A competition has been launched to find new ideas for using satellite data in smartphone apps and location-based services.
The European Satellite Navigation Competition (ENSC) has been launched by a collection of UK space and technology leaders, with the UK leg run by the University of Nottingham’s centre of excellence in satellite navigation.
It is being supported by sponsors including the UK Space Agency, the Satellite Applications Catapult, the Technology Strategy Board, EADS Astrium, The European Space Agency, and the Science and Technologies Facilities Council.
It aims to commercialise new ideas and help a domestic sector, currently worth £9 billion, meet Chancellor George Osborne’s ambition to grow in value to £40 billion by 2030.
"The UK is in a very good place amongst our global competitors to take advantage of new commercial opportunities in satellite–based positioning and navigation," said Prof Terry Moore, director of GRACE at the University of Nottingham.
"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. 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."
Earlier this month, GPS’s European counterpart, Galileo, provided its first ever positional reading to a receiver at the European Space Agency's ground station in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, and the University of Nottingham computed its first ever Galileo location just last week.
As well as offering improved accuracy and reliability for European nation users, Galileo will also provide greater usability for technologists and developers, including the world’s first dedicated commercial signal.
The technical details of this commercial signal are currently under consultation with input from potential industrial users in the aviation, maritime, rail, road, pedestrian, offshore oil, and land surveying industries.
The potential for economic growth in this new satellite infrastructure has been recognised by the UK government and last year Chancellor George Osborne identified the UK space industry as one of eight technology areas the UK will aim to become a world leader in.
Already the sector has been growing at around 8 per cent a year over recent years, despite the economic downturn.
The government last year announced a huge increase in the UK’s subscription to the European space agency to £1.3 billion which includes a threefold increase in funding for the commercialisation of satellite positing and timing data and application development.
It is in the commercialisation of satellite data that the competition aims to make a difference.
"UK Space is an exciting place to work right now and the government‘s ambitious targets of £40billion growth in the coming decades are eminently achievable," said Tim Just, head of Space at the Technology Strategy Board.
"But to get there we need ideas that can only come from potential users themselves.
"The fact is the best new businesses and technologies we come across in the ESNC aren’t from satellite experts or the space industry.
"Instead it is people with an area of interest and personal expertise, whether its farming, fishing or football, who have seen the benefits precise navigation or accurate time-keeping could bring to this community.
"It's these ideas we are keen to support at the Technology Strategy Board and as well sponsoring the UK leg of the ESNC, we have recently increased our funding for satellite applications to £10million a year."
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.
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 last year’s winner – iGeolise whose journey time search platform, the first of its kind in the world, allowed internet users to search for location specific information such as jobs, restaurants or houses by the time it takes to get there, not the distance ‘as the crow flies’.
Those interested in entering this year’s competition can submit their ideas until 31st May 2013 online