EFI responds to coronavirus pandemic with innovative research projects

EFI responds to coronavirus pandemic with innovative research projects
EFI responds to coronavirus pandemic with innovative research projects

The Data-Driven Innovation (DDI) initiative has invested close to £90,000 in eight EFI projects to help vulnerable people access support and affordable finance, enhance post-pandemic assistance for pregnant women and new mothers, and promote local economic recovery.

Helping vulnerable people access support and affordable finance

Professor Tina Harrison is leading the creation of a new digital Covid-19 Support Finder Tool, to help vulnerable people navigate government, charity, private sector and individual assistance. Developed in partnership with digital transformation company Sopra Steria, the online tool will analyse users’ responses to a series of questions about their financial, emotional and mental vulnerability and direct them to appropriate support.

Meanwhile, Dr Raffaella Calabrese is helping people understand the income benefits available and to access affordable lending until they receive them. Backed by finance company Scotcash and Advice Direct Scotland, the project employs a benefits calculator created by fintech company Inbest to calculate individuals’ entitlement to the benefits. Calabrese and her partners will input this data into existing credit scoring models to enable lenders to make more accurate short-term lending decisions for people who may otherwise be unable to access credit.

Enhancing targeted assistance for pregnant women and new mothers

Dr Bonnie Auyeung and Dr Louise Marryat’s project will compare routine health data on pregnancy and births between March and April 2020 in Scotland with data from the same period in 2018 to explore the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on pregnancy in Scotland. Their research will help NHS Scotland, The Scottish Government, midwives and health visitors to make informed decisions on where to target resources to assist pregnant women and new mothers.

Promoting local economic recovery

Edinburgh has a high number of high-growth businesses compared to other parts of Scotland and the UK. Dr Alessandro Rosiello’s research will capture the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on these businesses, and provide vital data to governments, support agencies and business owners to help them devise an effective recovery plan to support them.

In partnership with fintech company, Wiserfunding, Dr Galina Andreeva is analysing 20 years of hospitality businesses’ financial statements to model and predict financial distress among companies in this crucial sector and inform a set of policy recommendations for the Scottish Government to support a hospitality comeback.

Dr Ewelina Lacka is also working to help the city’s tourism businesses bounce back from the devastating effects of the pandemic. Her collaboration with the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group will use data analysis to support targeted marketing and underpin an effective plan to ensure the responsible and sustainable revival of the sector and the employment it creates in the Scottish capital.

Meanwhile, Dr Morgan Currie is developing a virtual tour with cultural festival LeithLate to convert its successful walking tour of Leith’s murals and shutter art into an online experience to support artists and help them reach new audiences. The project is also looking ahead to the end of lockdown by linking data from the City of Edinburgh Council’s Culture and Community Mapping Project with bus routes to tour maps of cultural assets within 500 meters of each bus stop.

Professor Neil Pollock and doctoral student, Suwen Chen, are collaborating with Breadshare to help the award-wining social enterprise survive the loss of wholesale and retail customers caused by the lockdown. The project will transform the community bakery’s business model to include online sales and virtual bread-making workshops. By analysing the impact on customers motivation and behaviour, alongside data sectoral data, the EFI researchers will also develop new models to support Scotland’s more than 6,000 social enterprises recover from the impacts of the pandemic.

Professor Lesley McAra, Director, Edinburgh Futures Institute, said:

“We established EFI to build challenge-focused and data-informed research to support society navigate complexity. These research projects respond to the most complex and unprecedented challenge we have faced in our lifetimes. They do so with agility, innovation, participation, boldness and, critically, in partnership with industry, government and communities. Collaboration throughout society is vital to emerging from this time of crisis, and EFI is proud to play its part.”

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