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Make Your Satnav Idea A Reality

Rafael Olmedo and Luis Burillo, from the Spanish research institute INTA, invented the NEPA application to detect changes in electrochemical water quality indicators and also potential sources of hazardous pollution. By using the extreme accuracy of EGNOS (European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service), NEPA can help authorities to uncover illegal wastewater influx in waterways, identifying both how harmful the pollution is and exactly where it flows into the waterway. This application won the ESA Special Prize in the European Satellite Navigation Competition 2010. Credits: NEPA
by Staff Writers
Paris, France (ESA) Apr 05, 2011
Submit a great satnav idea and win a prize with ESA support to create your own business. Previous winning ideas today guide visitors around exhibition centres, help position offshore ships with centimetre accuracy and spot pollution in waterways.

The eighth European Satellite Navigation Competition (ESNC) began on 1 April. Inventors and entrepreneurs can propose their ideas on how to use satellite navigation technology in new applications on Earth.

The winners will get the chance to turn them into viable businesses with the support from business incubations centres throughout Europe.

Galileo Masters competition becomes global ESNC
What began in Bavaria in 2004 as the 'Galileo Masters' with just three regions has turned into the global ESNC, with more than 20 high-tech regions.

Many of the thousand-plus ideas submitted have turned into new businesses in Europe.

Each region offers a prize to its winners. Special topic prizes sponsored by partners from industry and research add to the euros 1 million prize pool.

The best overall idea is awarded the Galileo Master grand prize of euros 20 000 and the opportunity to realise the project during a six-month incubation programme. Other organisations also award prizes.

The ESA Special Prize is awarded for the best idea that can be quickly nurtured into a profitable business with the technical and financial assistance from one of our five, soon to become six, ESA Business Incubation Centres. The winner will also receive a euros 10 000 cash award. ESA prizes lead to business

The 2008 winner proposed pseudo-satellites for indoor navigation, where real satellite signals cannot penetrate. French company Insiteo was started and supported by ESA's Business Incubation Centre in, the Netherlands, and ESA engineers to develop its patented solution.

Today, Insideo's indoor navigation system is helping the six million annual visitors find their way around Expo Porte de Versailles, the largest exhibition centre in Paris. Two years ago, Tim Springer proposed a computation system that uses GPS and Glonass satnav signals for realtime positioning to centimetre accuracy.

Based on ESA's NAPEOS system used in satellite control, it offers higher precision than other commercial packages. Tim's German start-up company is now hosted at ESA's Business Incubation Centre (BIC) in Darmstadt, Germany to complete the system and get the business going.

"Our business plan is to commercialise NAPEOS and improve its precision significantly as well as reduce the processing time," explains Tim. Meanwhile, Positim's system is already being used to position off-shore ships and platforms. Last year, the ESA Special Prize went to Rafael Olmedo and Luis Burillo, from Spain's INTA research institute.

They proposed using the extreme accuracy of EGNOS (European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service) to help authorities uncover illegal polluting wastewater flowing into waterways.

"Space pays handsomely back. Every euro invested in satellite manufacturing returns tens of euros downstream," explains Frank M. Salzgeber, head of ESA's Technology Transfer Programme Office (TTPO).

"We want to squeeze it even more and increase the return of space technologies and systems for daily life applications on Earth."

Farmers helped by new satnav system
"Ready and available, and even if developed initially for our space exploration, these often advanced technologies have turned out to provide the right answers to many problems here on Earth as well as opened up for innovative solutions and systems helping our citizens."

At the ESA BICs, winners may be assisted by ESA experts and have access to space technologies and laboratories. These centres are located in the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and the UK, with a sixth to open this year in Belgium.

But the support does not stop there. TTPO will help the companies to acquire funding through its annual ESA Investment Forum and the ESA-initiated Open Sky Technologies Fund.

ESNC 2011 opening conference
The ESNC 2011 International Kick-Off Conference to learn more about the completion will be held on 11 May and hosted by the Institute of Engineering and Technology in London. The event will be opened on the evening before with a lively 'elevator pitch' session and a warm-up party at Inmarsat, with a guided tour of their Satellite Control Centre.

The conference will be opened by Carlo des Dorides, the new Executive Director of the European GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite Systems) Agency. Representatives of the competition's sponsors will introduce this year's special topic prizes and all the benefits ESNC can offer participants.

Experts will give an overview on financing opportunities and intellectual property rights and outline which sectors and application areas have the most potential.

Previous competition winners will be on hand to share their ESNC experience: how did winning the ESNC influence their business, what has happened since winning, and what was the result?

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