Open data could boost UK economy, new report suggests

A new report released by the Open Data Institute (ODI) and Nesta, the UK’s innovation charity, shows that open data could strengthen the UK economy.


The analysis

The report is being launched at the Open Government Partnership Global Summit in Mexico City, where governments across the globe gather to discuss how they can become more “transparent, accountable, and more responsive to their citizens”.

The research for the report has been undertaken by PwC and examines the impact of the Open Data Challenge Series (ODCS).

Having been established in April 2013, this series supports those using open data to create new, sustainable solutions for “key social challenges”.


Research material

The analysis is based on the “original investment in the ODCS from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, of £1.2m”. The report and methodology can be found here.

The report forecasts that, over three years, the programme will result in:

  • A return of £5 – £10 to the UK economy, for every £1 invested, this equates to a generation of £5.3m to £10.8m (GVA)
  • The creation of 75 to 141 jobs
  • Potential to generate further significant wider social and environmental impacts 


Seven themes

The ODCS challenges were reportedly based on the following themes:

  1. Crime and Justice
  2. Education
  3. Energy and Environment
  4. Housing
  5. Food
  6. Heritage
  7. Culture and Jobs

Startups, SMEs and individuals were asked to “define the challenge with programme leaders”, then create solutions using available open data from both the public and private sectors.

Each challenge had three finalists winning £5000, and one final winner gaining up to £50,000 to develop their business, as well as receive a tailored support package.

The tools and services developed by the winners of the Open Data Challenge Series include:

  • Skills Route: A personalised service to help young people see how well they could do on courses they might take at local schools or colleges, and weigh up their higher education and career options
  • Movemaker: A new app for house hunters, helping people living in social housing swap their properties
  • Culture Everywhere: Helps organisations deliver better social outcomes through culture, by making it quick and easy for them to develop fundable projects

A revised version of the ODCS Handbook, which outlines all the challenge winners can be found here.


Data – the ‘fuel of open innovation’?

Entrepreneur and philanthropist Martha Lane Fox commented on the report’s key findings.

This report shows how startup businesses are creating surprising new citizen services with open data, that have the potential to be commercially very successful,” she said.

Demonstrating the value of open data to the UK economy is important – we need buy-in from Government, we need businesses to be enthused about not just using, but publishing high quality data, and we need to raise the level of data literacy across all sections of society.”

CEO at the Open Data Institute, Gavin Starks, said:

We know that data is the fuel of open innovation. By providing a clear and structured mentoring environment around fantastic ideas and people, the ODCS team have helped transform them into tangible businesses. They are creating jobs, and bringing new ideas to market that provide social, environmental and economic impact.”

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