The Sesame Project

The Sesame project aimed to understand and model the impacts of flooding on the UK’s small businesses and the knock-on effects on the wider economy – and to find ways of encouraging businesses to be better prepared in future.

Fish and Chip shop with sand bags outside

Flooding is a growing challenge to the UK and the world. In Britain, the 2000 floods were the worst since 1947; the 2007 floods affected 48,000 homes and over a thousand businesses, and caused the greatest loss of essential services since World War II. Large-scale damage was again caused in 2012 and 2014. According to some estimates, by 25 years’ time flooding could cost the UK £25bn annually.


  • We conducted over 100 semi-structured interviews with small businesses. These explored business continuity planning, the recovery process and barriers to/facilitators of adaptation.
  • We developed computer simulations of ‘agents’ and used these to model small business’ flood-relevant behaviours and attributes.
  • We adapted the ARIO model (Adaptive Regional Input-Output) and used this to produce estimates of the economic costs of the 2007 flood in the Lower Don Valley, Sheffield.
  • Working with flooded businesses and other stakeholders, we co-produced a digital learning tool to promote flood resilience to small businesses. This will shortly be piloted in Gloucestershire.
  • We produced new guidance: Preparing and responding to flooding: a practical guide for SME business continuity


Many of the UK’s 4.5 million SMEs are exposed to the effects of flooding. As SMEs represent almost half of total business turnover in the country, their protection is a vital part of the drive for greater climate change resilience. However, few have measures in place to ensure the continuity of their activities during a flood and its aftermath. This project aimed to understand and model the impacts of this limited preparedness and to develop tools to encourage businesses to discover ways of becoming more resilient to floods. By taking some of the mystery out of flooding and flood risk, it aimed to make them susceptible to the same business acumen that enables the UK’s SMEs to deal with the many other challenges they face.