Dr Murray Collins
Dr Murray Collins is Space Lead at the Bayes Centre – the first person to hold such a role within the University of Edinburgh’s wider programme of data-driven innovation, developing the strategy for the Space and Satellites sector.
As one of the University’s Chancellor’s Fellows, Dr Collins works on algorithms to analyse satellite radar data, using the results to inform the mapping of deforestation and forest degradation, and to find solutions for the problems of balancing biodiversity conservation and development pressures.
Dr Collins is keenly aware of the risks and opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution, drawing on his entrepreneurial instinct, interdisciplinary academic record and extensive field experience in the forests of Africa and Asia to understand human impact on the planet.
Dr Collins is a passionate advocate of Scotland’s space and satellite sector, having co-produced two popular podcast series with BBC journalist Kim McAllister about the exciting work going on in the sector. Dr Collins is also CEO of fast-growing analytics company Space Intelligence, which was recently ranked as the eighth most innovative tech company in Scotland, and which is housed at the University’s AI hub at the Bayes Centre.
“There are fundamental questions to address about where the next phase of economic growth will come from,” he stresses, “and how this can be achieved in an environmentally positive manner.” Meeting those demands in Scotland depends on the creation of “a new generation of highly technically-competent graduates who are sufficiently innovative and entrepreneurial to create world-leading companies making the most of opportunities we cannot yet foresee.”
As the fourth industrial revolution gathers (digital) steam, Dr Collins sees Edinburgh and South East Scotland needing to develop the “human capital, technological basis and supporting environment” to provide “high value jobs in an inclusive economy of the future”. This will only succeed, of course, if it is part of a wider shift to sustainable growth, and the research and innovation Dr Collins undertakes as a Chancellor’s Fellow offers a vital connection between growth and sustainability. Dr Collins has undertaken research into how natural and social science findings translate into policies, and the impact of these policies. He has co-authored the 3rd and 4th GLOBE climate change legislation studies and presented findings on forest legislation to the governments of over sixty forest-rich countries at a summit at the World Bank in 2014.
“Satellites are collecting huge volumes of data about the surface of our planet,” he says. “We can map and monitor natural and human-dominated systems, from agricultural landscapes in western Europe, through to the last remote patches of forest in the Amazon.” This contributes to the “particularly strong capability” of the University’s School of GeoSciences when it comes to monitoring progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals — the gold standard for sustainability in the twenty-first century, and beyond.
The research and innovation Dr Collins undertakes as a Chancellor’s Fellow offers a vital connection between growth and sustainability