The British Geological Survey produces a range of national geospatial data-sets that provide information on the properties of the shallow geosphere. These data-sets are licensed by a range of users in both the public and private sectors for purposes ranging from local planning decision-making to setting buildings insurance premiums. The data are made available to users through several delivery mechanisms, and the number of licensees has increased over thirty-fold during the past seven years.
'GeoSure' is one of the BGS's most widely used data-sets. It is a national shallow geohazard geospatial data-set, and is believed to be the world's first of its kind. GeoSure provides information on whether the geological conditions at a specific location are likely to give rise to ground instability and possible subsidence. GeoSure information can be delivered on a site-specific basis to public and private customers alike, and the entire national data-set is made available under licence.
Natural ground subsidence (i.e. unrelated to mining) costs the UK insurance industry an average of 300 M each year (Association of British Insurers). This figure is predicted to rise sharply in coming years because of more frequent extreme weather conditions (due to climate change). A recent economic impact analysis of BGS's ground stability information by the leading international financial analysts PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) predicted that it would deliver financial savings to the insurance industry alone of up to 270 M between now and 2030. This figure does not include a range of additional social and economic benefits to the wider community, including the avoidance of injury and death, and loss of personal finance. The full extent of the economic benefits delivered by this geospatial data-set is likely to greatly exceed PWC's predictions. The study demonstrates a very significant return to the UK economy on BGS's investment in national data-set development and delivery, and is a powerful example for decision-makers of the societal value of geoscience information.