€1m Project Launched To Inform Net-Zero & Covid-19 Economic Recovery

Icebreaker one calls for partners to collaborate on groundbreaking project


Icebreaker One is announcing the launch of the first phase of Project Cygnus, a major new initiative to support regions and countries in their economic recovery from Covid-19 while accelerating their net-zero carbon emission goals.

Project Cygnus has been selected to receive funding as part of the “Pandemic Response Projects”, one of the two instruments of the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) Crisis Response Initiative – a €60 million initiative launched in May 2020 to contribute to the European Union’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Icebreaker One (a non-profit focused on unlocking the data needed to deliver a net-zero future) – has joined forces with The Smart Data Foundry (a world-first which was devised and created by the University of Edinburgh, the Financial Data and Technology Association and Fintech Scotland, with the aim of using financial technology to deliver social and economic benefit to all corners of the globe) the University College Dublin (UCD) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to deliver an ambitious programme of work.

Set to be delivered in 2020, the first phase of the initiative will deploy €1M in EIT Climate-KIC funding to analyse current economic and environmental investment trends. This will include those caused by the current pandemic as well as those pre-dating Covid-19 but which might have been exacerbated by it. The aim is to develop strategies for investment and policymaking that will address fragility and opportunities in the current systems that have been exposed by the pandemic.

It will identify potential investment risks, and opportunities to drive both carbon neutrality and economic growth. It will also unpack how to unlock access to data flows that can fuel informed future investment and policy decisions in a timely, robust and scalable manner.



The knowledge and insights gathered will be used to develop tools, data infrastructure and policy recommendations, as well as economic modelling needed to support a post-pandemic transition that addresses net-zero investments.

Phase two will build on the foundations of the first phase by providing investors, policy makers and decision-makers with practical tools to address the challenges of achieving economic recovery while also transitioning to net-zero.

Central to the success of Project Cygnus will be collaboration with partners across the public and private sectors. Icebreaker One is calling on national and regional administrations, asset managers, investors and leaders to engage.


Commenting on Project Cygnus, Icebreaker One Founder & CEO, Gavin Starks, said:

“Both Covid-19 and climate change are major economic and social threats: it is vital that we tackle them in tandem. If we are serious about building resilient and sustainable economies we also need to be serious about achieving net-zero: the two are intrinsically linked. As the saying goes, ‘never waste a good crisis’ — as vast investments are unlocked to help restart our economies we have a unique opportunity to build into the future we want. This project will help us make decisions based on facts, evidence and needs combined with cutting-edge research and data science.”

“Many working on our climate emergency are concerned that we are losing the first year of our ‘decade of action’. I hope others will join us in making Project Cygnus a success to help those at the frontline of financial decision-making create long-lasting impact.”


 Damien McGarrigle, Programme Lead at The Smart Data Foundry, said:

“We are pleased to be part of Project Cygnus because it provides the opportunity for better data-driven insights, which in turn will help collective decision-making about how we improve our planet and economies, and strengthen their resilience against crises, such as Covid19. One of the key questions being asked now is: If we had higher quality data to better understand our economy, how much of the financial and human cost could we have avoided? The dreadful impact of the pandemic has highlighted the need for better data, to enable quicker, more targeted interventions. The Smart Data Foundry offers the facility to do this through research and innovation – and we look forward to helping Project Cygnus gain valuable insights.”


Julie Calkins, head of Risk Information for Climate Adaptation, EIT Climate-KIC said:

“The project Cygnus proposal builds on emergent work to catalyse green regeneration and resilience — not only with the aim to ‘bounce back’ from the crisis, but especially by using this opportunity to unlock insights, analysis, financial products and services that will facilitate joined-up thinking and embrace systems-level complexity. It has all the ingredients to succeed in supporting the post COVID-19 green recovery and regeneration, therefore contributing to achieve the objectives of the European Green Deal.”


 Professor Andreas G. F. Hoepner, Chair in Operational Risk, Banking & Finance and Vice President for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion said:

“Post-pandemic shock, it is important to approach economic rebuilding through a clean green rather than a red polluting lens to set up the best possible political and economic climate to hit net-zero 2050 targets. Through Project Cygnus, we will be able to assess the pandemic’s economic impacts across green, red and white industries and lay the foundations for recommendations on how green recovery can be fostered by policymakers and financiers. University College Dublin is proud to collaborate on such a groundbreaking project that will pave the way for a successful transition to net-zero.”


Commenting on the project, Albert Martinez Sequero, Climate Security Analyst, United Nations Environment Programme, said:
“UNEP is excited to collaborate with Icebreaker One in this joint initiative to build resilience and tackle the climate risks that are shaking our societies, ecosystems, and economies. We must democratise climate data and insights to improve climate risk management and support decision making in the private and public sectors, which will help us advance towards a net zero economy. More importantly, it will enhance our livelihoods today without compromising our future.”


Webinar event: Introducing Project Cygnus: Enabling a net-zero economic recovery from Covid-19

Icebreaker One is actively calling on organisations, leaders and investors from across the public and private sectors to participate in the project. A webinar to find out more about the project and how people can get involved is being held on 13 August 2020 at 11am and is free to join. More information is available on Icebreaker One’s website https://icebreakerone.org/events/.




Read the latest DDI news

Cartoon image of a man in front of a computer with scamming alerts popping up on the screen

New partnership to tackle financial fraud using synthetic data

Smart Data Foundry has been selected to partner with the FCA and the City of…


Five years of progress for Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal

Five years after it was signed by the Prime Minister and First Minister, the Edinburgh…


New collaboration to focus on reducing inequalities

A collaboration between three major public bodies will see the launch of an innovative new…