Tag Archives: communities

How green, blue and open space supports community resilience

At an excellent event, hosted by Scottish National Heritage on 8 November at Battleby, near Perth, Geovation had the opportunity to participate in a workshop on Greenspace mapping. We learnt and shared experiences about data, OS Greenspace mapping and how this dataset differs from the original Scotland’s Greenspace Map dataset. We found out how others have already been using it, and discussed future ideas and opportunities.

The event was aimed at local authorities and it was encouraging to see the number of Councils attending in ‘pairs’ – a GI colleague accompanied by a planner or greenspace manager. This proved an excellent way of exploring how the new OS Greenspace products could be used and the support that policy and management officers need from GI colleagues.

The importance of green, blue and open space in improving health and wellbeing, supporting the local economy, enhancing the natural environment and enabling sustainable living was clearly illustrated during the event, as was the role geographic information, with technology. Using these ingredients can help to tackle some of the problems faced in building greener, smarter, more resilient communities – the focus of our latest Geovation Challenge.

Julie Procter, from Greenspace Scotland introduced how greenspace contributes to community resilience through safer and stronger, healthier, greener, smarter, wealthier and fairer communities – the five strategic outcomes of the Scottish Government.

Shona Nicol from Scottish Government described work-in-progress to develop a new method for measuring the Scotland Performs national indicator on “improving access to greenspace”. This uses GIS to give an objective measure of the percentage of households within a 5-minute walk of open greenspace. She highlighted areas for further development of both the methodology and the mapping products.

We then heard about Glasgow City Council’s strategic approach to protecting and enhancing open space. Alan Duff described how, motivated by SP11; they are undertaking an open space audit and strategy with a focus on quality, accessibility and quantity.

Will Roper, from the Central Scotland Green Network Trust, emphasized the importance of maintaining an accurate, consistent and current database of allotment and community growing spaces, to provide a baseline from which to measure progress towards strategic objectives. Will noted that whilst there is only 0.9 ha of allotment and community growing space per 10 000 population in Perth and Kinross, there is 90 ha of golf course.

Form and function in green space mapping is being used to help identify land that may be used as allotment sites and other areas of land that could be used for community growing. Ea O’Neill, also from Greenspace Scotland, described how this is done and explained that this is part of the requirement of local authorities (LA’s) to prepare food growing strategies, under the Community Empowerment how Act. LA’s must also describe how they intend to grow provision, which includes: community gardens, allotments, market gardens, community supported agriculture, community orchards, individual and community gardens, public parks, historic estates, green corridors, housing areas, civic spaces, high streets, vacant sites, and ex-educational site, schools and universities, health centres & hospitals, sheltered housing and care facilities, work places and public buildings.

Liz Richardson from NHS Health Scotland, described research undertaken by the Centre for Research on Environment, Society and Health (CRESH) which demonstrates the beneficial links between health and wellbeing and access to greenspace. The benefits are: psychological restoration, improved social contact, greater physical activity and reduced exposure to environmental risk factors such as noise and air pollution. Liz asked can we use greenspace mapping to answer the questions:

Is the health of individuals/populations related to the green space they experience? If so, how and for whom?

In an ongoing study, Liz demonstrated the links between neighbourhood greenspace and childhood development using several information sources and measures. Most childhood development outcomes were better if they had private garden access and pro-social behaviour was better with more overall greenspace access. A new study also demonstrated the positive impact of neighbourhood greenspace on birthweight of babies.

Eleanor Comley, from the NERC funded Improving Wellbeing through Urban Nature (IWUN) project, showcased “Shmapped” – an app that allows users to map the good things about Sheffield. This was developed as a means of finding out more about which aspects of the natural environment are beneficial to health and wellbeing. The “Shmapped” app prompts participants once a day to notice the good things about green or built spaces; the hypothesis being that both will be beneficial, but noticing nature more so. It tracks participants’ exposure to greenspaces throughout the day to see which environments offer the most wellbeing benefits, and it measures health and wellbeing with questionnaires at baseline, after 30 days and a 2 months follow-up.

Chris Parker, from Geovation, finished off the day with inspiration for participants about how OS greenspace and geographical information can be used to tackle real-world problems and challenges, as he outlined the opportunities through the current Geovation Challenge for Greener Smarter Communities.

Several questions need consideration:

If the value of green, blue and open space is clearly recognized by those who manage it and use it, why are its costs and benefits not properly or truly accounted for?

Is it because we are using accounting methodologies and tools designed for an out-dated, linear (take, make and waste) economy rather true cost accounting tools designed for a modern, circular, regenerative, systems-based economy?

If we only account for the financial value derived from green, blue and open space and not the social, human, environmental value, are we not heavily underestimating the true value of our natural and human made open space assets?

How then, can we use geographic information, technology and design thinking to account for the total costs and value of our green, blue and open spaces, through new systems based solutions and business models?

That is the objective of Geovation’s latest challenge: “How might we build greener, smarter communities and cities?” How can we solve old problems in new ways by developing products and services that maximize the use of our natural and man-made green, blue and open space assets whilst minimising, or designing out waste and other externalities through circular solutions and business models?

If you have a great idea of how to tackle some of the problems this Challenge is focused on make sure post it up before midday on 29 November at: geovation.uk/challenge.

Why Northumbrian Water Group are sponsoring the Geovation Challenge

Northumbrian Water Group are sponsoring the Geovation Greener Smarter Communities Challenge. Clive Surman-Wells, Operational Solutions Manager, explains why they wanted to get involved with this Challenge and the impact they hope your ideas will make. Read his blog below and don’t delay in entering your idea – the closing date is 29 November!

Northumbrian Water Group decided to sponsor the Greener, Smarter Communities and Cities Challenge because we had a taster of Geovation at NWG’s Festival of Innovation in July 2017 and we liked the process. Being an innovative company, we know converting great ideas into a reality is the toughest part of the innovation process and we feel the Geovation process really helped us develop our ideas at the festival.  Enhancing the environment and our communities is part of our corporate vision so it’s natural that we’d want to support those developing ideas that can help us improve too.

Northumbrian Water logoWe’re currently working on a project ourselves coming out of our Festival of Innovation in July. The project, code named ‘BreathEasy’, uses the qualities of MOSS to improve air quality and we hope to use this in future to reduce our impact on the environment.

Northumbrian Water Group will be looking for innovative ideas which are able to launch and scale sustainably. We’ll be looking for these key criteria:

  • Originality – it must be innovative
  • Alignment with one of the themes – will it enhance the natural environment for instance?
  • Genuinely make a difference – it has to work for people, it’s got to be practical.


Got an idea?

If you’re sitting on a great idea but haven’t done anything about it because you’re not sure where to start then from our experience the Geovation process a great opportunity to convert ideas into a reality, supported by a great process, surrounded by other innovative thinkers.

 Clive Surman-Wells, Northumbrian Water Group

Enter the Geovation Challenge todayNot only will you get to tap into resource from 225-year-old mapping organisation, Ordnance Survey, you’ll receive expert advice from some of our leading business professionals on how to apply a proven innovation methodology to your ideas, in hope to build, launch and scale them – potentially globally. Winners of the Challenge will get an all-expenses-paid place at our 3-day mini-accelerator Geovation Camp and Conference in London in February 2018, worth up to £8K You’ll connect with smart, passionate people and test your idea with mentors, business advisors and designers in the ideal environment for it to flourish and grow.

At the Conference on Day 3, you’ll be ready to pitch succinctly and convincingly to investors, funders, sponsors, policy-makers and community leaders and if your idea has the potential to make the greatest impact – you’ll have the opportunity gain grant funding from a pot of £185K or a place on Ordnance Survey’s start-up accelerator, the Geovation Programme. Don’t miss out on this fabulous experience – enter the Geovation Challenge!

To enter visit: https://geovation.uk/challenge/

The Challenge runs until 29 November 2017 and is open to UK-based organisations or residents, aged 18 or over. The Geovation Camp and Conference takes place in London in 14-16 February 2018.

Innovate UK providing a share of £185,000 funding for Geovation ventures

Innovate UK are lead sponsors of the Geovation Greener, Smarter Communities Challenge 2017. Niraj Saraf, Urban Innovation Lead at Innovate UK announces funding available to winners of the Geovation Challenge whose ideas we identify as having the potential to make the greatest impact. 

Innovate UK’s mission is to help the UK economy grow by inspiring and supporting pioneering UK businesses to create the industries of the future. We do this through funding risky innovation projects and through connecting innovators to opportunities and resources, and my role within the organisation is very much about helping businesses develop new solutions to the complex challenges facing cities.

Innovate UK logo

Like Ordnance Survey and Geovation, we recognise that good ideas and data to help cities overcome their challenges do not exist solely in one organisation, but in many different places. This is why we are very pleased to be collaborating with Geovation to seek ideas that can help give us smarter, greener communities.

It also gives me enormous pleasure to announce that Innovate UK is to provide additional funding for Geovation’s greener, smarter communities challenge. We’re providing Geovation with £250,000, of which £185K in grant awards will be available to the winners whose ideas we identify as having the potential to make the greatest impact. This money will help them develop, launch and scale their sustainable ventures.

Innovate UK has a strong track record in driving growth. For every business we have invested in, 7 jobs have been created (we’ve created more than 55,000 jobs). There has been up to £7:30 gross value added (GVA) for every pound we have invested, and our return to the economy has been £13.1bn.

You’ve probably already heard the prediction that by 2050 75% of our global population, around 9bn people, will be living in cities. This will be close to a doubling of the current urban population, which makes the Geovation challenge even more pertinent and pressing.

It’s true that a growing population can contribute to a growing economy, but does that necessarily equate to a better quality of life? What about the environmental impact? How will cities whose infrastructure is already struggling today cope? What of resilience – and not just to extreme weather, but also to disease epidemics. These are just some of the important challenges we face moving forward.

Geovation is a fantastic initiative for Innovate UK to support, and I am sure this current Challenge will deliver some interesting and exciting projects.

Enter the Geovation Challenge today – winners of the Geovation Challenge will receive an all-expenses paid place at a 3-day mini-accelerator Geovation Camp and Conference in London in February 2018. Here you’ll connect with smart, passionate people and test your idea with mentors, business advisors and designers in the ideal environment for it to flourish and grow.

On Day 3, you’ll be ready to pitch to investors, funders, sponsors, policy-makers and community leaders, and you’ll also have the opportunity to gain grant funding from a pot of £185K or a place on Ordnance Survey’s start-up accelerator, the Geovation Programme. Don’t miss out on this fabulous experience – ENTER THE GEOVATION CHALLENGE NOW


Urban Living Birmingham supports a greener, smarter city

The Greener, Smarter Communities and Cities Geovation Challenge is focussed on developing solutions to communities’ real needs for future-proofing the communities and cities in which we live. Geovation sees ‘smart communities’ as placing people first, with technology, simply, as one ingredient.

Joined by our lead sponsors, Innovate UK and Northumbrian Water, the Geovation Challenge launched on 4th October and is open to idea entries until noon 29th November 2017.

The Geovation Challenge is focussing on four problem areas that we are asking for your ideas on:

How can we improve health and wellbeing?

How can we support the local economy?

How can we enable sustainable living?

How can we enhance the natural environment?

Our enthusiasm to tackle these challenge areas is supported by many others who are committed to addressing similar challenges, including Greenspace Scotland, Glasgow City Council, Exeter City Futures, Green Halo, Bristol Natural History Consortium, Oxford County Council, and Urban Living Birmingham.

In this blog we explore how the research project is striving for solutions to these problems, and how those with interests in the Birmingham City area can work with Urban Living Birmingham to build ideas suitable for the Geovation Challenge.

Urban Living Birmingham is a research initiative with the aim of stimulating innovation to develop and deliver integrated, city-wide solutions that “have the potential to transform the city into a prosperous, healthy and vibrant living place”. Similar to Geovation’s formula for successful innovation – whereby this depends on finding a real problem, building a viable solution to it, and executing it sustainably with prospect to scale – a city-wide problem for Birmingham was identified:

“Appetite for innovation in the development and delivery of Birmingham’s services is high, but the degree of success and ability to integrate these innovations into mainstream strategies and policies varies greatly. Therein lies the paradox, and it has become evident that there is a missed opportunity for Birmingham, and British cities more generally, to co-innovate by effectively drawing upon end-users.”

Urban Living Birmingham is a consortium of universities led by the University of Birmingham and including Birmingham City University, Aston University and the University of Warwick. Those involved come from engineering, economics, psychology, planning and governance backgrounds, amongst other disciplines, and they are working alongside practitioners from the private and public sectors within Birmingham and its wider region.

The Geovation Challenge shares key problem themes that Urban Living Birmingham has researched, including equity of access to health services, simultaneously creating a smart and a green city, transport and barriers to city mobility, and transforming governance for multiple innovation processes – overall, focussing on a city that can be liveable and sustainable.

Sharing Geovation principles of open innovation and a people-first approach, the Urban Living Birmingham consortium is committed to encouraging the design and implementation of solutions to Birmingham’s challenges that go beyond the standard ‘user-centric’ approach. They think it is not enough to simply listen to the users of city services, but that the users themselves should be empowered to be the innovators of the solutions. Such an approach contributes to a more resilient Birmingham that, ultimately, provides better outcomes for people.

Under the Health and Wellbeing theme, the Geovation Challenge places strong emphasis on empowering community action. We have deep-dived into this problem space, finding that ignoring basic community needs leads to lack of care and of quality of spaces and city facilities. Engagement with, and ownership of, spaces and facilities is needed by every community, with powerful, joined up data to ensure they are fit for purpose, receive the right investment and are sustainable. Research shows that community ownership of spaces, services and activities leads to 75% greater engagement by citizens, helping to leverage stronger cases for financial investment which local authorities are otherwise not wholly able to do (Locality, 2016). As well as the need to integrate those with local expert knowledge, participation from top-down influencers is also needed. Urban Living Birmingham is familiar with these problem spaces in Birmingham, and stresses the need for innovative solutions that cut across different policy silos.

With Urban Living Birmingham as experts in the problem space, Geovation can help support those who have entrepreneurial spirit to turn their idea into a serious business venture that is sustainable and scalable to help create greener, smarter communities and cities.

If you’re a UK start-up, or individual willing to team up, and want to help solve pressing issues with improving health and wellbeing, supporting the local economy, enabling sustainable living and enhancing the natural environment within cities whilst using location information, then the Geovation Challenge is perfect for you.

Winners of the Challenge will get an all-expenses-paid place at the 3-day Geovation Camp and Conference in London in February 2018. This Camp will equip you with the tools to build a sustainable business model and create a pitch to maximise your chance of success. There will be an opportunity to pitch for funding and a place on the Geovation Programme.

The dragons-den style Conference will give you an exclusive audience of investors and influential stakeholders in greener, smarter cities who are also interested in supporting your idea. The Geovation Challenges is the perfect accelerator to get your GeoTech business off the ground!

The Geovation Challenge is open to UK-based organisations or residents, aged 18 or over. The Geovation Camp and Conference takes place in London, 14-16 February 2018.


Attend a workshop in Exeter, Manchester & Glasgow

Are you interested in how we can make our communities and cities more future-proof?  Would you like to develop an idea using smart technologies with the potential to build this into a sustainable business?

Our next Geovation Challenge 2017 is looking for innovative solutions that will help make our communities greener, smarter and sustainable. Entrants will be in with a chance of winning an all-expenses paid place at our 3-day Geovation Camp and Conference in London in February 2018.

To help you understand the problems and give you a head start in entering the competition, we’re holding workshops around Britain – workshops that could change your life and help save the planet!

Register for a workshop:  Exeter / Manchester /Glasgow

The Geovation Challenge process is fantastic. It has helped me to shape and elevate ideas into forming a commercially-viable company that is exporting services internationally and working with well-known brands and institutions. The process has also directly inspired, incubated and catalysed our innovative work to make London the world’s first NationalPark City’ Dan Raven-Ellison, Founder of London’s National Park City Foundation

Winners of the Geovation Challenge will be invited to an all-expenses paid place at our 3-day Geovation Camp and Conference in London in February 2018. This camp will equip you with the tools to build a sustainable business and create a pitch to maximise your chance of success.  There will be the opportunity to pitch for funding or a place on the  Geovation Programme, the perfect funded accelerator to get your GeoTech business off the ground.

The Challenge will open on 4 October 2017 and is open to UK-based organisations or residents, aged 18 or over.

Green innovation ventures for sustainability

This Friday is World Environment Day.

World Environment Day

World Environment Day was established in 1973 and takes place annually on 5 June. The event is organised by the United Nations Environment Programme, each year around a different theme. The theme this year is sustainable consumption and production.

As a part of its community focus, GeoVation takes an interest in events and projects that support the environment. Our 2013 Environment Challenge, ‘How can we help British business improve environmental performance?’, was very successful and led to funding for four ideas, all of which encourage sustainable living practices.

Cycling innovators and the chance to win a fat bike

Bike Week — the biggest nationwide cycling event in the UK — is coming up on 13-21 June.

Bike Week

The first Bike Week took place in the UK in 1923 — some 40 years after the potentially lethal penny-farthing had been replaced by the safety bicycle — and was started by the Cyclists’ Touring Club. It has since been replicated in Ireland, Canada and the US. In the UK, it takes place annually on the third week of June. It encourages ‘everyday cycling for everyone’ and aims to promote the benefits of cycling to the environment, society, and individuals’ health. The 2015 event has a particular focus on cycling to work.

In 2014, almost half a million cyclists took part in over 1000 events nationwide. This year’s event is in June, but there are hundreds of events taking place throughout the rest of the year. You can find out what events are happening in your area at www.bikeweek.org.uk, along with your nearest bike shops!

In the Geovation team we take a keen interest in events and innovations that promote active lifestyles. Following our 2013 Active Lifestyles Challenge, four GeoVation winners are developing ventures to enable people to be more active, whether through walking, running, or other sports and activities.

In our 2010 Transport Challenge we encouraged ideas which considered more sustainable forms of transport (including cycling). Two of the winning ideas from the latter challenge, Cyclescape and the London Cycle Map Campaign, focused on improving cycling.

Greater London Cycle Map

Greater London Cycle Map


OS Innovation newsletter — May 2015

If you’re subscribed to our mailing list, our latest OS Innovation newsletter should now be with you. This edition contains information on the launch of the new Geovation Hub, OS OpenMap – Local, and updates to Points of Interest.

OS Innovation newsletter May 2015

If you are interested in receiving all the latest OS Innovation news, you can subscribe here.

Streetkleen: Helping make Britain a better place to live

By Gary Downie, MD of Streetkleen Bio

Streetkleen Bio was the winner of the ‘How do we improve the environmental performance of British business?’ GeoVation Challenge.

StreetKleen Logo

They say inspiration can strike in the most unusual places. For me my eureka moment came three years ago while trying to maneuver my son’s buggy around the piles of dog poo littering the streets near my home.

Everyone deserves to live in a nice environment and as studies have shown, dog fouling can really bring neighbourhoods down, deterring both investment and visitors.

Dog Poo BinI was incensed that some irresponsible dog owners refused to clear up after their pets but I was also struck by the waste. In nature nothing is wasted, but we humans have an annoying habit of just burying things in the ground instead of doing something useful with them. What a waste of natural assets!

Dog poo, just like sewage and farm manure is an excellent feedstock for anaerobic digestion – a biological process that produces bio gas for heating and creating electricity. It’s a technology that’s been around for decades, but as energy prices soar and the impact on our climate of burning fossil fuels becomes apparent, government and industry alike are looking to anaerobic digestion as an important part of the renewable energy strategy. (more…)

Wales Coast Path – connecting communities and visitors

In 2012 we ran a GeoVation Challenge asking for ideas to better connect visitors and communities along the Wales Coast Path, helping to stimulate economic growth and opportunities in the coastal areas.

One of the winners of the GeoVation Challenge was Living Paths!, an idea from Robin Owain to address the problem of lack of local information available on the Wales Coast Path. Some information is published in pamphlets but these are expensive to distribute and difficult to source. Publishing online is possible but can be difficult due to the complexities of web-authoring for most people. Communities in Wales often find it difficult to share information about their locality such as historic buildings, circular paths, geographical features and other points of interest.

Living Paths! Llwybrau Byw! is a project that aims to empower local communities along the Wales Coast Path to create Wikipedia® pages and post stories about their communities, allowing diverse local information to become accessible.

Local people know best about their locality, sights to see and facilities available and through Wikipedia, a digital encyclopaedia; they can share that information.  Better, richer information on Wikipedia benefits the users of the path as well as local people, connecting visitors with local communities through information on locations and points of interest (such as wildlife, shipwreck sites, castles, local tales etc).


It’s Easter so lets have a little fun!

© 2014 Elenarts/Shutterstock.com


EXTENDED TILL 30 April 2014

How do we do that you say? Excellent question!

We’re having an Easter Caption Competition just for you, our GeoVation Community.

It’s very easy! Just look at the photo below, taken at our ‘How can we encourage active lifestyles in Britian’ Challenge Camp, and come up with a caption (one caption per email address) then email it to us along with your name and contact details to Champions@geovation.org.uk

The competition will close at 10am GMT on Wednesday 30 April 2014. We’ll then gather the GeoVation team together to read through your suggestions over a coffee and cake (or the left over Easter Eggs), and pick the one that the team thinks fits the photo best. The winning caption will be announced on the 25 April 2014.

We’ll give the author of our favorite caption an Ordnance Survey Custom Made Map , Umbrella and some GeoVation goodies.

Good luck!






Building prototypes at Glasgow’s Future Cities Hackathon


With more and more of Britain’s population now living in urban environments, is it possible to harness the power of technology more effectively, to make cities a better place to live in? This is a question the UK’s innovation agency – Technology Strategy Board – posed to 50 cities back in 2012, inviting them to bid for a £24m funding award that would enable the winning bidder to become a ‘Future Cities Demonstrator’ – an initiative that, through the use of technology, aims to improve the integration of services and the urban communities that rely upon them. After taking part in the open competition, Glasgow City Council was awarded with the funding.