Predicting where and when the next extreme weather event will hit, and what the financial toll will be, is pretty much a guessing game for insurance companies and other firms that deal with risk. While they are in the business of hedging bets against the unexpected, how do they model for something as unpredictable as Mother Nature?
Evan Kodra, a 2014 Northeastern doctoral graduate, says “Counterintuitively, the insurance ecosystem is not helping society absorb the majority of the economic impacts of climate change, which is putting most of the burden on communities and low-income populations.” That is what prompted him, along with engineering professor Auroop Gangulyand another alum, Colin Sullivan, to found risQ (pronounced “risk”), a climate modeling and analytics company, in 2016.
The three helmed the company—Kodra as a chief executive officer; Ganguly as a chief scientific adviser; and Sullivan as a chief operating officer—until Intercontinental Exchange acquired the startup last month. Sullivan also served as a consultant with Northeastern’s Center for Research Innovation, working with faculty to figure out how to commercialize on-campus inventions. The Boston-based risQ was spun out of Ganguly’s Sustainability and Data Sciences Lab, and over its lifetime received $1.65 million in National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research grant funding.
“risQ is a great example of putting the power of data science and predictive analytics to work on big problems facing society and our planet. It is a model of how we hope Northeastern will turn research in experiential AI not just into pragmatic solutions but actual economic engines that leverage the entrepreneurial spirit of our university and faculty” says Usama Fayyad, executive director of Northeastern’s Institute of Experiential Artificial Intelligence.