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Ordnance Survey gives environmental innovation a place


Ordnance Survey is the national mapping agency of Great Britain. It was set up in 1791 when the Government of the day realised the South Coast of England needed to be comprehensively and accurately mapped – in order to plan defences to repel any invasion.

Today Ordnance Survey is a £120-million-a-year organisation, producing digital mapping products and paper maps for business, leisure, administrative and educational use. In 1999 it gained government ‘Trading Fund’ status, allowing more freedom to develop new initiatives.

One of these initiatives is Geovation – which runs challenges to address specific needs within communities, which may be satisfied in part through the use of geography. Previous GeoVation Challenges have included social problems such as reporting crime and transforming neighbourhoods. This time, the focus is on businesses and specifically: ‘How can we help British business improve environmental performance?’

Geovation calls on entrepreneurs, developers, community groups and innovators to submit ideas that make best use of Ordnance Survey data to improve environmental performance.


By registering and adding ideas to the website, each potential solution can gain votes until March 1st. Those with the most popular ideas will be invited to a  weekend GeoVation Camp from 21–23 June 2013 where the ideas will be built into prototypes. Each idea will then be pitched ‘pecha kucha’ style to the independent judging panel. Successful ideas will be selected to receive a share of £100,000 funding, subject to completing and submitting venture plans. Winners will be confirmed by 17 July 2013.

The top five ideas currently posted include a Bike Buddies App, to link cycling employees with others on their routes, providing them with motivation and support on their routes, and a ‘sphere of impact’ map, for companies to show their impact in the same way they might show their ‘sphere of influence’.

Encouraging innovation and giving an incentive which provides an opportunity for prototyping, personal development and funding is a smart move from Ordnance Survey and one which can only improve its own sphere of influence. We’ll be keeping an eye on the ideas posted.

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