Ordnance Survey celebrates 5 years of funding GeoVation Challenge

28 new ventures and counting created and £640,000 awarded to turn innovative ideas into reality.

In Oct 2009 Ordnance Survey opened its first GeoVation Challenge to identify and launch new ventures that had found innovative ways of using geography and open data to solve real-world problems. Out of 166 submissions, three were selected to share £22,000 in start-up funding and to receive Ordnance Survey’s ongoing support that would see their ideas made real.

Ordnance Survey has since run six more GeoVation Challenges, and has so far created 28 new ventures, awarded £640,000 in funding, and is currently running a challenge with Land Registry to improve the way we do housing.

Chris Parker, GeoVation co-founder and head of the programme, says: “Geography underpins all we do in life – everything happens somewhere. GeoVation was created to generate meaningful social, economic and environmental value using collaboration, innovation and open data. Our methodology of: ‘Innovation = problem x solution x execution’ means a business or venture that is well grounded in a problem worth solving, with a well scoped solution and a business model that sustains the solution to that problem has most chance of success. Ideas may start out locally, but must be scalable to offer solutions UK wide or even globally.

Chris continues: “By pushing the use of open data through GeoVation Challenges, Ordnance Survey has been invited to networking opportunities it previously would have been excluded from. This has meant that our view of the horizon has been greatly improved and the challenges have also enabled us to gain valuable insights and feedback about our open data, and the other products and services we offer.

“In its relatively short time, operating with a small, but dedicated team, GeoVation has become highly-regarded. It’s a huge compliment that organisations in other countries and at home, such as Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Sir Nigel Shadbolt’s Open Data Institute (ODI), have found inspiration in GeoVation. In the future it would be good to have more involvement from other government bodies and commercial entities partnering with us on challenges. What has made the experience extra special for us is the passion the people who enter GeoVation Challenges have. It is contagious!”

Briony Phillips, Programme Manager of the Open Data Challenge Series, Open Data Institute, says: “The Open Data Institute offers warm congratulations to GeoVation as they reach this significant milestone, and continue to play an important part in the inspiration for, and ongoing support of, so many socially focused ventures.

“The work of the GeoVation team has not only injected a notable amount of energy and cash into the open data community, it has also provided inspiration for the Open Data Challenge Series run in partnership by the Open Data Institute and Nesta. As we actively support their current Housing Challenge, which complements our own, we look forward to the future and to many more challenges to come.”

Examples of recent GeoVation winners :

In October 2012 Liftshare.com was awarded £36,500 for the idea of a web-based platform that makes travel more cost-effective and less damaging to the environment by reducing emissions through bringing people together to share car journeys. Since launching Liftshare.com has won the Ashden Award 2012 for Sustainable Travel and is nominated in this year’s 2degrees Champions Awards. Liftshare.com has also just increased its number of employees from 18 to 29.

In July 2013 Carbon Prophet (AR Carbon) was awarded £30,000 for the idea of a carbon trading scheme that mitigates the damaging effects of UK greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging farmers to exploit the natural ability of soil to absorb CO2 by changing their soil management practices. Launching later this year it is anticipated this project will initially create at least 20 new jobs.

In July 2013 Streetkleen was awarded £21,000 for its idea to provide a practical, innovative solution around the anaerobic digestion of dog waste to create usable energy (methane), and the innovative use of geographic data to engage and educate dog owners to ensure cleaner, healthier communities with better waste management practices. That same year Streetkleen was nominated as one of the Top 100 Most “Smartest, Disruptive and Innovative” UK small businesses by Smarta & O2 and its MD, Gary Downie, has just been nominated as a finalist in this year’s Great British Eco Entrepreneur Awards in association with Natwest. Streetkleen has also been invited to design a renewable energy system for the developing world that utilises human bio solids.

Daniel Raven-Ellison, of Mission:Explore, whose website and app encourages young people to explore their local area through social gaming, was one of the winners of the first GeoVation Challenge, he says: “GeoVation has shaped, empowered and supported our business. Its process has informed and improved our thinking so that we not only achieve positive social impacts, but do so in a sustainable and scalable way. We are now helping more families to benefit from exploring, playing and learning outdoors with a revenue model that has allowed us to export our services.

“Personally, GeoVation has been a life-changing experience. It has given me the right level of support and guidance for me to become a full-time education entrepreneur. Over the last few years I have used the GeoVation approach to inform how I have developed children’s books, websites and services.”

On 11 November the GeoVation team is hosting an all-day alumni event for previous winners held at the Impact Hub Westminster in London.