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Stimulus funds are a tried and tested approach to innovation at the Open Data Institute (ODI). We believe that small projects that have deep expertise and experience in a sector are best equipped to create and implement innovative processes, solutions and products that have the potential to spark positive, sector-wide change.

We currently have two stimulus funds running at the moment: one with Lloyd’s Register Foundation that highlights the benefits of data sharing in the engineering sector to increase safety; and one as part of the R&D programme which is funding seven data institutions who are all on a mission to increase access in a trustworthy way to help solve some of the biggest challenges society faces.

We asked the winners across both stimulus funds to provide us with some thoughts about what their good and bad data futures look like. For their project, their business, their sector and society as a whole.

We'll be taking a more in-depth look to the future at ODI Summit 2020 – Data | Futures. There's still time to book your place and join us.

Collections Trust: making cultural heritage available for future generations

In our ideal data future, all UK museums can, at last, share the rich collection records they have created over several decades, while our sector leadership champions a data infrastructure that museums, their users and their stakeholders can build and sustain over the long term.

Keeping the existing status quo is our worst case scenario – where data about the nation’s collections remains siloed within 1,700 institutions and a wide range of potential users cannot realise the full value of this untapped resource. A bad data future for the museum sector would see more cycles of short-term thinking and funding, repeating the boom-and-bust pattern that has held back data sharing by UK museums compared to many other countries.

Collections Trust will be hosting an ODI Lunchtime Lecture on Friday 4th December.

DNV-GL: exploring how a sustainable open data system can promote trust in our progress towards a net-zero economy

Through our research, it is clear that a systems-wide approach to mapping, modelling and implementing the facilitation of data sharing between actors in a new industry is a potentially vital strategic concept, and one we hope to see more of in the future.

Government policy, however, is key – not just for our Carbon Capture Storage data initiatives, but also for the industry in general. Data has the potential to provide certainty to governments that big business CAN demonstrate that they are meeting overall net-zero targets.  A bad data future is one without transparency, one without government support and one without open innovation or collaboration.

DNV-GL will be hosting an ODI Lunchtime Lecture on Friday 20th November.

Etic Lab: facilitating secure and decentralized data collaborations

We imagine a future in which the power to act with and through data is not concentrated primarily in the hands of global corporations and reactionary governments. We want tools and resources that generate value and social power from data to be more evenly distributed throughout society. In this world, individuals and groups are able to come together to democratically decide what kind of value they would like to produce from the data that is available to them, and how they wish to design the digital infrastructure required to realise it.

Our worst-case scenario for the future of data doesn’t look all that different from the present. The capacity to collect, interpret and to act on the basis of large-scale datasets remains concentrated in the hands of unaccountable corporate monopolies. Meanwhile, attempts to address this situation focus predominantly on standards and regulation, without addressing the fundamental power imbalances at the heart of our digital economy.

Open Climate Fix: better data sharing across energy sector to help consumer and the planet

The energy grid is arguably the most complex machine humankind has ever built. We look forward to a world where energy data is discoverable and accessible to researchers, startups and established players in the energy sector. Opening up and sharing energy data will allow innovation to flourish and facilitate new ideas of how to decarbonize the energy sector. By making the data open, we allow new entrants to operate on a level playing field with established energy utility players.

In my nightmare world, energy data remains locked away in the owners’ hands. In many cases it is not even known who owns what data, and when the data is known, the holder sees no incentive to share data more widely, or they are too concerned about privacy considerations to take the risk of releasing data. In this world, the owners of energy data – usually the incumbent companies – will have an unfair advantage over new entrants or innovators, who have no data; and worse still, even these incumbents will not be making as much use of the data as they could as different types of data are not connected.

Open Data Manchester: better data sharing across energy sector to help consumer and the planet

A good future data landscape for energy would allow consumers to feel confident that their energy data is collected, pooled and shared appropriately and that this would lead to more efficient energy usage, cheaper bills and less greenhouse gas emissions. We want to create a good data future for the energy sector that enables organisations and individuals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improves services and makes people happy.

A bad outcome would be that energy data is under-utilised and remains in the hands of the energy companies with little value being returned to the energy user or the environment.

ODI Leeds: mobilising health data to help fight a global pandemic

An ideal data future is a 'radically open' future, where we publish, use, and share data for the benefit of everyone. Data is tangible, real-time, and interactive rather than locked up in reports (that take needless hours to create, distribute, etc). We focus on the surpluses, spillovers, and positive contributions that open innovation with data creates.

A less-than-ideal future is one where data becomes a commodity, hidden and hoarded unless you pay the price. Data is kept siloed away, with no opportunity for positive improvement from varied perspectives, meaning anything trained on this siloed data does not represent the diverse world we live in.

Your Dsposal: making the waste industry the stellar example for data sharing in a sector

We could go down the path other sectors have and create siloed, monopolistic, proprietary systems that consolidate power in the few and work against transparency and accountability. This will result in decisions based on profits, not people and the planet, and a lack of competition and innovation across the sector.

Or we can learn from other sectors and avoid the mistakes they’ve made since we’re late to the party. We can choose to build data infrastructure that is built on open principles, developed with all stakeholders and designed to maximise resource efficiency and minimise our impact on the environment.

Your Dsposal will be hosting an ODI Lunchtime Lecture on Friday 11th December.

Atkins: managing risk on housing development sites to provide affordable housing for millions of people

We think a good data future should focus on how risk is communicated between the specialist and the developer. By having a more complete data record, which covers both space and time, we can increase knowledge across the community of practice and enable a clearer language  which characterises risk within the context of development investment, leading to less people on social housing waiting lists and more people buying their first affordable home.

A bad future looks like the commercialisation of data for the benefit of the few. As the understanding of data ownership has become more focal in the past few years, we have seen a repeat focus on the development of private data repositories by ground contractors in the UK. Without the access to data, our industry will be stuck doing business like it currently does with little opportunity for innovation or progression.

Read the case study on Atkins’ project and watch their ODI Lunchtime Lecture.

Slingshot Simulations: using data to represent real-world solutions

Data is currently very siloed and is often collected for an undocumented specific purpose but then re-used repeatedly. This raises questions of trust and transparency. The ideal data future would be where data is accessible enough to truly benefit society’s lives on an individual level. From commuting patterns to understanding more about climate change and pollution, a positive data future would be where it results in improved physical and mental health for people.

More access to data will have a huge impact across the board, from policies to business to citizens, as it will help all of us become more informed about the world around us and therefore lead us to better and quicker decision making, using accessible data platforms, such as Digital Twins.

Read the case study on the Slingshot Simulations project.

University of Southampton: a framework for ‘open marine data’ to improve safety at sea

An ideal data scenario for the future is one where the concept of the proprietary data 'warehouse' having a monetary value (on its own) diminishes. This will lead to the general consensus that opening up and making a dataset freely available will increase its value exponentially. Eventually the 'landscape' of data availability opens up for data scientists to innovate freely – data mashups become more commonplace, and unlikely fusions of complementary datasets spawn new products.

A worst-case-scenario data future is one where large, data-rich organisations become increasingly more 'inwardly-focused' with respect to granting permission to use their data. The decision-makers of these organisations refuse to recognise their data as an asset with wider value. Innovation in data science is therefore stifled due to the closed and proprietary nature of key datasets.

If you would like to find out more about the existing stimulus fund projects the ODI is working with get in touch with [email protected].