We helped Essex County Council and Suffolk County Council use cutting-edge technology to predict risk, evaluate public service initiatives and target services for vulnerable people.
Economy, business, politics and society
Health and wellbeing
When it comes to providing services for the most vulnerable people in society, the goal is better prevention and early intervention, rather than later reaction.
Through the Catalyst Project, the University of Essex helped Essex County Council (ECC) and Suffolk County Council (SCC) use cutting-edge scientific methods to predict risk, evaluate services and better target valuable resources. Funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) in 2015 and monitored by the Office for Students (OfS), the Catalyst Project involved the University’s cross-disciplinary expertise in data analytics, big data and evaluation and supported both county councils, as well as other local partners such as Essex Police, to assess risks for vulnerable members of the community and provide evaluation techniques to fully understand the impact of council initiatives.
Through the Catalyst Project, our Essex researchers were able to apply their knowledge and skills to “real life” problems presented by the public service partners. This proved to be an invaluable opportunity for all and enabled the University to show how academic research could contribute and have impact on public life.
A wide range of training events and seminars on predictive analytics, evaluation and analytical software were delivered during the Catalyst Project, which provided a foundation for the University’s Business and Local Government Data Research Centre’s training programs and data science programs for the public sector.
Although the Catalyst Project ended in 2020, a continued close working relationship on data analysis between local authorities and the University has been guaranteed through their collaboration in multiple initiatives, such as the Essex Centre for Data Analytics (ECDA) – an innovative partnership between the University, ECC, and Essex Police to use data analytics as a means of understanding, predicting and subsequently reducing risk.
The relationship nurtured by the Catalyst Project between these local authorities and the University has provided an excellent example of how to organise data science collaboration that will serve as a reference in the future and a precedent of success.
Dr Alejandro Quiroz Flores, Chief Scientific Adviser for Essex, said: “The Catalyst Project has been one of the most successful programs of collaboration between the University of Essex and local partners in the region. The project ended in 2020, but it continues to influence how we and our partners use or research for the benefit of communities.
“The Catalyst shaped collaboration between organisations, but it also shaped the interaction of individuals across organisations, thus creating a network that continues to operate across the region. Moreover, the volunteering stream would go on to have an important effect during the pandemic. Altogether, the Catalyst Project has been a very successful program that provided a foundation for our work with the public sector and a pillar of volunteering in Essex. For this, we are grateful to the OfS and our partners for their continued support over the life of the project and beyond.”
We are helping develop and assess services supporting vulnerable mothers facing recurring care proceedings.