R&D workshop

At the ODI, we’re excited to announce five new projects for the second year of our innovation programme, and three projects building on work in the first year of the programme.

The new projects were chosen in consultation with government and other stakeholders because they addressed current issues for the public, business and policymakers. These range from recent revelations about how data about us is shared by companies like Facebook – which have caused alarm and raised important questions about the use and misuse of personal data – to the importance of building strong geospatial data infrastructure.

At the ODI, we want to see the benefits of the data that is collected by companies spread more fairly to us as individuals and society. And we want it to be shared in ways that enable open innovation, are secure and preserve our privacy.

Our new R&D projects directly address these themes, looking at how new technologies access data and how we can safely broaden access to personal data.

Our Year 1 projects laid solid foundations for this. Early findings have been shared, including reports looking at how open data is supporting the delivery of a public service in the UK; what is holding data publishers back from publishing more data; how artificial intelligence can support businesses; and how data portability can shape our future in four different scenarios.

We’ve developed tools with partners, such as a guide on improving data publishing workflows by the Frictionless data team at Open Knowledge International, a data validation tool (on GitHub) from Lintol. We’ve also created a guidebook on data standards for data publishers and revised our Data Ethics Canvas. Many more reports, tools and findings are still to come over the coming weeks, so watch this space!

Our new Year 2 innovation projects are:

Increasing data access for new technologies

We know that new businesses and new technologies need easy and secure access to data to thrive, but find it difficult to know what's available and how to share it. This project builds on our data portability work and focuses on business and organisational models that create trustworthy, safe and equitable markets. We aim to explore options within selected sectors, and produce reports, guides and prototypes aimed at the private and public sectors to help increase use of data across multiple organisations.

Broadening access to personal data while protecting privacy

In this project we will develop tools and good practices to help organisations Mitigate re-identification when sharing or opening data, whilst protecting privacy and encouraging innovation. We will also look at the potential, particularly relevant as GDPR comes into force, to help organisations make data more accessible in a way that protects citizens’ privacy, and increases the social and economic value created from that data.

Building stronger data trade links

The UK Government wants to build stronger trade links abroad, and UK-based businesses want to grow export revenues and secure overseas investors, but often struggle due to lack of understanding around data regulations in target countries. This project will perform research in the UK, France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands to understand and help data businesses in six sectors (finance, transport, artificial intelligence, healthcare, energy and utilities) identify new opportunities and risks.

Unlocking the potential of open geospatial data and technology

Geospatial data is vital infrastructure for many commercial sectors, as well as many public sector services. The UK government has several geospatial projects underway, including the formation of the Geospatial Commission. Feeding into these initiatives and exploring wider trends, this project will examine the variety of ways in which open geospatial data is being collected, published and used, to help identify new guidance, prototype new tools and approaches that will help make geospatial data as open and accessible as possible. 

Predicting cause and effect of data strategies

This project will build on the ODI’s established expertise and networks to develop agent-based models to investigate possible effects of data policy and investments on levels of innovation and productivity. This project will deliver a ‘State of the Nation’ snapshot of the data landscape, and can be used to inform the work of other bodies such as the new Centre of Data Ethics and Innovation and Ada Lovelace Institute.

Creating data transformation in industry sectors

Data ecosystems are complex and often not well understood. They involve multiple types of actors, relationships, data flows and tangible and intangible exchanges of value. Much of the work in the first year of this innovation programme have identified, created or refined methodologies that could be applied across sectors, such as drawing ecosystem maps to understand actors, roles and data exchanges. In this project we will combine, test and refine these methodologies against 2-3 sectors, including transport, to identify learning needs and relevant interventions.

The following projects continue work from the first year of the programme:

Service design learning materials

The first year of this programme has demonstrated that there are many opportunities to use open data in the design of public service delivery but that the benefits of these existing examples aren’t yet being clearly articulated. We funded four teams around the UK to redesign a local public service with open data and want to share what they – and we – learned. They are Kent County Council, Doncaster Council and Uscreates, London Borough of Waltham Forest and North Lanarkshire Council and UrbanTide whose work has been nominated for the 2018 Digital Technology Awards with their partners UrbanTide and Snooks.The ODI will work with partners across local and central government to further develop and test learning materials with organisations involved in public service delivery.

Open APIs continuation

In the first year of this programme of work, ODI delivered four projects that responded to recommendations from the UK/France data innovation taskforce. These aimed to enable the two countries to work together to improve data infrastructure, innovation and skills. One of these projects developed the use of API’s in the telecoms sector, building on the expertise gained by the ODI in Open Banking. We will be taking the prototypes developed for the telecoms sector and adapting them for other the utilities sectors, such as water.

The innovation programme launched in Autumn 2017 with six projects designed to advance knowledge and expertise in how data can shape the next generation of public and private services, and create economic growth. The programme has £6m funding from Innovate UK and will run for three years.