Adding GRACE to GNSS

May 2009 | Comments Off on Adding GRACE to GNSS


Starting out as an exclusive military tool, SatNav technology has over the last few years permeated into many spheres of our lives. From live saving Search and rescue to the convenience of tracking pets, the spectrum of applications is vast. Users have the pleasure of being offered new products and solutions using the Global Satellite Navigation System (GNSS) technology on a regular basis. The base for all this advancement has been dedicated research and development by various teams. Currently with several new navigation satellite systems in the process of being commissioned, research and development take on a completely new meaning and role.
At the moment the US operated Global Positioning System (GPS) is the only fully operational GNSS, but GLONASS from Russia, EU’s Galileo and COMPASS from China are expected to become fully operational in the next few years. As these systems move towards completion, another race is on – to develop products and applications that will utilize the capabilities of these systems. The final success of these GNSS will be measured by the extent to which they are ultimately utilised.


The GNSS Research and Application Centre of Excellence (GRACE), is a cross disciplinary centre providing cutting edge research, high calibre teaching, and business support services to the GNSS community. In October 2009 GRACE will move into its own state-of-the-art purpose built centre. A ground breaking ceremony took place on the 11th of November 2008, and construction of the centre is underway at the University of Nottingham Innovation Park (UNIP) on the Jubilee campus of the University of Nottingham.
It will be the only facility in UK dedicated to the development of downstream applications and services using GNSS. The European Union has estimated the market for downstream applications and services to be worth in excess of £230 billion by the year 2025. Supporting the University of Nottingham in this venture which will have an investment of £9.2m is the East Midlands Development Agency (EMDA), one of the nine regional development agencies in England. EMDA was established in 1999 with the primary goal to increase the economic growth of the East Midlands region.
“More than 120,000 people in the East Midlands are already employed in industries closely related to GNSS and telematics. This cutting-edge facility will really boost the sector, putting the region on the map as a highly-skilled and innovative area where technology is driving business growth. We are delighted to be working so closely with The University of Nottingham on the GRACE project which is the first of its kind in the UK.” Said Jeff Moore, EMDA’s Chief Executive.


Professor David Greenaway, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research said, “With EMDA we are investing not only in the University and region, but in a national asset. There is enormous potential here and I expect significant benefits to follow, not only in terms of support for the business community, but also in visibility for our region.”

Bringing expertise together

The newly formed team of GRACE will synergise with the staff, research students and the research and training facilities of two institutes of the University of Nottingham – the Institute of Engineering Surveying and Space Geodesy (IESSG) and the Centre for Geospatial Science (CGS). Both institutes are coming together to occupy the new GRACE building.

Research at IESSG encompasses fields such as Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing, Sensor Integration and GIS besides the traditional focus around satellite navigation and positioning systems. CGS is a cross disciplinary research centre focussing its research efforts in geospatial techniques and how they can augment other fields.


World class research and development

Occupying an area of over 2,000 sq m the GRACE centre will provide regional, national and international business access to facilities that will include customised incubation units, project offices, latest testing equipment, secure research and development laboratories and dedicated training suites.
“GRACE provides a one of a kind springboard for businesses operating in the GNSS sector in the UK providing incubation services, access to business support and state of the art test and simulation services. Our aim is to become the focal point for downstream GNSS activity in the UK” said Paul Bhatia, General Manager of GRACE.

Infrastructure and services at GRACE

GNSS Research Laboratory and Training Services
GNSS Applications Development
GNSS simulation, test-bed and testing facilities
Dedicated Training Suites
Business Incubation Units
Business Support Services
Supported Consultancy Activity
Potential Venues for National Project Offices

The GRACE building will have a series of geospatial laboratories, each focussing on a specific area – from GNSS activities to Image Processing to Location Based Services and GIS. An innovative feature will be the state of the art laboratory designed into the roof of the building. It will have a series of stable monuments which are supported through the whole of the building and into the foundations. These will provide high tolerance platforms for continuously operating GNSS receivers used for both earth movement research and to provide support to the RTK Network project.
A unique facility of the “roof lab”will be a stable track system which will allow experiments of a kinematic nature over a know trajectory. This will be a wireless controlled system with high precision repeatability. The roof will be surfaced with a multipath reducing surface and obstructions have been designed to be at a minimum.

The Mobile laboratory

The Integrated Positioning Vehicle or the GRACE Mobile Laboratory is capable of providing centimetre level accuracy of position in all road environments. The vehicle will be used to support both systems testing and systems integration. It is hoped that these advanced facilities will stimulate industry to develop and test applications and services in the UK by providing an environment in which researchers and developers can conduct repeatable tests in controlled envelopes and real-life environments.

Making its presence felt

A feather in the cap for the GRACE team was to host the UK ‘Growing Galileo’ event earlier this year in conjunction with the Location and Timing Knowledge Transfer Network. The event was held in the Sir Colin Campbell building adjacent to the new GRACE site. In the second call for proposals for the EU’s 7th Framework Programme, about €40m is available for GNSS research and development projects. The UK ‘Growing Galileo’ event focussed on access to new funding from the European GNSS Supervisory Authority (GSA) for collaborative projects under the FP7. With over 100 registrations and 80 attendees the event was a great success. Professor Terry Moore, Director of GRACE and Professor of Satellite Navigation said: “This seminar has been hugely beneficial to all taking part and it represents a real signal of intent for GRACE. We aim to make GRACE a true centre of excellence in the East Midlands and that work begins with opportunities like this.”

Shaping the future

The GRACE team has provided an important tool in the form of the feed back form on their website to receive information from their target markets. This information will help to shape the direction of GRACE.
The website ( says “We are busy shaping the future of GRACE and would welcome your thoughts on how GRACE could help you.” So, as they prepare for the future the GRACE team is leaving no stone unturned to make sure that all is perfect at their innovative new centre.

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