THE University of Edinburgh, alongside five European partners, has won the Making an Environmental Difference award at the eighth annual Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards.

The awards are organised by Interface, which connects businesses from all sectors to Scotland’s universities, research institutes and colleges.

The CloudEARTHi sustainability project brings together the University of Edinburgh, the Arctic University of Norway, Spain's University of Alicante, Austria's FH Burgenland, Bulgaria's Varna University, and business partner G-Force.

It is based in Slovakia and aims to build capacity for higher education innovation in the areas of circular economy, sustainability and big data.

The multinational group’s key output and focus that led to its award nomination is the development of an Earth Centred Business Design tool (ECBD).

It is led by the University of Edinburgh’s commercialisation service Edinburgh Innovations.

This tool enables the development of low-carbon, circular startups, which are essential in the global transition to net-zero carbon emissions.

Circular startups are startups which by design eliminate waste and pollution, circulate products and materials at high value and regenerate nature in the process.

The recognition for the project comes following the recent release by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of its Synthesis report.

It offered the most detailed insight yet into the role of humanity in the 1.1C rise in global temperatures seen since the industrial revolution.

It warned that with the current policies in place, global temperatures could rise by a median of 2.8C by the end of this century, devastating costal and island communities.

Small island nations are at extremely high risk and could be wiped off the map entirely if more is not done, the IPCC warned.

Businesses are one of the highest producers of waste, with commercial and industrial waste in the UK peaking in 2018 at 43.9 million tonnes, before falling amid the Covid pandemic.

CloudEARTHi will allow new business startups to reduce their carbon footprint from the get-go, helping reducing emissions.

According to the collaborators, the ECBD is a both product and a service, formed of a series of "unique exercises and business tools", which enables startup founders to think differently about how they can operate to build a more sustainable future.

Sophie Rippinger, circular economy and innovations manager at Edinburgh Innovations, said: “We are so pleased to win this recognition for our project. With the IPCC issuing a final warning on irreversible climate change this week, we all need to work together now towards net zero.

“With our framework, we no longer want founders to do business as usual, we want to help them build a business that operates within planetary boundaries – that is sustainable and resilient, as well as profitable.”

Ivan McKee, Scottish Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise, said: “Today’s awards showcase the impactful collaborations between businesses and the academic community and their role in translating Scotland’s world-class research into knowledge that makes impact.

“Bringing together Scotland’s businesses with the knowledge, expertise and networks of our research community is central to achieving the ambitions of the Scottish Government’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation and our upcoming Innovation Strategy, both in creating the inventions and innovations of the future, and in supporting translation of these into impact and opportunity.”

The University of Edinburgh also won in the Multiparty Collaboration category for the Industrial Centre for Artificial Intelligence Research in Digital Diagnostics (iCAIRD) – a pan-Scottish collaboration to apply artificial intelligence to healthcare.

Comprising 40 partners from across industry, the NHS and the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews and Aberdeen, iCAIRD is establishing the infrastructure and environment required to support development, validation and deployment of AI technologies for use in healthcare.