ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme Office (TTPO) aims to facilitate the use of space technology and space-based infrastructures such as global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) for non-space applications. Nowadays, it seems hard to get around without GPS. You get in your car, turn on your navigation device, and always know when to turn left or right. However, GNSS have potential for much more than just giving us directions. This is why ESA is sponsoring a special topic prize in the international ideas competition ESNC. The organisation will award the ESA Innovation Prize to whoever comes up with the best business idea using GNSS. The judging criteria will be the amount of time required to implement the idea and its market potential, as ESA is looking for ideas that can be incorporated quickly into a profitable business. In addition to a EUR 10,000 cash prize, the winner may be supported at one of the five ESA Business Incubation Centres (ESA BICs). There, incubated companies not only get free office space, but technical and financial support to realise their ideas, as well.
Last year, Rafael Olmedo and Luis Burillo from Spain won the jury over with their project "NEPA", which monitors waterways to identify and locate water pollution. Detecting sources of water pollution along minor waterways is of primary interest to authorities trying to uncover illegal activities and specific sources of water quality degradation. Sensorsanalyse the water quality, and the GPS augmentation system EGNOS (European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service) locates the source of the pollution.
"The innovation of NEPA lies in the combination of satellite navigation, wireless communication, and electronic technologies," says Rafael Olmedo. The jury of experts agreed in rendering their assessment: "The different technologies for measuring and tracking water pollution are already there and can be rapidly implemented in the product. NEPA’s innovation lies in how it combines these technologies in a single new system."
Tim Springer, the ESA special topic prize winner in 2009, is currently at the ESA BIC Darmstadt, Germany. In 2009, he submitted a high-accuracy GNSS solution for locating ships at sea. His spin-off now has three employees and his service, "Positim", is in its testing phase. "We are also working on a survey to improve the accuracy for users," Springer reports.