Innovation UK > News > Innovation UK Vol6-1 > Ordnance Survey celebrates Geography going mainstream

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Ordnance Survey celebrates Geography going mainstream

Ordnance Survey GeoVation Awards Programme combines social open innovation with geography and allows individuals and businesses to bring their map-based ideas to life

Ordnance Survey MasterMap with 3D terrain information

In October last year, Ordnance Survey launched The GeoVation Awards Programme, an open social initiative to encourage businesses, communities and individuals to bring their map-based ideas to life. You only need to see the popularity of location-based applications on Apple?s App Store, not to mention the fact that satnavs are now relied on by millions of drivers across the world, to know that geography has gone mainstream. With potentially thousands of ideas out there, Ordnance Survey as Britain?s national mapping agency has a key role in enabling these to become a reality.

A development fund of £21,000 was made available and in total more than 300 budding entrepreneurs, inventors, business people and curious individuals posted their ideas on the Ordnance Survey GeoVation website. Ideas ranged from the hi-tech to the more traditional, including a map that would help wheelchair users plot safe routes and a climate change data depository where you could study and make up your own mind about the climate debate.

The whole process came to a head when, in January, nine shortlisted venturers gathered in the hallowed halls of London?s Royal Geographical Society, at the Ordnance Survey GeoVation Awards Showcase ? an event also supported by the Technology Strategy Board ( and ESRI UK ( There, before a panel of some of the country?s leading geography and technology experts, each finalist had four minutes to explain why their idea deserved to receive a slice of the development money. Following a day of high drama, probing questions and intrigue, it was Welsh-based entrepreneurs, Rowena Wells and Ann Jones who emerged as the outright winners, scooping £11,000 for their idea, the MaxiMap.

Our aim at Ordnance Survey with GeoVation has been, and still is, to bring together people with ideas with those who have the know-how and backing to make those ideas flourish and, in turn, drive the use of geography. The MaxiMap, a giant floor map designed to get schoolchildren excited about learning geography, teach concepts like scale, distance and the impact of climate change, does exactly that. On being declared the winner of Ordnance Survey GeoVation, Ann Jones commented: ?We feel absolutely blessed. There was such steep competition; we?re genuinely astonished to have won. I?m flabbergasted! This is going to mean such a lot to the project. It?ll help us get it off the ground and allow more schools to hear about MaxiMap and what it can do.?

There was also £7,000 from Ordnanace Survey in recognition for the fantastic Mission: Explore London, an education resource that asks children and adults to carry out geography-related ?missions?. London Blue Plaques, meanwhile, a project to map the locations of every one of London?s several hundred distinctive historic markers, received £3,000.

Among the judges on the day was Gary Gale, Yahoo Geo-Technologies Director of Engineering. ?The standard of entries was fantastic and the scope of them far-reaching and varied, he said. ?Each of the finalists can and should be proud of getting to the finals and being able to showcase their geo-vision. But in the end, the judges decided that MaxiMap was the one idea that could make the most impact and had the greatest potential.?


Ordnance Survey identifying user innovation and need

Part of Ordnance Survey GeoVation is also about helping identify user need and encouraging innovation from the bottom up. It seems likely that going forward, doing more with less is something that most of us including Ordnance Survey are going to have to get used to. Whether that?s in the public purse or our own pockets, the chances are that money is going to get that much scarcer over the coming years.

But the rise of the professional consumer ? or ?prosumer? ? over the last few years means that we have also never had a greater opportunity to take hold of our own futures. Thanks to the Web, especially peer reviews, wikis, blogs and price comparison sites, we can now dig up every last morsel of detail about a new product or service before handing over our hard-earned cash. But what?s even more interesting about this phenomenon is the fact that we can now get involved in product and service development in a way that was never possible before: think software, leisure, public services, journalism and transport.

Ideas in transit working with Ordnance Survey GeoVation

It?s this kind of ?bottom-up? or ?user-innovation? approach to transport that the Ideas in Transit project ( has been focusing on as part of a five-year initiative, and we were delighted to welcome its support for the GeoVation initiative. The project, which is made up of organisations in government, academia and the business world, aims to influence intelligent transport decisions at policy, social, personal and business levels.

It believes that there is a real chance for these often unique transport ideas to make a real difference to how we think and behave, helping to create a more sustainable future whilst at the same time freeing up public and private money from expensive, ?top-down? initiatives. Key to the future success of Ordnance Survey GeoVation will be linking and integrating to other open innovation networks, like Ideas in Transit, and their support structures. Ordnance Survey launched GeoVation because we believe that geography can play an important part in addressing some big challenges. It?s very exciting to us at Ordnance Survey that such brilliant ideas have now been given the means to bring their projects to life and it?s really just the beginning.

Over the coming months all the finalists will benefit, not just from the seed funding, but from a wealth of support and expert mentoring.

Get involved with Ordnance Survey

If you are able to support and get involved with GeoVation going to help it move forward or if you think that you have a need that geography can address, please contact: E-mail:

The Ordnance Survey GeoVation Awards winners


MaxiMap aims to give pupils of all ages a working knowledge of the general geography of the British Isles, allowing them to build up a framework of knowledge that will facilitate learning across the curriculum. Many schoolchildren are vague about the concept of scale of the constituent parts of the British Isles and the MaxiMap allows them to estimate through observation the size and scale of the constituent countries, while provision of environmental information allows them to reach their own conclusions. The use of MaxiMap to deliver climatic concepts to geography classes allows pupils to construct their own weather fronts adjusting them as climatic criteria are introduced.

Mission: Explore London

Mission: Explore London is a project to engage people with geography through playful and thought-provoking missions. It encourages people to explore new places in alternative ways and to see the world with a different view. Mission: Explore London is an interactive map of location-specific geolocated missions that can be navigated on mobile phone apps. Each mission will be written by geography experts to be safe, fun and involve geography.

Daniel Raven-Ellison, one of the people behind the venture, added: ?We?re now taking Mission: Explore into a stage where we need lots of help to scale it up and make it known. This is where GeoVation is going to be of great help. A sound mix of expert support and seed funding is helping us to develop our ideas and, crucially, to make them happen. We?re currently designing our website and looking to launch it for this summer, a turnaround that would never have happened without GeoVation support.?

Blue Plaques London

Blue Plaques London aims to develop and deploy an informative London Blue Plaque search facility, showcasing the hundreds of Blue Plaques erected over the years to commemorate famous people and places that have helped shape London and the world. These include plaques erected by the Royal Society of Arts, London County Council, Greater London Council and, most recently, English Heritage.

David Coughlan, Blue Plagues London inventor, said: ?Achieving a ?podium finish? in such exalted company and surroundings was naturally a huge honour and confidence-booster. I feel very proud and privileged to be on the receiving end of the GeoVation network?s invaluable support, funding and encouragement.?

First prize: MaxiMap?s Ann Jones. Second prize: Mission: Explore?s Daniel Raven Ellison. Third prize: Plaque World?s David Coughlan. Peter ter Haar, Director of Products, Ordnance Survey congratulates first prize winners Ann Jones and Rowena Wells of MaxiMap

GeoVation Awards Programme judging panel (left to right): James Alexander, founder Green Thing and; Peter ter Haar, Director of Products, Ordnance Survey; Steven Feldman, GeoVation Champion (Chair); Gary Gale, Director of Engineering, Geospatial Technologies Group, Yahoo!; Steve Coast, founder OpenStreetMap; and James Cutler, CEO, eMapSite


Ordnance Survey brings geography to life: 3D data of the Bournemouth seafront

Added the 17 April 2010 in category Innovation UK Vol6-1

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Tags: GeoVation, Ordnance Survey, GeoVation Awards Programme, open innovation, geo-technologies