Tag Archives: ideas

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. 

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…)

Open Street Map Hackathon at the Geovation Hub

Guest blog by Alex Wrottesley and Luke Hampson at the Geovation Hub.

OSM Hackathon

For those of you who don’t yet know them, OSM is an open-source worldwide mapping platform, built by community geographers. Although the OSM community is constantly collecting and contributing new data to the platform they are always looking to find ways to improve their maps by curating open geographic information from other sources, including a range of OS data made available through the OS OpenData portal. In demonstrating the Hub’s role as a place to support innovation across the geospatial industry, we were delighted to host OSMLondon – and provide enough tea and coffee to keep them coding all weekend. Appropriately enough the lunchtime pizzas were kindly sponsored by Pie Technologies.

The weekend kicked-off with the organisers, Matt Amos and Andy Allan, setting the broad theme for the event – “Mobile”. They asked the 25 keen hackers what they were intending to work on and gathered all of the thoughts on a whiteboard. The group decided on three key areas:

  1. Looking in to ways of making OSM mobile compatible and more responsive when used on mobile devices.
  2. Looking into ways in which they could enhance the OSM map, through capturing where WIFI hotspots exist around the UK.
  3. Working to fix software ‘bugs’ that are causing issues with their service.


Using OS Maps for active lifestyles

Ordnance Survey is known foremost for its maps, and many people using OS products (both within and without the organisation) have a keen interest in the outdoors. Particularly since our 2013 challenge, Geovation has taken an interest in ideas and innovations that encourage active lifestyles.

The winners of our Active Lifestyles challenge have found innovative ways to use OS data — the Medal Routes app encourages people to walk and helps them to find routes; Run An Empire is a strategy running game; Tagd allows users to create digital treasure and information trails; and OpenPlay works to connect people to nearby sports facilities.

To further facilitate outdoor exploration, OS has now produced off-road routing for all 15 of Britain’s National Parks in its OS Maps application. this allows people to plot routes along public footpaths and rights of way for walking, cycling and running. OS will also be introducing wheelchair-friendly routes, horse trails and difficulty ratings.

You can find out more about how to use the National Park routing here.


Trend Café at the Geovation Hub – with trendwatching.com

Trend Café, May 2015

Trend Café, May 2015

The next Trend Café takes place at the Geovation Hub, OS’s new innovation hub, on Thursday 25 June 2015. The Trend Cafés explore the latest trends in costumer and societal behaviour, technology, and business, and the ways in which these trends affect the use of data. Trendwatching.com returns to lead the workshop.

This is the second of Geovation Hub’s Trend Cafés and will be focusing on trends in circular economy. The circular economy is a term that refers to an economy that is restorative, with an emphasis on minimum resources, maximum value and usability, and designing for repairability and longevity. It is an alternative to the ‘make-consume-dispose’ model of the linear economy.

The event starts at 8am, at 1 Sekforde Street, London, EC1R 0BE. Places are limited and filling up fast, so book your (free) place now!

The session will also be broadcast on Twitter via Periscope, so if you can’t be there in person, feel free to tune in! You can also watch the last Trend Café event online.

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


Are you walking?

This month has been National Walking Month, an annual campaign run by Living Streets to encourage people to walk. During the month Walk To Work Week fell on 11-15 May, and Walk To School Week on 18-22 May.

At GeoVation we have been keen to encourage active lifestyles and in November 2013, we ran our Active Lifestyles challenge — ‘How can we enable active lifestyles in Britain?’ — and as a result we funded some great ideas to get people active in Britain. One of the winners was Medal Routes, an app created by Ramblers Scotland, which allows you to create and share walking routes, set personal goals, track progress, and interact with other users.

Ramblers Medal Routes

Ramblers Medal Routes


We can make London a National Park City

On Tuesday 24 February 600 people came together at Southbank to Reimagine London and ask “What if we made London a National Park?”. In this extended article the award-winning writer Lucy Anna Scott shares her day at this important event.

Photo of London and Thames by Simon de Glanville

Photo by Simon de Glanville

“I hope you’re all in an imaginative mood,” enthused Daniel Raven-Ellison, founder of the Greater London National Park campaign, as he opened the Reimagine London event at Southbank Centre this week.

But picturing Greater London as the world’s first National Park City doesn’t require a huge leap of imagination these days.

What started out as the brainchild of geographer and explorer Raven-Ellison just less than a year ago is now rapidly maturing into a campaign that has a life all of its own. And the 600 participants – who attended a packed programme of talks, debates and activities to explore the concept of London as a National Park – were proof of the momentum behind a campaign that’s swept the likes of Zac Goldsmith, Chris Packham and Robert Macfarlane along with it.


IC Tomorrow Digital Innovation Winner

In May 2014 IC tomorrow ran the £125k ‘Digital Innovation Contest – Data’ to encourage digital innovation in data. Winners received up to £25k each (excluding VAT) in funding and had the opportunity to trial their solution with the relevant contest challenge partner, including Ordnance Survey, Ingram Content Group, EE Limited, Birmingham Community Healthcare Trust and the British Library. The challenge set by Ordnance Survey was to investigate the feasibility of implementing a next-generation 3D building data layer for location-based services within a mobile platform.

Nick Humes winner of the IC Tomorrow Digital Innovation Contest is our guest blogger today. Nick gives us an account of how he ended up winning the contest from his inital idea to where he is now having won.

Everything that has happened since submitting the application for the IC Tomorrow – Digital Innovation contest in May has happened so fast that it now seems like a distant memory.

IC Tomorrow (more…)