Space and technology leaders call on public to turn satellite data into £40 billion industry

A satellite
31 Mar 2012 00:01:00.000
The European Satellite Navigation Competition (ENSC) is set to launch to the UK public to find the home-grown ideas that will drive innovation in the space sector and the everyday application of its data in technologies like smart phone apps and location-based services.

The UK leg of the competition is organised by the University of Nottingham’s GNSS Research and Applications Centre of Excellence (GRACE), themselves experts in satellite navigation and is supported by sponsors including the UK Space Agency, the Technology Strategy Board, EADS Astrium, Logica and the Science and Technologies Facilities Council.

It aims to commercialise new ideas and help a sector currently worth £7.5billion a year (1) grow into the £40bn industry the government says it could be in 20 years’ time (2).
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The competition is open to anybody with an idea that utilises satellite navigation, positioning or timing technology and prizes include thousands of pounds of capital, business support and office space, patent advice, and introductions to industry partners and funding opportunities (3).

Fulfilling the potential

The UK space industry is currently one of the fastest growing sectors in the country and has been one of the few areas of the economy to experience continued growth through the recession. Whilst the Government sees the space sector as a 'winner' and a fertile playground for entrepreneurship and creative business ideas, there are concerns within the sector that the full potential of our space infrastructure is unrealised. The organisers behind the ENSC believe it can help UK innovators fulfil that potential.

Prof Terry Moore from GRACE, a world-class centre of excellence in Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), and the UK competition organiser: “A lot of people still think satellite navigation starts and ends with the small box on your car dashboard that tells you to turn left or right. Location based services underpin a huge range of applications, and satellite time signals are used in everything from electricity distribution to stock market transactions. Despite this we’ve only scratched the surface of it in terms of how this data can transform our lives.”

Andy German, Navigation Business Development Manager at EADS Astrium: “A lot of the barriers to the UK fully exploiting satellite data come from the perception of the space sector as still a primarily academic environment. There will be users of satellite data out in everyday industries like agriculture, fishing and logistics who are frustrated by the limitations of existing products on the market and have an idea for how it could work better- these are the people we want to hear from.“

Pushing the boundaries

Tim Just, Lead Technologist for Space and Satellite Navigation at the Technology Strategy Board: “While we are now familiar with SatNav in our Smartphones, the next generation of 'SatApps' will come from the convergence of app developers and the space sector which provides the data upon which they are built. By better understanding the unexplored potential of the satellite data, technologists in the UK can lead this major new industry. This competition helps bridge the gap between satellite technology and consumer technology.”

Stuart Martin, Global Director for Space at Logica, who is chairing the ESNC judging panel said: “Launching a satellite is all very well but without compelling value adding applications it quickly becomes an expensive past-time. One of the best things about the European Satellite Navigation Competition is that the awards it offers are very much directed at achieving the desired growth outcomes and getting these innovations over some of the early hurdles they may face in going to market.”

Catherine Mealing-Jones, Director for Growth at the UK Space Agency: “The European Satellite Navigation Competition is about bringing together two huge areas of potential - the data which is available from space, and the innovation and expertise that exists in the UK to exploit it. We know there is real growth potential from this sector, and we're trying to give innovators and entrepreneurs the chance to push the boundaries. I'm sure we will see some exciting and marketable business/application ideas which will capture the imagination of the judges and of investors and users.

Successful footsteps

The European Satellite Navigation Competition hopes to see entries from companies, entrepreneurs, research institutes, universities, and individuals. All will be hoping to follow in the successful footsteps of previous entrants such as:

  • Accident Assessor, last year’s UK winner assists in the aftermath of a traffic accident by reducing stress through guiding the user through the process of obtaining a positioning fix, taking photographs of the licence plates of all vehicles involved and storing these images for safekeeping.
  • G2Way, an application that helps farmers deliver precision irrigation and other farming techniques. It accurately maps their watering and feeding of crops to avoid wastage. Whilst not a winning entry, the UK judges saw the potential in the technology and helped its owner develop the idea to a point where the company is now being supported by the European Space Agency’s incubation centre at Harwell, Oxfordshire.

Entrants can submit their ideas from Sunday 1st April 2012 until 30th June. Further details about the competition, prizes and how to enter can be found online.

— Ends —

 1. Dr David Williams, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, Feb 2012

2. The government’s Space Innovation and Growth Strategy (S-IGS) aims to grow the UK’s share of the world market from 6% today to 10%, by 2030, creating perhaps 100,000 new hi-tech jobs in the process.
3. £10,000 Prize Fund which includes:
• £5,000 Cash
• £2,500 of Business Incubation Support
• £2,500 of GNSS Consultancy
• Free UK patent advice
• 3 years membership to the Royal Institute of Navigation (RIN)
• Introductions to technology partners and funding opportunities
• High profile national and international PR campaign

Second prize in UK ESNC
• £1,000 Grant
• 1 years membership to the Royal Institute of Navigation (RIN)
• Business, technical, legal and financial advice

Additional Prizes
All entrants will be eligible for free advice from business, legal and technical experts at one of the regional workshops planned in 2012
• There is also a European prize of 20,000 EUR.

4. Following the submission phase a panel of experts from each region and special topic prize sponsor will select their respective winners. In September, an international panel of experts will meet in Madrid, Spain, to select the overall winner – the GALILEO Master – from among all the regional and special topic prize winners.

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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham, described by The Sunday Times University Guide 2011 as ‘the embodiment of the modern international university’, has 40,000 students at award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings. It was named ‘the world’s greenest university’ in the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking 2011.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise. The University’s vision is to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health. The University won a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2011, for its research into global food security.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest ever fund-raising campaign, will deliver the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news


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More information is available from James Romero at Proof Communications on +44 (0)845 6801867,


Emma Thorne Emma Thorne - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5793 Location: University Park

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