing tens of thousands of vessels around the world and has capacity to accommodate many more.
OceanMind collates data from a range of sources, including collision-avoidance transponders, radar and satellite imagery, and vessel tracking signals. A machine learning algorithm developed in-house then identifies potential misconduct, such as fishing without the correct licence or in areas where fishing is restricted.
New markets and countries
A £1.5 million contract with the UK Marine Management Organisation has allowed monitoring of protected areas around remote British Overseas Territories such as Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha as part of the Blue Belt programme.
OceanMind can also help to protect undersea war graves from pilfering and desecration and even track vessels suspected of involvement in modern slavery.
As well as presenting evidence to the authorities with recommendations for action, OceanMind provides training on how to handle such scenarios.
Craig Gordon said: “The company has continued to refine its products, launching into new markets and countries and with new types of projects that can increase revenues.
“We have referred OceanMind to Innovate UK’s Scale-Up Programme while continuing to offer support from EEN.”
EEN support has been a huge help to us. It has given us the confidence to know that we are doing the right thing.’
Inga Wise, Director of Business Operations, OceanMind