A bridge at night

Image credit: CC0 by Oleksandr Kurchev

Top engineering organisations sign data manifesto to improve safety in the sector

Thu Oct 10, 2019
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New funding announced for projects increasing access to data and driving innovation in the sector

The safety of our built infrastructure – including bridges, ports and power stations, and the people that use them – has been given a boost today by the launch of a new manifesto and report aimed at the engineering sector, encouraging organisations and companies to publish, use and share data.

The manifesto for sharing engineering data, has been published today by the Open Data Institute (ODI) and Lloyd’s Register Foundation. The manifesto has been endorsed by engineering firms including Mott MacDonald and Tideway, as well as the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Health and Safety Executive, and others are urged to join the movement. It identifies a set of principles and recommendations to help improve safety by increasing access to data and driving innovation in the engineering sector, including:

  • Government and the private sector should share and open datasets to increase access to data that will drive safety innovation and support research.

  • Professional bodies and individual organisations should develop and promote codes of practice that will guide the ethical use of data, and ensure that the choices made about what data is collected and how it is used should not be unjust, discriminatory or deceptive.

  • Funders should invest in programmes that will enable collaboration across the private sector, startups and researchers, to solve specific challenges through the better use of data.

The manifesto is part of the new Insight report on sharing engineering data, which identifies the current barriers to sharing data about our built environment, such as concerns over the risks of data sharing (for example dealing with personal data), a lack of frameworks and standards for data and uncertainty around the value of sharing data.

The report shows that increasing access to data across the engineering sector has the potential to create a range of additional benefits for society and for individual businesses. Better use of data can help to:

  • increase safety by monitoring and improving working conditions, for example, across engineering, construction and manufacturing supply chains, or by optimising and improving the design, delivery and maintenance of infrastructure assets.

  • increase productivity in construction and engineering through better collaboration across the supply chain and asset life-cycle

  • enable open innovation, for example by including more communities and organisations in the development of services, helping to create new technologies and insights or design new approaches to designing, building and maintaining aspects of the built environment

Building on the insights from the new report, the Open Data Institute and Lloyd’s Register Foundation are pleased to announce today the launch of a new stimulus fund to support projects that will help increase access to data and drive innovation in the engineering sector with an emphasis on improving safety.

The initial fund will provide a total of £150,000 of funding for up to six projects that will help to deliver on the recommendations in the manifesto by:

  • exploring innovative ways to improve safety in line with the mission of Lloyd’s Register Foundation

  • increasing access to data, by supporting the publication of open data or sharing of data, across the public and/or private sector

  • encouraging collaboration across organisations, for example to build new data infrastructure, or explore new ways to govern and steward data such as data trusts

  • demonstrating the value of open approaches, by encouraging the creation of openly licensing outputs, tools and guidance

Applications for the stimulus fund will open by the end of October 2019. Grant awards are expected to be made by the end of the year. Projects will run for six months from January to June 2020.

Richard Clegg, Chief Executive at Lloyd’s Register Foundation, said:

“It is encouraging to see so many organisations, regulators and industry bodies supporting this new manifesto for sharing engineering data. Current UK data shows that safety figures have plateaued, we need to find new ways to protect lives and protect our built infrastructure. Improving access to data about our built environment creates opportunities for efficiencies, innovation and ultimately improves safety.”

Sir Nigel Shadbolt, Co-Founder and Chairman of the Open Data Institute, said:

“Around the world we are facing a range of social, economic and environmental challenges. A safer, sustainable and more resilient future will require us to innovate and adapt the ways in which we engineer and maintain our infrastructure, energy and transport networks.

“Data has a fundamental role to play in addressing these challenges. But to maximise value from data we need to increase access in ways that build trust, conform to legal and ethical frameworks, and deliver value for the public good. This report and manifesto is an essential first step in achieving these goals.”

Leigh Dodds, Engineering for the Public Good Project Lead and Director of Advisory at the Open Data Institute, said:

“As new technologies like autonomous vehicles are designed and deployed, it is important that the necessary data is available to provide evidence of safety, enable innovation and inform public policy.

“The recommendations set out in the report and the manifesto ensure that all types of organisations are investing in maximising the value of data available to use, which in turn creates an open, trustworthy data ecosystem.”