Welcome to GeoVation - Innovation Challenges from Ordnance Survey.
GeoVation Challenges address specific community needs, which may be satisfied, in part, through the use of geography. Entrepreneurs, developers, community groups, innovators can enter our GeoVation Challenges for a chance to win innovation funding to help develop their ideas. You can read our blog posts below and find out find out more about us, our challenges and how to enter.

We can make London a National Park City

By , 30 March, 2015 8:00 am

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.

As Andy Mitchell, chief executive of Thames Tideway Tunnel said on the day: “Our city’s natural environment and open spaces are some of its greatest assets and form the backbone of one of the world’s best cities to live in, work in and visit. That deserves recognition.”

Among the chorus of participants from diverse walks of London life who joined the event to voice their backing for the movement were school kids, politicians, heads of leading charities and a world famous architect.

National Park experts from around the UK were also on site to flag their support, including Alison Barnes, chief executive of the New Forest National Parks Authority – who declared that the dynamism of the campaign showed London was defining the zeitgeist.

“This is a movement that’s happening not only in the UK. There are people in cities all over the world expressing the need for this connection. This will be a big theme over the next decade and London is in a very strong position to take this forward,” she said.

Pioneering for London and the world
Barnes told the audience that they were “global pioneers” in defining the concept of National Park Cities. Outside the lecture theatre participants showed it was a responsibility they were taking seriously as contributions to the event’s “Wall of Ideas” blossomed.

Here delegates posted their own ideas about what the aims of National Park City status should be. Creating places where people could pick flowers, giving kids on housing estates roles to look after their part of the National Park and joining green space corridors were just a handful of ideas scrawled on brightly coloured post-it notes before the first coffee break.

Back in the theatre Peter Massini, urban greening team leader for the Greater London Authority, reminded participants why National Park City status was crucial. “Two weeks ago London’s population reached its peak, it could be 13 million by 2050. That’s something we have to address and deal with. How do we accommodate that growth while retaining and protecting London’s vast and beautiful natural environment?” he asked.

Out in the foyer an exhibition gave participants some visual examples of the vast natural space Massini outlined. A photographic project of green space across the city’s 33 boroughs – snapped by 132 undergraduate geography students – showed the wealth of blue and green spaces in the capital; from wild roses in Hounslow, water lilies in Greenwich to heron’s fishing on the River Brent.

Photo montages were accompanied by illustrative statistics, revealing treasure troves of green space amid the most urban places. Over a fifth of the City of Westminster is green space as is Hackney, Camden and Southwark – the exhibition by School of Geography at Queen Mary University of London and the Greater London National Park revealed.

“Full of potential”
Massini told the audience that policy was changing to improve access to nature and manage the city’s green spaces. But he said National Park City status would help make those policies “more relevant”. Judy Ling Wong CBE, honorary president of Black Environment Network, went further however – calling the Greater London National Park movement a “rare event”.

“This idea is rare because it is big enough and full of potential and it is grounded,” she said.

“This room is full of hard working environmental organisations, representatives of communities and young people. This is a big idea because it goes beyond pure nature conservation and to social wellbeing. That is why we’re inspired. If London can crack this it will be a tremendous gift to an urbanising world.”

Out in the foyer, speakers on the forum stage highlighted ways in which National Park City status would support the efforts of existing organisations. A Greater London National Park, they argued, would help connect activist groups fighting food waste, support river restoration projects and initiatives to encourage housing associations to dedicate more space to growing food.

Next to the stage a giant black and white map of London – provided by Ordnance Survey – was laid on the floor. And over the course of the day handfuls of adults and kids alike swapped their shoes for crayons so they could crawl over it and colour in their favourite open spaces.

Exhibitor James Baker, community assistant for Project Dirt, the social networking platform for projects with green and social benefits, said the organisation’s 10,682 members would benefit enormously from a Greater London National Park City: “It will engage people who aren’t aware of the opportunities in the city already. It makes the idea that London has huge amounts of natural environment to offer more accessible and shows people it is all on their doorsteps.”

As participants filed back into the Purcell Room for another session they passed award-winning illustrator Tom Morgan-Jones, hard-at-work drawing some of London’s commonly spotted birds – including tawny owls, goldcrests and buzzards.

“The campaign makes sense. It changes mindsets,” said Morgan-Jones, the table and the floor around him littered with reams of paper displaying his ink sketches of birds – as full of life as any of the creatures soaring the skies over the Southbank.

Tackling London’s relationship crisis:
National Park status would rekindle a love of the great outdoors across generations, Pip McKerrow, chief commissioner for Girlguiding London & the South East told the Purcell Room audience. While nature-based psychotherapist Beth Collier, founder of Wild in the City, said it would address the “relationship crisis” Londoners are facing.

“We’ve increased the time we spend in the virtual space but we have less time connecting to what is real,” she said. London needed National Park status to “promote the city’s natural world as a medicine that people can self prescribe,” added Collier.

Sitting listening in the audience was Nicky Gavron, chair of the planning committee for the Greater London Authority. Taking the microphone during Q&A she reminded all how increased pressures on open space from development could further intensify the “crisis” of connection that Collier so articulately described.

The audience was treated to a range of very different perspectives during the next session. Mathew Frith, director of the policy and planning unit at the London Wildlife Trust, warned that the city’s open space was “under threat like never before” as “illiteracy” about the natural environment deepened.

Meanwhile AECOM’s director of sustainable development Ben Smith reported that the company was supporting the campaign with research into the value of green infrastructure and how National Park volunteers could work to enhance that.

While Stuart Brooks, chief executive of the John Muir Trust, outlined the importance of the “collective state of mind” that National Park City status would engender, helping it to achieve its aims. He added: “It helps everyone to make an immediate positive connection before they discover it. But the badge isn’t sufficient. Only when we discover will we connect and truly value. We only protect the things we value.”

But 15-year old Shanice Antoine, a student of Langdon Park Secondary School, was arguably the highlight of the day, rallying participants with her passionate speech on the value of green space to the city’s youth.

“I’ve lived in Tower Hamlets all my life and it is getting more cramped by the minute. The spaces we have are not looked after or respected. In the eyes of the younger generation London’s natural environment is scarce. A National Park would make the city healthier for families, encourage outdoor activities and teach people about sustainability,” she said.

As the day progressed the Wall of Ideas echoed Shanice’s views, as participants posted notes stating that the involvement of school children in the National Park was imperative and called for a halt in cuts to park budgets.

The debate moved into political territory for the last session of the day as architect Sir Terry Farrell, design advisor to the Mayor of London and chair of the Thames Gateway Local Nature Partnership took to the stage alongside representatives from Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and the Green Party.

Promoting liveability
National Park status would provide the UK capital with an “aspirational benchmark” that would transform London’s image to the world, said Farrell, who added: “The best way to protect the countryside is to make the city an offer people can’t refuse.”

Prioritising walkers and cyclists on roads would help National Park aims by knitting together habitats across the city and improving quality of life for millions, concluded Caroline Russell, who represents Highbury East Ward for the Green Party.

While citing concerns over lack of protection for green spaces, Stephen Knight, elected Liberal Democrat councillor and London Assembly Member said the National Park campaign had come at “the right time” for raising the city’s natural environment up the political agenda.

“There are eight million people and eight million trees today. As London’s population grows we must ensure the number of trees grows at the same rate.”

Echoing Knight’s concerns Kevin Davis, council leader of Kingston upon Thames council and Conservative Party member said: “Important as preserving biodiversity and green space is, we must make sure the city is fit to live in. Without biodiversity, history and culture London becomes a dry place. A Greater London National Park has to be in place; only then will we have a recognition of London as a green city.”

As the sun set, and participants made their way to Festival Pier for a boat trip on the Thames, they were left in no doubt as to how to add to the momentum. “Sign a petition, make a noise. Contribute to our consultation and become a friend of the Greater London National Park campaign,” said Raven-Ellison.

“Ninety percent of people think this is a great idea but ninety percent of people think it won’t happen. Let’s work together to turn this around. Stay connected. Let’s grow this thing,” he urged.

The campaign may have begun life as a gutsy idea with a big imagination – but as this event proved making London a National Park is entirely possible, and what happens next is a decision that belongs to all of us.

'Use edges and value the marginal. Don't think you are on the right track just because it's a well beaten path.' -- KMT Freedom Teacher

New OS OpenData products now live

By , 25 March, 2015 8:00 am

Originally posted by Gemma on the Ordnance Survey blog.

Great news this morning, our latest OS OpenData products are now available for download. Announced last month, the four new products in our open data portfolio are OS Open Map – Local, OS Open Names, OS Open Rivers and OS Open Roads. Bringing our OS OpenData offering up to sixteen products, the latest offer you increased detail and accuracy and the opportunity for analytics. They are fully customisable and can work together or be imported and integrated with your own software and database.

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OS OpenData award at the British Cartographic Society

By , 24 March, 2015 8:00 am

Ordnance Survey sponsors and judges one of the British Cartographic Society (BCS) awards and once again this year we will be rewarding cartographic excellence and the innovative use of OS OpenData. The awards are made annually at the society’s symposium which this year promises to be a fantastic event as it is being jointly hosted with the Society of Cartographers (SoC).

OS OpenData award

Your entry can take any form, the only stipulation being that it must contain some OS OpenData. Previous winners have included digital web maps, folded paper maps and we have also commended a beautiful hand-drawn map that was used as a film prop! We expect and encourage a real range of entries and we will be judging them using our cartographic design principles and also the innovative use of the data.

The award comprises a crystal trophy and a framed certificate both to be retained by the winner. We will also be offering a prize to the winner (yet to be confirmed) so make sure you get your entries in before the submission deadline, 30th April 2015.

Reflections of a new GeoVation judge

By , 20 March, 2015 9:58 am

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!

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OS Innovation Newsletter — Spring 2015

By , 19 March, 2015 2:18 pm

The spring edition of the OS Innovation newsletter should be arriving in your inbox now, with our news on recent events, current projects, new products, and a cartography competition.

Newsletter Spring 2015

If you would like to be added to the Innovation mailing list, you can sign up here.

Winners of the GeoVation Housing Challenge

By , 12 March, 2015 9:32 am

GeoVation camp 2015

In September we launched our latest GeoVation challenge — ‘How can we enable people in Britain to live in better places?’ — which was run in partnership with Land Registry.

In total, 43 ideas were submitted to the challenge. Out of nine finalists selected to pitch their ideas to our judging panel, three winners were awarded funding to develop their innovation:

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Our involvement in the UK’s first ever Open Data Camp

By , 11 March, 2015 8:00 am

We were recently involved in the UK’s first ever Open Data Camp, a weekend event that was held in Winchester on the 21st & 22nd February and which was devoted entirely to open data. Whilst a couple of weeks may have passed since then, we thought we’d share our experiences from the event with you here on the blog.

The Camp was run as an ‘unconference’; meaning the agenda for the two days was not pre-determined and it was up to the 150 delegates to propose the sessions that would run over the course of the weekend. The organisers had promised however that there would be plenty of opportunities to learn, share and participate in a number of presentations, open discussions and story-telling sessions – as well as plenty of coffee and cake throughout the weekend!

OD Camp Banner

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myPTP’s development and the results so far

By , 10 March, 2015 8:00 am

A guest blog from Liftshare on the development of myPTP, one of the winning ideas from our challenge, ‘How can we improve transport in Britain?’. Read more about myPTP as showcased on the OS website.

“easy to use and provided travel plans which were well laid out and simple to understand.“

“results were extremely well received, often producing journey opportunities such as cycling, public transport or car-sharing that staff had not considered.”

“not only is it a fantastic tool, very easy to use, but we are really seeing the benefits to the end user.”

This is just a small sample of the feedback myPTP has received so far and it’s only going to get better!

Enabled by Geovation funding, myPTP was developed by Liftshare, as the first ever planning tool to integrate data for all modes of transport; including walking, cycling, public transport, car-sharing and single occupancy car journeys. And myPTP is the only travel planning tool in the market that can integrate Park and Ride schemes into searches.

It delivers a detailed and interactive personalised travel plan in less than a minute, which can be emailed directly to an individual or viewed online through an interactive page of results.

Details within a myPTP include all viable travel options, journey length times, number of changes, mode of public transport (if applicable), petrol costs, CO2 emitted and calories burnt for journeys displayed.

These are all quickly produced once an individual’s name, email address, start and end postcodes, desired arrival departure times and current mode of travel are collected.

To-date myPTP has been used by organisations such as Centrica, National Grid, Everything Everywhere, University of Oxford, Peterborough City Council and many more to help encourage sustainable travel and create behaviour change.

Below follows a snapshot of some of the projects myPTP has assisted and the results so far:

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Reimagine London

By , 2 March, 2015 8:00 am

London isn’t just a city but a diverse region.

Murad Quereshi, London Assembly Member for the Labour Party and deputy Chair of the Environment Committee and Chair of London Waterways Commission

Reimagine London — sponsored by Ordnance Survey, Thames Tideway Tunnel and Queen Mary University of London — took place on Tuesday in Southbank’s Queen Elizabeth Hall.

The event was part of a larger project, Greater London National Park, which began in September 2014 and which invites Londoners to reevaluate their understanding of their city, of National Parks, and of the relationships between urban and rural; and to imagine how the city could be improved. It was initiated by Daniel Raven-Ellison, a winner of our Transport Challenge with Mission:Explore.

OS floormap

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New OS partner Land Technologies

By , 26 February, 2015 8:00 am

Today we bring you a guest blog from Land Technologies, participants in our Developer Challenge who have gone on to become an Ordnance Survey partner.

Our original submission to the developer challenge was about creating a web application that makes it easy to quickly assess land to judge its potential for development. Many housing projects don’t get started because the initial piece of work of finding a good site at the right price is very difficult. We want to change that.

Preview of Land Insight

Preview screenshot of Land Insight

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