European Satellite Navigation Competition Opens To Developers

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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Participants get the first opportunity to play around with data produced by the brand new Galileo satellites

The University of Nottingham has launched the UK leg of the European Satellite Navigation Competition (ESNC), an annual event that sees entrepreneurs from around Europe coming up with new uses for navigation data produced by satellites.

Winners will receive funding, mentoring, office space and intellectual property advice to help turn their ideas into profitable businesses.

The initiative is supported by the UK Space Agency, the European Space Agency, the UK Technology Strategy Board, and the Science and Technologies Facilities Council, among others.

This year’s ESNC will be the first to rely on positioning and timing information provided by the Galileo Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) – the €5 billion (£4.2bn) project that aims to create a European alternative to Russian GLONASS, American GPS, and Chinese Compass systems.

Eye in the sky

One of the main objectives of the UK competition is to help the space sector, currently worth £9 billion a year, grow into the £40 billion industry the government says it could be by 2030. Galileo launch 2011

The ESNC is looking for everyday applications of satellite data and is open to anyone, from enthusiastic self-starters to big businesses. The first prize includes £5,000 in cash and £5,000 worth of support, plus three-year membership to the Royal Institute of Navigation and a “high-profile national and international PR campaign”. There’s also £1000 for the runner-up.

Last year’s winner, iGeolise, created the first ever search platform based on journey time, which allowed Internet users to search for location-specific information such as restaurants or houses, sorted by the time it takes to get there.

All entrants will be eligible for free advice from business, legal and technical experts at one of the regional workshops planned in 2013. UK winners will progress to the international Galileo Masters finals in September, to fight it out for the main €20,000 prize.

272px-Galileo_logo.svgThis year’s ESNC will feature data produced by the Galileo GNSS – the European answer to GPS which went fully operational last month. As well as offering improved accuracy and reliability for European users, Galileo will also provide better functionality for developers through the world’s first dedicated commercial signal.

“In March we obtained the first technical fix of Galileo. ESNC was originally created as the ‘Galileo Masters’, to develop the ideas that would make use of the Galileo infrastructure. But this competition will be the first to give applicants access to the actual system,” Tim Just, head of Space at the Technology Strategy Board,  told TechWeekEurope.

“The aim is not just to award money to good ideas, but to help those good ideas turn into new services and hopefully make some money for the applicant.”

The space sector has been growing at around 8 percent annually, despite economic instability, and last year Chancellor George Osborne identified the space industry as one of eight technology areas in which the UK could be a world leader. The same year, the UK tripled its funding for the commercialisation of satellite positing and timing data and relevant app development.

“As well as a strong academic base centred around the Nottingham Geospatial Institute here in Nottingham, we have a government who has bought into this sector, and new mechanisms for the commercialisation of new ideas such as the Satellite Application Catapult,” added Professor Terry Moore, director of GRACE (GNSS Research and Application Centre of Excellence) at the University of Nottingham.

“The infrastructure and know-how are in place. As a country we are ready to take this technology forward and through the UK leg of the European Satellite Navigation Competition we have a conduit for new great ideas to help realise its full potential.”

The competition is open for entries on the University of Nottingham website, from 1st April until 31st May 2013.

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