2nd August 2012

Judging the Wales Coast Path Challenge – a busman’s holiday

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In this guest post Andy Middleton, co-founder and director of TYF and Chair of the Wales Coast Path GeoVation Challenge judging panel, tells us what it meant to be part of the team selecting the winners to receive innovation funding to take their ideas forward.

I look at it from my house. Walk sections fifty times a year. Use it to get my customers around, and for relaxation and exercise. Coast paths have been a bigger part of my life than any other track, and most roads.

Photo of Andy Middleton at GeoVation ShowcaseWith so much coast in my life, the invitation to chair the GeoVation Wales Coast Path Challenge’s judging panel was a busman’s holiday made in heaven.  Whilst familiar with the benefits that coastal access could bring to individuals, families, business and community, the mixing of physical with digital in the form of apps, geolocation, augmented reality and highly focused web platforms to increase and widen the quality of customer experience was new to me, and intriguing.

Taking part in the initial  GeoVation Camp was informative and educational. The camp is a powerful accelerator for shortlisted projects and was hosted in Cardiff the the Ordnance Survey team and ably supported by Sean Miller from Nonon Innovation, a team of designers and imaginative volunteers; the team gave groups challenges and support in equal measure to turn sometimes fledgling ideas into projects that with real potential to fly. A two minute Pecha Kucha presentation to judges and audience at the close of the camp saw seven projects progress to the GeoVation showcase, held at the Swalec stadium in July; the tension was fizzing in the room as each team upped the ante with more compelling reasons why they should be the ones to shine.

By the time that the GeoVation Showcase arrived a month later, each of the finalists had prepared a worked up business plan, against which they were interviewed before pitching their project to a panel of judges from Ordnance Survey, Welsh Government and the Technology Strategy Board’s SBRI, visiting members of the public and specialist guests. Picking the projects to support and deciding which to fund was a tough process, as both passion and professionalism were present in all the pitches, and at the end of our deliberations, five of the seven projects that came along to the Showcase received funding to take their projects forwards.

Over the coming weeks, as the winners sign their contracts and get launched into delivery, it will be interesting and gratifying to see the projects move into a different world where combining electrons, information and tech savvy coding with the delight of exploring one of the world’s greatest footpaths is a new reality.

Andy Middleton