Data innovation drive receives £6m government funding boost

Innovate UK is providing £6m over three years to the Open Data Institute (ODI), to advance knowledge and expertise in how data can shape the next generation of public and private services, and create economic growth. Now in its sixth year, the ODI works to build a strong, fair and sustainable data ecosystem by helping businesses and governments around the world get data to people who need it.

Over three years, the work will enable the UK to build on its established strengths in data and data analytics, break new ground in creating value from data across industry, and ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of data innovation globally.

It will include a number of projects chosen by the ODI to progress strategically important areas: building data infrastructure, improving data literacy, stimulating data innovation and progressing the ethical use of data. In the first year of the programme, work will focus on creating economic, and social benefits from data, answering a range of key innovation questions and meeting business needs, including:

  • How can organisations make better technological and business model decisions by capitalising on emerging trends such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and measures that provide greater control over personal data?
  • How are data and technology innovation communities spread across the UK, and what are their links with our top academic and business institutions? What does this tell us about where Government should invest, and where businesses should establish themselves?
  • What are the most effective data-enabled public services? What lessons can they offer to other public sector workers developing services? And what new models can we uncover through experimentation?
  • How can government, businesses and communities work together to maintain data? How can they collaborate to ensure that data from multiple sources can be understood and combined easily?

Dr Jeni Tennison, CEO at the ODI, said: “Data is transforming the decisions we make as individuals, organisations and societies, from how we navigate from A to B, to finding an appropriate loan, to knowing where to invest to promote innovation. These  new projects will advance our understanding of the opportunities data can bring as well as some of the pitfalls to avoid.

“Since the ODI launched five years ago we, with our global network, have unlocked over £80m of value, by supporting new businesses and services, to leading major data-focused initiatives. For example, the ODI is currently working in partnership with Sport England to deliver OpenActive, a community-led initiative of sport and physical activity organisations and individuals, using open data to get people more active.

“The work we are announcing today will find the best examples of things working well, so we can share and learn from them.  We will take these learnings and help businesses and governments to use them and lead by example.”

The new programme of work will target specific groups and professionals within the public sector, businesses, and the data community. The reports, research and tools produced will become practical assets that can be used and added to by others, to continue to explore how data can and should work in our societies and economies.

The funding has been awarded through Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, in a three-year programme, running from June 2017 to March 2020 with a funding profile of £2m each year.

The six projects

1. Improving data publishing. This work will understand the unmet needs and pain points in current data publishing tools. It will then offer new solutions to those needs through open source prototypes. It will build on the knowledge and success of the ODI’s Octopub publishing tool which allows anyone to publish data quickly on GitHub, along with other existing data publishing tools

2. Making it easier to create open standards for data. Open standards can help change markets. This project aims to make it quicker and easier for organisations to create open standards for data. The project will gather evidence about how standards are currently created and maintained; understand the needs of data standards creators and encourage standards bodies to move to open. The ODI helped create the momentum to develop open standards for retail banking data and is now using open standards to help the UK get more physically active through the Open Active initiative.

3. New service delivery models. This project will grow the understanding of how to implement data-enabled service delivery models in government, and how to publish more open data as part of these approaches. The project will distill and categorise current best practice, develop learning tools for public sector works, and award funding to forward thinking organisations to develop exploratory showcase open data projects. It will increase the pace of public service redesign.

4. Peer-to-peer accommodation.  This project will convene government, businesses, think tanks and consumer groups to prototype and disseminate new models of gathering and using data in the sector. Prototypes will be used to show how data could be used to make the peer-to-peer economy better. For example, using data to inform debate, and crowdsourcing data to enhance trust and confidence in platforms.

5. Helping businesses understand emerging data technology. This has four strands, each helping businesses understand a different, emerging data technology in order to increase innovation, reduce costs and create competitive advantages. The focus areas are artificial intelligence, blockchain, personal data and geographic UK data clusters. A report will be produced for each one on the opportunities for businesses. The data clusters work will see the current UK Tech Innovation Index produced the by the ODI, enhanced and improved with more metrics added, to show the most accurate picture yet of innovation drivers and communities in the UK.

6. Enhancing data collaboration between the UK and France. This work explores how twinning programmes are helping French and British cities to solve problems in their communities with data. And specific reports will be published on how APIs can support personal data sharing in the energy sector, and how the most effective data registries are being created and used, as recommended by the UK France Taskforce on Data Innovation. It is designed to enable both countries to share knowledge and pioneer new approaches to data innovation.

The ODI will help the public sector get value from each project by:

  • publishing the reusable project materials under an open licence
  • sharing information about both the process and the results of the projects widely amongst the ODI’s global network
  • working on real world projects and policy areas such as four local government public service redesign projects
  • engaging organisations across the UK in delivering the work (25% of all delivery work is expected to be done by organisations external to the ODI)
  • measuring and evaluating so that others can learn, and the ODI can improve.

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