Research at the United Kingdom Ordnance Survey
The research facility at the U.K. Ordnance Survey (OS) provides an engine of innovation and insights. It is a knowledge store for the organization and positions the OS as a thought leader. The facility functions as a radar screen for new technologies that will impact the organization and its partners. Its research is internally focused on the needs of the organization, which generates all of its operating revenue from licensing its information products and services.
The research unit comprises 30 researchers and support staff. The majority of staff consists of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. A shift toward a higher percentage of postdoctoral fellows over graduate students is under consideration because of the likelihood of a tighter research focus and speedier return on investment in the case of postdoctoral scientists.
The annual budget of the research unit is approximately $4 million (approximately 2 percent of OS’s revenue), of which one-quarter goes to research contracts with universities that are primarily located in the United Kingdom. The unit collaborates on research with other U.K. government agencies and with other European mapping agencies. In addition, it has joint industry research projects.
Having previously followed a product development approach to managing its research needs, the facility has, in the last two years, adopted a “portfolio” approach. This approach includes short-, medium-, and long-term goals that are generated internally within the research unit and taken to the OS governing council, which weighs their value to the OS business. The approved goals then define a series of research priorities, and the balance of investment on each topic is influenced by the likely level of success.
As part of its goal development process and to cement its role as a thought leader, the research unit hosts “Terrafuture”—an annual conference that focuses on societal challenges over the next 10 to 15 years and how they could affect research. The current foci of research within the unit are on data capture, data modeling, and semantic technologies.
SOURCE: Duncan Shiell and Ed Parsons, U.K. Ordnance Survey.