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Challenge Sponsor organisation

Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)


Environmental Quality – OceanMet (Oceanography/Meteorology and Modelling) Unit


OceanMet Unit Manager 

Apply now!

You can now send your application for this challenge through Public Contracts Scotland.

Challenge timeline

Submission deadline: Monday 1st August 9AM

Top 6 announced: Friday 5th August

Skype interview: Monday 8th August

Exploration stage kickoff: 22nd August

Pitch day: Friday 2nd September (Edinburgh)


Challenge narrative: what the problem is, its background and context; why it’s important to to solve the problem, the benefits solving it would trigger, and the parts of society that would receive those benefits

Improving Air Quality in Urban Areas is a Global challenge. Whilst a large part of this task is to determine how to reduce transport emissions overall, complex dispersion in built up areas can trap pollutants.  In such cases, emissions may cause a disproportionate air quality problem.  Often, this occurs in areas with large numbers of pedestrians and businesses.  We need to communicate this complex dispersion behaviour to decision makers so that emissions can be set appropriately to meet human health standards.  Compelling animated visualisations of model output, combined with robust quantitative assessment, can influence decision makers in a powerful way.  

Most commonly used Air Modelling software packages (ADMS, CALINE etc.) do not handle complex dispersion well.  In addition, their output does not lend itself to compelling visualisations.  More advance modelling techniques are available, namely Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD),  but these require considerable specialist effort and adaptation to obtain useful results, limiting their wider application.  In the Marine Environment, software packages have been developed to tailor the general CFD approach to the most common problems encountered. Several organisations have developed viable and successful business models in this area (see below).

We require a CFD type software package which is tailored to model complex dispersion in Urban areas.  This package would have a streamlined work flow with an easy to use pre and post processing interface.  Much of the expertise in setting up the CFD model would be built in to the software package.  Ideally, it would use an open source CFD model.

This is a considerable task which will require some detailed scientific development.  However, in the short term we require a “Mesh Generation” software package to be developed which is capable of generating computational meshes for a variety of CFD packages.  Whilst generic mesh generation is possible we require it to be tuned to the development of meshes for City Wide CFD simulation. 


Why the Challenge Sponsor is focused on this

SEPA has placed a high priority on improving Urban Air Quality.  We are supporting the Scottish Government by conducting Air Modelling as part of the Cleaner Air For Scotland Strategy (CAFS). SEPA also has a statutory duty to licence emissions to air from industrial facilities (point source emissions).  Our department assesses the risk of these to Air Quality Standards.


The attempts [if any] the Challenge Sponsor has made to find a solution to the problem - and why they’re not fit for purpose

We currently operate the General CFD package, PHOENICS.  Whilst this has be successful it is still time consuming to set up Meshes and requires our 3rd party tools to convert input information.  A tailor package would save a great deal of time.


Who are the end users?

Government (Environmental Protection, Development and Local Authorities), Private Industry (Civil Engineering Consultancies which support Government and Private Industries).  Academic Sector, particularly Air Quality research.


What the Challenge Sponsor would like to see from the solution

A software package which allows us to quickly construct meshes for use in the PHOENICS and OpenFOAM CFD Package.  This would allow the import of standard input data such as building geometry and terrain and would include a rich set of tools for constructing the mesh.


What would success look like in measurable terms?

What is the one metric that matters?

A software package is produced which adds value to the current air modelling process and which is in demand across the globe, creating a profitable and sustainable company.  As stated above, there are already viable businesses which exist in this general market.  The key would be to leverage open source modelling technology so that academic organisations can contribute to the underlying model development.  Ideally the software package would utilise new computing technologies such as running on Graphics Processing Units (GPU) or Virtual Reality.

In the first instance a software package to produce Computational Meshes for the OpenFOAM and PHOENICS CFD modesl would be required.


SEPA licences and operates a model called WinMISKAM (  This partly meets the requirements set out in the challenge, but suffers from a number of limitations:

•           It is not based on open source code, thus development has stalled.

•           It does not take advantage of modern software technologies.

•           It is somewhat tied to the German Regulatory approach.

•           It cannot handle terrain.

Ultimately, WinMISKAM does not have a competitor to help drive innovation.


Systems including software, APIs and databases the solution will need to work with and / or integrate with

OpenFOAM, PHOENICS and various data formats such as buildings and terrain data.


What’s in it for the successful solution provider: the commercial opportunity from initial contracts to national and international potential

There is a demonstrable demand for complex models with embedded expertise in CFD.   Additionally a software package which improves the “Work Flow” of model development by making mesh generation easier would be highly valued.

The most immediate application would be to Air Quality, however, such a tailored approach could potentially be applied to Aquaculture, Architecture or Renewable Energy assessment. Many organisations have successfully colonised similar markets in other fields.  Despite strong academic performance in these areas in Scotland, most software packages are not produced here. See below:



The stakeholders that would be involved, and the team would require access to


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