Review of DDC (Unveiling the Hidden Depths – DDC and the Power of Open Data)

Aug 11, 2023

At the heart of the Deep Digital Cornwall (DDC) project, there has been a steadfast commitment to economic growth in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (CIoS) through funding and directly supporting digital research and innovation. This ground-breaking initiative, funded by the European Regional Development Fund, has fostered an environment of collaboration, created new jobs, facilitated long-term partnerships between businesses and research institutes, and established a regional cluster of excellence for enterprises working in the digital underground environment. The project has been led by Professor Frances Wall and Dr Matt Eyre at the University of Exeter along with project delivery partners Cornwall Resources, Cornish Lithium, and the South West Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications.

One of the project’s significant achievements has been the development of a comprehensive digital twin of the Cornish underground, enabling SMEs to visualise, analyse, and leverage an extensive range of datasets. Among these valuable resources are 3D digitised models of abandoned mines, the geology (including new granite models) and airborne electromagnetic surveys, offering a treasure trove of geological information. This article explores the many accomplishments of the DDC project and invites readers to unlock the potential of the data it has produced.

Unlocking Data with a Digital Twin of the Underground:

Central to the success of the DDC project is the development of a powerful tool known as Geovisionary software. This software enables SMEs to visualise their data in a three-dimensional context, providing a comprehensive overview of the intricate and complex underground environment. By integrating various datasets, including satellite imagery, engineering models, drone surveys, laser scans, and borehole data encompassing physical and chemical properties, Geovisionary offers an unprecedented understanding of Cornwall’s underground landscape. This multidimensional visualisation not only enhances data analysis but also facilitates informed decision-making for businesses, researchers, and policymakers, ultimately boosting the economic potential for the region.

The Deep Digital Cornwall project has created a wealth of datasets that provide insights into the hidden depths of Cornwall’s subterranean landscape. By combining cutting-edge technologies and innovative methodologies, the project has successfully mapped and documented a significant portion of the vast network of abandoned mines across the region via >1400 hours of data curation and visualisation. These maps serve as crucial references for understanding the historical mining legacy and its impact on the current landscape, but also help identify future opportunities be it for mining, geothermal or tourism. Furthermore, by employing surveys, including the conspicuous airborne electromagnetic surveys, and a gravity survey to infer granite surfaces, DDC has shed light on the geological composition beneath the surface, empowering researchers, businesses, and policymakers with a deeper understanding of Cornwall’s subterranean resources.

Boosting Economic Potential:

By enabling SMEs to access and analyse these invaluable resources, the DDC project has catalysed innovation, forecast to create 14 new-to-market and 38 new-to-firm products and services. The infusion of £1m in grant funding to businesses based in CIoS has further facilitated their growth and expansion. This support has not only strengthened the regional economy but has also nurtured long-term collaborations between businesses and research institutions, fostering a culture of knowledge exchange and technological advancement. The Deep Digital Cornwall project has helped catalyse the formation of a regional cluster of companies focused on georesources. The Camborne School of Mines and the University of Exeter have been successful with major Good Growth Fund bids (UK Shared Prosperity Fund) and have one in the pipeline to work with the Cornish Chamber of Mines and Minerals to further build upon momentum in this high-priority sector. By bringing together a diverse range of stakeholders, including SMEs, research institutions, and industry experts, the Deep Digital Cornwall project has facilitated knowledge sharing, collaboration, and enabled the exchange of best practices. This vibrant community of excellence has created an environment conducive to innovation, paving the way for future advancements in the fields.

Embracing Open Data:

One of the key objectives of the DDC project is to promote the use of open data that has been created as part of the project, encouraging individuals and organisations to harness the potential of the datasets generated. By making these resources freely available, the project aims to empower a wide range of stakeholders, including researchers, entrepreneurs, established businesses and policymakers, to explore new opportunities and drive sustainable development. Open data not only fuels scientific research but also fosters entrepreneurial endeavours, enabling the development of innovative solutions to complex challenges. Please visit the Resources tab where you will find various resources including a digital assets catalogue outlining downloadable data, as well as research and case studies on mine modelling, shaft surveying, the airborne electromagnetic survey, soil surveys and core scanning.

Whilst the 30th June 2023 marked the end date of research and technical activities for DDC as an ERDF funded project, the data will live on, spurring innovation for years to come. The 3D visualisation suite will remain on campus with various uses planned including high-impact, cross-disciplinary data curation and visualisation education, use by businesses for product development, and of course academic research, e.g., cutting-edge, immersive experiences generated by the most recent data emerging from the Antarctic.

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