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Let the Geovation Challenge judging begin

Thank you all for responding to our call to help better manage underground assets in Britain in our latest Geovation Challenge. There have been some great ideas submitted between 19 October and 30 November 2016 and lots of people have registered and engaged on the Geovation Ideas Platform.

Now that the Geovation Challenge is closed the judging panel will start reading through the ideas to select finalists to invite to a 2.5 day Geovation Camp at Ordnance Survey in Southampton from 1-3 February 2017. See the timetable. We are delighted to be collaborating with BGS as sponsors of the Geovation Camp, find out more in this blog post by one of the judges Dr. Kathrine Royse “The importance of Geology in Underground Asset management

The panel will be looking for ideas that offer innovative solutions to the underground assets problems and which can become commercially sustainable. Alex Wrottesley, Head of Geovation is chairing the judging panel. Find out more about him and the panel below:

Alex Wrottesley, Head of Geovation

Alex Wrottesley, Head of Geovation

The Geovation Hub aims to deliver a new approach to stimulating growth in the geospatial industry by offering hands on support, education, workspace and development resource in a world-class location. With 18 years’ experience running media and technology businesses, Alex and his team help entrepreneurs and innovators create, build and grow new ventures that use spatial data and insight to deliver ground-breaking products and services.




Dr Alison Prendiville, Service Design for Innovation Expert

Dr Alison Prendiville, Service Design for Innovation Expert

An expert in the fields of service design, digital anthropology, creative economies and connected communities. Her PhD (2001) investigated the specification of engineering hardware in the design of public transport systems and the design of the passenger service experience. Alison was a researcher on the EU Framework IV Programme MIMIC (Modality, Inter-modality and Interchange) investigating transport interchanges and the barriers to the seamless journey.




Miranda Sharp, Head of Smart Cities Practice at Ordnance Survey

Miranda Sharp, Head of Smart Cities Practice at Ordnance Survey

At an international level OS is pioneering global interoperability smart cities through machine learning, as well as exploring the new fields of connected vehicles, IoT and 5G. Originally a chemist, Miranda has a personal interest in the measurement of air quality and its correlation with greenspace; but this is only one example of places becoming smart – adopting practical solutions for citizens, businesses and visitors united by place.





Dr Kathrine Royse, Science Director for GeoAnalytics and Modelling at the British Geological Survey (BGS)

Kathrine develops novel methods and techniques to gain added-value from BGS’s data holdings; using a trans-disciplinary approach to produce models that explain, explore and predict the Earth’s response to natural or human induced environmental change. Her research at BGS has focused around the development of 3D geological models for decision support and hazard mitigation in the urban environment.  She is a member of NERCs Innovation Advisory board providing advice on how best to translate environmental knowledge and data into new value adding approaches, tools and solutions.





Matt Webb, Head of Asset Information at UK Power Networks

Matt is accountable for the end-to-end asset data and information lifecycle, including collection and capture, asset registers and geospatial systems management, data quality management and analytics. Prior to joining UK Power Networks in 2008, Matt operated in various management and leadership roles within the construction and building services sector. He is a highly experienced business and data management professional with a deep knowledge of business strategy and planning, as well as leading multi-site / multi-disciplinary teams.




The finalists who are selected will be informed by 16 December which will be announced on the blog in the following week.

The finalists who attend Geovation Camp will have the opportunity to work on transforming their ideas into prototype ventures. On the final day of camp they will pitch their ideas to the judging panel who will invite up to 3 teams to join the 12 month funded Geovation Programme.

BGS sponsoring Geovation Camp 2017

This is a guest blog post from Dr Katherine Royse, Science Director for GeoAnalytics and Modelling at the British Geological Survey (BGS).  The Directorate develops novel methods and techniques to gain added-value from BGS’s data holdings; using a trans-disciplinary approach to produce models that explain, explore and predict the Earth’s response to natural or human induced environmental change. Her research at BGS has focused around the development of 3D geological models for decision support and hazard mitigation in the urban environment.  She is a member of NERCs Innovation Advisory board providing advice on how best to translate environmental knowledge and data into new value adding approaches, tools and solutions.

The importance of Geology in Underground Asset management

At the British Geological Survey we are passionate about using our knowledge of the subsurface geology to enable sustainable economic development and the wise management of our natural resources. This is why we were keen to work with the Geovation team this year and sponsor the ‘Underground Assets’ challenge. What excites me most about this challenge is working with people from many different professional backgrounds to produce novel and innovative solutions to the current issues around asset management.


The physical and chemical properties (the geology) of the ground beneath our feet is critically important when assessing the maintenance and performance costs of the UK’s underground assets. All too often the geology of the subsurface is missing from asset management decisions. At BGS we are really hoping that the ideas coming forward in this challenge will be able to help us put geological data at the heart of the decision making process for subsurface assets.

Why is this important? Well unexpected ground conditions cause around 33% of all major construction project overspends. Ground movements caused by changes in temperature and soil moisture (swell-shrink) cost around £300-500m each year in damage and maintenance costs to our subsurface infrastructure. These ground movements often result in pipe breakage causing issues from interrupting supply through to flooding and road closures.

Civil engineers and surveyors will always need to build structures and lay pipelines in difficult ground conditions and it is therefore essential to address the problems that result as management of these conditions are easier and cheaper to deal with at the time structures are buried than the remediation and maintenance costs post construction. For example corrosion prevention is often the most economical solution when compared with conventional removal and repair methods. This isn’t new, thirty seven years ago the ‘Hoar Report’ was commissioned to evaluate the cost of corrosion to the national economy of the UK. The report estimated the cost to be approximately 3-4% gross domestic product (GDP).

Since then the development of new construction materials and methods has reduced this cost to an estimated 2.5% – 3.5% GDP (DTI, 2000). Whilst corrosion is being managed more effectively today, it is still a significant concern and cost burden to the nation. In recent years, public and media interest has focused on the cost of leakage from water supply pipelines, but buried assets, whether pipe-work, cabling, sewers or building foundations, present their own challenges as problems are largely hidden from view and are difficult to assess and manage. This years Geovation challenge highlights the need for interdisciplinary work in this area and that the subsurface is every bit as important as the surface in critical infrastructure provision in the UK.



National Workshops: Now on tour

We’ve teamed up with leading innovation agency, Nonon, and business and service design experts from London College of Communication and Natural Flow for a series of national Geovation Challenge Workshops. Kicking off the national tour at the Urban Innovation Centre in London last week, we’re traveling the UK looking for innovative solutions to how we can better manage our underground assets and to ensure that you walk away with the knowledge to build your idea from start to finish.

At our first workshop at the Geovation Hub in London last week, we worked with a group of fascinatingly diverse backgrounds – all keen to learn more about the Geovation Challenge. At the workshops we delve into what we mean by ‘innovation’ and apply the Geovation formula, “Innovation = Problem x Solution x Execution”. At Geovation, we believe that successful innovation depends on building a viable solution to a real problem, and executed as a sustainable, scalable business.


Having teamed up with leading innovation agency, Nonon, and business and service design experts from London College of Communication and Natural Flow Consultancy, we explore each of these aspects, giving you a toolkit of preparatory resources to help you focus and elevate any idea proposition. The workshops give ample space for group discussion, questions, digging deeper into the problem areas of #whatliesbeneath, learning about current Geovation ventures, and even opportunity for team match-making.

Whether you take part in the Geovation Challenge or not, these workshops provide valuable insight into the essentials of starting your own business and developing location-based ideas; opportunity for networking; and how you can gain support from Geovation in other ways. Winners of the Geovation Challenge receive a place on the Geovation Programme, the perfect funded accelerator to get your GeoTech business off the ground.

Geovation merchandise

“Really helpful to find out more of what will happen at the Geovation Camp and how the Challenge application process works. It was also great to bounce ideas off other people and network with them.”

Register for a workshop: Manchester // Newport // Glasgow

Apply to the Challenge: APPLY NOW

The Challenge is open to UK-based organisations or residents, aged 18 or over.

From a simple idea to great innovation: the power of service design

What makes for great innovation? Many things. In Bill Gross’ 2015 Ted Talk, he draws on his experience of being a multi-time founder of dozens of start-ups, exploring what factors make start-ups succeed: from the team it’s made up of, the business model and grassroots funding, the idea itself, and its place and timing. Geovation Challenges work to incubate start-ups from the very root sowing of the seed: coming up with an idea and turning it into a prototype venture, as embarked upon at the Challenge Camp where finalists test and build upon their ideas, competing to win support by a place on the Geovation Programme.

There’s a lot of talk about design these days, but beyond the compelling word and something that ‘might be nice to have’, what actually makes ‘design’ and what value does it give that is increasingly being recognised by businesses (small and large) as critical to success?



Geovation believes and places emphasis on the importance of service design in innovation. The open definition of ‘service design’ is “the activity of planning and organising people, infrastructure, communication and material components of a service in order to improve its quality and the interaction between service provider and customers”. Put simply, if you are building a service for people it should be relevant, useful, responsive and friendly. A fundamental of a start-up venture according to the Lean Startup Model is user research. As Eric Ries, pioneer of the Lean Startup movement says in his book, “Too many startups begin with an idea for a product they think people want. They then spend months, sometimes years, perfecting that product without ever showing the product, even in a very rudimentary form, to the prospective customer. When they fail to reach broad uptake from customers, it is often because they never spoke to prospective customers and determined whether or not the product was interesting. When the customers ultimately communicate… that they don’t care about the idea, the startup fails”.

Let’s look at some real-world examples of good service design. What do Airbnb, Spotify and Uber have in common? Despite their different industries, the effectiveness of their service has been the centre point of each of their success. They empower users in a great way to do simple things that have always been around – renting a room, enjoying music, and travelling across cities. Chief Design Officer at the Design Council sums up these companies’ use of service design: “the shaping of service experiences so that they really work for people. Removing the lumps and bumps that make them frustrating, and then adding some magic to make them compelling.

Can you think about services you personally use and really enjoy using? What is it do you think that makes your experience positive? It can be surprising how the little, supposedly mundane aspects that may otherwise be overlooked, can make all the difference to the service overall. Taking a service-design approach involves paying attention to every aspect: “Design is not just how it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works” – as Steve Jobs put it. Services make up 77% of UK’s GDP and design-led companies who provide excellent customer experience outperform the S&P 500 by 43%. Through Geovation Challenge Camp, teams are given a taster of this fundamental element of product development, with help from experienced Service Design Innovation MDes students and graduates from London College of Communication, and expert service design facilitators, Nonon.

You will be encouraged to speak and work with others; to test your ideas, to prototype it, to talk to users and listen carefully to feedback to constantly be informing and re-informing the design. Service-design testing is ensuring the customer experience will be positive, a crucial exercise in the process of turning your idea into a prototype venture.

LCC MDes Service Design Innovation students helping out Water Challenge teams at Camp, March 2016

LCC MDes Service Design Innovation students helping out Water Challenge teams at Camp, March 2016

See Geovation’s short 3 minute video explaining the methodology of good service design

Geovation’s next open innovation challenge will be on underground assets – ‘How can we better manage our underground assets, in Britain?’ Stay tuned via our blog, tweets or contact us if you’d like to find out more. 

‘Underground Assets’ to be the focus of next Geovation Challenge

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Each Geovation Challenge we run focuses on a new issue, from water scarcity and food security to transport and energy poverty. The formula we use every time is Innovation = problem x solution x execution and we are now planning the next Geovation Challenge, starting with the ‘problem’ part of the formula. Identifying the problems is an important first step of the Challenge so that solutions can be focussed on real problems worth solving. For the next Challenge we are holding ‘Deep Digs’ to uncover the problems associated with better management of underground assets. We are also looking for sponsors who are interested in helping us facilitate innovative ways to solve some of the problems experienced and support the winning ventures’ places on the Geovation Programme.

The Geovation Challenge is run online and culminates in a Geovation Camp where finalists develop their prototype ventures using design principles to focus on a sustainable business model to take their idea forward. Winning ideas will be invited to join the Geovation Programme, a 6 month accelerator focussed on idea development, product creation and commercial realisation. The Programme provides geospatial startups with the expert support they need to take their ideas to market.

 Watch the official Geovation Camp Video

It’s also interesting to see some of the great feedback we had from sponsors and participants about Geovation and camp.

“The Camp is a great idea – well delivered with energy, helpful material and access to smart people and skills. A very positive and unforgettable experience”

“Geovation is an excellent initiative and provided a truly exceptional experience… Well done to all involved, I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to stretch themselves and achieve a better plan than they could have on their own”

“A brilliant opportunity to accelerate your business venture”

“Highly recommend to everyone who is a creator or user of geospatial data as a great opportunity to challenge yourself to improve what you do or how you do it”.

“A once in a ‘project-lifetime’ experience… being surrounded by innovation and design experts in an environment designed to bring out the best in your team and your idea.”

The Water Challenge sponsors were United Utilities, Southern Water, Defra and Environment Agency.

If you’re interested in how the Geovation Challenge works and the collaboration benefits of sponsoring the next Geovation Challenge please get in touch with us at challenge@geovation.uk

Starting the Sustainable Catchments project

Well done to all the finalists who took part in the Water Challenge Geovation Camp held at Ordnance Survey over the weekend 4-6 March. The finalists had been selected as the best ideas entered to our Geovation Challenge to tackle problems associated with improving water use in Britain sustainably. Dr Steve Buss is an environmental scientist, based in Shrewsbury. A hydrogeologist by training, his professional interests also include spatial modelling and Python programming. In the Sustainable Catchments team Steve works alongside Mark Fermor, Chairman of the Geosmart Information Group.

His Story 

I had been following the Geovation Programme for some time on Twitter and previous challenges excited me but weren’t in my field. As the Water Challenge was launched, in Winter 2015/16, northern England and Scotland were experiencing devastating floods. Many commentators and organisations, including Defra and the Environment Agency, started to come around to the idea that flooding could be mitigated by changing the way that we use land in the catchments upstream of vulnerable communities.

 Floods can cause large quantities of water to flow over green land, destroying wildlife habitats and natural landscapes

Floods can cause large quantities of water to flow over green land, destroying wildlife habitats and natural landscapes

Our initial idea was to develop a national map of the areas where there is an opportunity to change the way the land is managed so that rain water can be held up and released slowly. Planting trees, blocking drains, putting meanders back in to rivers all act to spread the flood peak so that the risk to downstream homeowners and businesses is reduced. Given that the Geovation Challenge is run by the Ordnance Survey it was clear that inputs from the country’s mapping agency would be invaluable in making the project happen. As Mark and I worked through the proposal at Geovation Camp we realised that we should look at all the other benefits that the flood mitigation measures might provide to the environment: better water quality, improved water resource, cleaner bathing waters, better habitats for wildlife… So the idea has moved on from creating a tool that simply proposes natural flood mitigation measures to a more holistic mapping platform which takes into account all the benefits that changing catchment land use might provide.

We are now working with the Geovation Hub to develop a web app that can be used to map opportunity areas for land use change. We are using a spatial model to process national maps from the Ordnance Survey, Environment Agency and other agencies into the raw data that the system will work with. The web app will be online for limited trials with community flood groups, and government agencies, in July 2016 and opened up to the public in November 2016. Our strategy for data licensing is to use primarily Open Data as inputs to the model so that we can release some of the model outputs as Open Data. With free access for everybody we hope to stimulate communities to work with land managers in their catchments to reduce the impacts of flooding, and to improve their local environment for all.

Watch out for more blog posts from our Geovation Water Challenge winners in the future. Don’t miss out! See the reactions from all three Challenge winners on YouTube. Twitter: @srbuss / @geosmartinfo  

Geovation Water Challenge winners announced

Well done to all the finalists who took part in the Water Challenge Geovation Camp held at Ordnance Survey over the weekend 4-6 March. The finalists had been selected as the best ideas entered to our Geovation Challenge to tackle problems associated with improving water use in Britain sustainably.

Over the weekend the 10 invited teams used the Innovation = Problem x Solution x Execution equation to develop their prototype venture, using design principles and focus on how they could build a sustainable business model to take their ideas forward.

The teams were supported by service designers and helpers from Ordnance Survey and the Geovation Hub, as well as expert help from those with domain and licensing knowledge and experience in business models.

On Sunday the teams delivered 5 minute pitches and the judging panel asked questions to dive deeper into their water ideas.   The panel then selected the 3 to be offered extras support and funding through the Geovation Programme. The assembled audience of helpers and team members also voted for the team to receive a £1000 Community Award.

winner refillable use copyRefillable Cities

The team of Natalie Fee, Olivia Drake, Thomas Bell and Gus Hoyt will further establish Refill Bristol and aim to roll out nationwide with their app to pinpoint and endorse free tap water refill points at streets, cafes, retailers, hotels and businesses around the city. This is to reduce dependency on plastic bottled water, and change the public mind-set of using plastics that end up in our oceans. The app will capture data and reward and encourage behaviour change by allowing users to build points to exchange for money off vouchers, and gamification.  Refillable Cities also won the Community Award of £1,000.



The Geovation Camp Judging Panel

With Geovation Camp imminent (this weekend) and 10 teams now confirmed to attend we thought it would be an ideal time to remind you of the judging panel who will be deciding which 3 of these teams will be invited into a 12 month funded Geovation Programme

Our judging panel is drawn from our challenge partners EA, Defra, Southern Water and United Utilities; our independent Geovation Challenge Judging panel Chair, Roland Harwood, co-founder of 100%Open; and Dr Alison Prendiville, our internationally recognized service design expert and former Course Director for the MDes Service Design Innovation atLCC/UAL

image of Roland Harwood

Roland Harwood (Chair) is co-founder of 100%Open, the open innovation agency that works with the likes of LEGO, Orange and Oxfam to co-innovate with their partners. Roland was formerly Director of Open Innovation at NESTA, the UK’s National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts. Graduating with a PhD in Physics from Edinburgh University, he has held senior innovation roles in the Utilities and Media industries and in addition has worked with 100’s of start-ups to raise venture capital and commercialise technology. In addition he has worked as a TV and film music producer for SonyBMG.  He will be joined by: (more…)

London Parks launch at The City of London

“Let’s make London the world’s first National Park City. A city where people and nature are better connected. A city that is rich with wildlife and every child benefits from exploring, playing and learning outdoors. A city where we all enjoy high-quality green spaces, the air is clean to breathe, it’s a pleasure to swim in its rivers and green homes are affordable. Together we can make London a greener, healthier and fairer place to live. Together we can make London a National Park City.” This is the opening of the www.nationalparkcity.london website. It’s beautiful isn’t it?  (more…)

Housing Challenge winners Geovey

“I’ve just had a great idea.”

Dangerous words in our office. The two of us run a small business (www.nautoguide.com) aiming to change the world of digital mapping and “great ideas” often lead us astray from the path we should be formally treading. But I just couldn’t keep quiet; I’d been reading the challenge laid out by the GeoVation team and immediately saw how we could make a compelling case.

Richard Reynolds and Dave Barter with Roland Harwood

Richard Reynolds and Dave Barter with Roland Harwood

The challenge centred around the theme of housing and asked, “How can we enable people in Britain to live in better places?” I mulled this over whilst grasping a cup of coffee and asked myself who best understands the needs and issues of the community? Is it the powers that be? Is it those servicing the community? No, it’s the community themselves. They always know what needs improving and often know the best way to go about it, why not give them a tool where they can describe their needs, describe their solution and let the good ideas gather momentum? Surely this would enable people to live in better places by giving them a tool to facilitate change.

I turned to my business partner Richard and we began to develop our thinking further. We saw how a well annotated map that could be easily shared across social networks would go a long way to describe the needs and ideas a community may have. We also saw how these ideas could be seeded in a form of consultation by the powers that be, asking communities what they thought of plans and allowing interactive discussion with the map as the basis.


Reflections of a new GeoVation judge

Our second guest blog from Jane Davidson, who was a member of the judging panel for our recent housing challenge.

GeoVation Housing Challenge logo

To have been a judge for the first time on this year’s GeoVation Challenge, calling for ideas to enable people in Britain to live in better places, has been a privilege. The challenge, as always, is about how to better use Ordnance Survey data innovatively to enhance the public’s understanding and experience. If the future is data driven, how can that data be used most innovatively and accessibly? For the last few years, Ordnance Survey has worked with a number of other organisations to find imaginative and sustainable solutions to a whole range of different challenges. They have inspired ideas and actions that would never have seen the light of day without the GeoVation nudge – or perhaps that should be the GeoVation kick!

The challenge, as far as I am aware, is unique. Not only does it ask respondents to resolve each year’s challenge problem, but it forces collaborative working, skills exchanges, peer mentoring and demands the creation of new and exciting solutions and ventures using geography. Those who become finalists have to bring a team to the GeoVation Camp to work on building the selected idea into a prototype enterprise or venture and pitch it to the independent judging panel for the chance to win a share of funding to implement – subject to completion of a satisfactory venture plan. The process is equally gruelling and exhilarating, for both judges and contestants!


GeoVation ideas from a service perspective

A guest post from Alison Prendiville, who will be one of the judges on our Housing Challenge panel.

GoVAtion Challenge 8 Logo

For a third year running it is a great pleasure to be invited back to judge the Ordnance Survey GeoVation Challenge – ‘How can we enable people in Britain to live in better places?’

Every year the ideas posted in response to the Challenge are impressive and this year is no exception. Linking up Ordnance Survey data with the Land Registry’s licensable data offers an interesting mix of [government] data sources to address some of the current challenges facing UK housing, neighbourhoods and communities; it also presents perhaps one of the most difficult contexts for a GeoVation Challenge.