Geovation’s 10th Challenge asked ‘How can we better manage our underground assets, in Britain?’
Through OS’ open innovation approach of the Geovation initiative, last summer 2016 the Geovation team began conducting rigorous “deep digging” to uncover and better understand the problems in underground asset management. Catapulting from a key problem-identifying “deep dig” session, which uniquely gathered cross-industry stakeholders together in one room, great insight was gained on the burning challenges in this problem space.
To name only a few issues: damage caused by strikes to third party assets due to lack of knowledge of their whereabouts costs £150 million a year to repair across the utilities industry; a third of utility construction projects that overrun are estimated to be due to limited access to high quality, geospatial data; and currently no UK infrastructure is rated as sustainably ‘fit for future’. Yet, the government forecasts that greater cross-sector collaboration with infrastructure networks across the UK can bring £3 billion to the economy, and international examples of improving accuracy of underground asset location data have shown returns of investment as high as 1:21.
Geovation’s national tour of introductory Challenge workshops last October-November spread the call for innovators to help solve these problems, through developing a business venture which will tap into these market opportunities.
Entrepreneurs, Britain over, responded to the Challenge with a high calibre of idea submissions. Five finalists from 21 submissions were chosen to attend a 2.5 day Geovation Camp to develop their idea ventures into plausible business ventures, with the winning prize of support on the 6-12 month Geovation Programme with up to £20,000 funding.
Four of these finalists attended Geovation Camp:
GeoPharos – Gus Hinestrosa, Siew Fong Chen and Henry Garcia Pinto
Lie of the Land – Neil Brammall and Neil Jackson
National Underground Register – Paul Ramsay
Routes to Roots – Andrew Sage, Phillip Sage and Liene Balode
The Geovation Camp, facilitated by ‘no-nonsense innovation’ experts, Nonon, and sponsored by British Geological Survey (BGS), began with candid ice-breakers on Wednesday 1 February evening, where participating teams got to know the Geovation team and other supporters who would be helping them over the next 2 days. These included service design Masters students from London College of Communication (LCC) with a plethora of work experience backgrounds, highly knowledgeable geoscientists from BGS, OS staff – including a couple of talented new graduates, as well as Nonon.
Day 1, on Thursday 2 February, everyone was seriously raring to go to get working on developing and prototyping their idea business ventures, to prepare to pitch at the end of Day 2 for a place on the Geovation Programme.
They were not quite ready to go off running yet! Each team was asked to present an on-the-spot 1 minute pitch of their idea, and then introduced to tools which would allow them to thoroughly consider, define, simplify and convey each component of their idea. These included the important principles of the ‘Innovation equation’, the power of service design, visualisation in communicating your idea across effectively, Lean Business Model thinking and other methods of prototyping.
Whirring a lot of great thinking already pre-lunch, it was time for each team to retreat to their dedicated ‘caves’ to focus, with additional help of a service designer and an OS/BGS on-hand expert allocated to them each. As happens at Camp, there was certainly an interesting rollercoaster ride of constantly informing and re-informing the idea and its design, learning many new things, being open minded and having to listen carefully to constructive feedback. All under time pressure of 2 days – but all for the better of progressing one’s idea into a viable prototype venture.
Stunning leaps of growth were observed among the ideas, and the support and input by Camp’s volunteer helpers from LCC, BGS and OS was brilliantly valued by the teams.
Come midday on Day 2, Friday 2 February, it was crunch time for everyone – final visualisations drawn up by the service designers; final golden nuggets of help to be spooned by domain experts from BGS and OS; pitching practise to the innovation expert Nonon team; and particularly for the teams themselves in gearing their hard work, fine-tuning their enormous ideas and channelling their great drives into a 6 minute pecha-kucha style succinct pitch for the judges!
By the end of the afternoon, the Judging Panel had hard deliberated, votes for the Geovation Challenge Community Award were in, and extra visitors had flocked to hear the news – including Nigel Clifford, CEO of Ordnance Survey and Alex Chisholm, Permanent Secretary of Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
Geovation Underground Assets Challenge winner was team Lie of the Land, led by Neil Brammall and Neil Jackson. With over 40 years of industry experience between them, and clear evidence of entrepreneurial spirit, their idea aims to demystify the lack of visibility of underground asset stakeholders for any given area. Through an open, web-based, location-driven portal, this aims to provide access to vital information, leveraging both open and commercial datasets: enabling better collaboration in infrastructure projects, increasing operational efficiencies and reducing expensive damage to third party assets. Lie of the Land were also delighted to win the £1,000 Community Award, which all those participating in the Geovation Camp – team individuals, helpers, Geovation team and Judging Panel alike – voted in.
Feeding back on Geovation Camp, Neil Brammall said:
‘I just wanted to say a big “Thank You” to you guys for your organisation of the Geovation Challenge. I can only imagine the work, attention to detail and organisation that has gone into this, all the way back to defining the problem, managing the submissions, organising, and running the workshops and culminating with the camp, and I just wanted to let you know that your effort is appreciated.
To be quite honest, a winner’s certificate comes quite low down my list when assessing my involvement with the challenge – the people met and contacts established, new ideas and skills picked up, and the “luxury” of being ensconced for 2 days and allowed to focus and work with a bunch of such talented people are all of inestimable value to me, so once again I want to say a big “Thank You” to you all for making that happen.’
The judges gave feedback to all the teams and opportunities for further connections were identified. Camp aims for all finalist teams who come through to grow and gain at least something valuable from the process – whether that be equipped with new skills, knowledge and thinking, valuable connections made with others participating, or simply feeling greater empowered and inspired. Many previous Geovation Challenge finalists have gone to pursue successful ventures, and support from Geovation is still available in other informal ways, through its Geovation Hub in Clerkenwell, London.
…. Watch the shortened version of Geovation Camp 2017!
Geovation’s next Challenge will be themed on greener, smarter communities – keep updated through our blog, Twitter @Geovation, LinkedIn and newsletter or email us. Geovation’s next Programme cohort for Spring 2017 is also currently open for applications for any location-based start-up. If you would like to be involved in other Geovation initiatives and activities, see our upcoming Events.