HYDRA PLATFORM: Data driven solutions for a complex world
by Eleanor Greene
Six years ago, Julien Harou, innovator and professor at The University of Manchester (UK), participated in LAUNCH’s first cycle, Water. He represented a consortium of researchers working on Hydra Platform, an open-source software platform with apps that help to quickly build sophisticated and customized models of large networks including water, transport and energy systems.
After five years of investment, the platform launched in December 2015, with a website, app store and user interface sites. Harou is proud of what the collaboration between various university groups and private sector partners has created. Hydra aims to help analysts pool their efforts and share codes to attempt solving one of the world’s most challenging problems: how to better manage and plan the world’s human-engineered resource systems.
You were involved in Water cycle in 2010. What progress have you made on your innovation since LAUNCH?
JH: A two-year grant in 2012 representing over $1 million in investment in Hydra from Innovate UK, the University of Manchester, University College London and CH2M was a big milestone. This allowed us to implement the suite of proposed products including the open source database, the app store and a user-interface.
The product was launched in December 2015, since then we're focusing on building up a user base and collaborating with various resource system analysts around the world who think Hydra could help their projects succeed.
How has Hydra Platform made an impact on the world, or what impact are you excited about it having?
JH: We hope that impact will grow rapidly. Up to now we've been building the software and investing in coding a sustainable, flexible and extendable architecture. Alongside software development a community building effort has created a core group of early adopter resource management enthusiasts.
Hydra simplifies and streamlines the data management to free up time and resources for people to focus their intellectual energy and resources on designing effective and creative solutions. What inspires the group to work on Hydra is the potential of analysts sharing their work and collaborating in new ways to solve resource conflicts and boost sustainable and resilient development worldwide.
Ultimately, managing the world's resources efficiently and sustainably will require sophisticated analysis of the economic, social and engineering implications of how we manage food, water, energy, transportation, etc. The open software platform and especially its community of users could make it easier for specialists who have ideas about how to improve the operation, management or investment in resource systems, to put them into practice on real-world systems. The community and its tools could be influential and lead to a wide variety of exciting applications.
LAUNCH is all about connecting unexpected partners. Have you connected with any partners to get your innovation to where it is today?
JH: I've run into several colleagues associated with LAUNCH in various contexts. It's always a pleasure to see how things have evolved for them and reminisce on the unique experience we had with LAUNCH. The main contributions of LAUNCH to our effort were 1) to increase visibility and credibility, especially early on when the project was just an idea, and 2) it helped us improve how we present our effort concisely, accurately and attractively to non-technicians. LAUNCH helped us identify those elements of inspiration and vision which we could communicate most easily and thereby help engage others. This has been a huge asset over the years, and we will increasingly need such skills.
What are you looking forward to the most in Hydra Platform's future?
JH: We're hoping Hydra will enable a community to build itself around the rapid creation and sharing of (open-source, free or commercial) resource system management models and analysis methods. Traditional engineering models struggle to represent relationships between engineering, socio-economic and institutional elements. Hydra’s robust data management framework helps modelers focus on building the customised representation of these factors and their interactions, providing crucial insights into effective management and planning solutions.
I'm most looking forward to people using Hydra to solve real-world problems, and for more models and tools to become available on the app store so that a growing community engages with the open platform.