• This article (originally published on 29 April 2020) was updated on 1 October 2020 to add greater clarity and show that the statistics reflect the survey responses about how businesses say they share data, rather than the full range of operational (and often automated)  data sharing that businesses undertake.


Today the Open Data Institute and YouGov are sharing survey results showing that just 27% of businesses – including microbusinesses, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and large organisations – say they are sharing data. The full survey results can be viewed here under an open licence.

Despite the growth in automated systems and widespread data sharing for operational purposes (for example filing accounts and submitting tax returns), only 27% of businesses answered 'yes' when asked if they share any of their data with other organisations or individuals. This indicates a potential gap between companies' awareness of what data they are sharing and the day-to-day reality of running a business.

The survey also found that:

  • 59% of British businesses with a data strategy reported that they don’t share data
  • 45% of businesses that reported using shared data from other organisations get their data from industry bodies
  • 34% said that they shared data with industry bodies
  • Half of the respondents recognise that this lack of data sharing across the private sector is impeding business growth – 50% of the sampled companies agree that increased access to data would help their business grow
  • 19% of polled businesses are still unsure about the business benefits of data sharing

Competitive markets and complex supply chains require businesses to share data to drive innovation and create efficiencies. The results of the survey show that larger companies tend to have a better understanding of that dynamic. Only 7% of large companies said they had no data strategy, compared to 40% of SMEs. The results also show significant differences in ‘data readiness’ across different sectors. The best-prepared sectors are finance and accounting (where 83% have a data strategy); IT and telecommunications (81%); and legal (68%). The least prepared sector is engineering and design, where just 36% of polled businesses have a data strategy.

Lack of proactive data sharing is prevalent across British businesses despite its tangible benefits.

For those who reported proactively sharing data, the top three benefits were cited as:

  • improved collaboration with stakeholders and partners (38%)
  • better service and product delivery (36%)
  • legal compliance (34%).

Data sharing has benefited a range of startups and SMEs, both in Europe and beyond. A recent EU-funded open innovation accelerator, Data Pitch, showcased the advantages of data sharing to businesses and end users by helping large organisations such as Greiner Packaging International, Deutsche Bahn and the Met Office share data with innovative startups to generate economic, social and environmental benefits.

Data Pitch helped businesses to think about how to share data, minimise risk and maximise its value. Over the course of this three-year programme, Data Pitch created €22.4million worth of value in sales, investments and efficiencies, and 112 jobs were created at startups and SMEs.

Those who said they are aware of sharing data indicated that they share data with: business partners (49%), regulators (40%), customers (37%), industry bodies (34%), and national government bodies (30%).

Looking at the breakdown of data sharing with business partners, the survey shows that the media and marketing sector is most likely to report sharing with business partners (69%), followed by retail (61%), engineering (58%), manufacturing (51%), and IT & telecommunications (49%).

Only 13% of retailers said that they share data with customers, compared to 56% in real estate – both of which are probably underreporting, given the need for data exchange during transactions.

A 2017 report co-authored by the Open Data Institute and Dunhumby highlights the advantages of data sharing in the retail industry. By proactively informing shoppers about their data rights and how data-driven services benefit them, organisations can build trust and strengthen loyalty, which will create greater buy-in from shoppers for data-enabled innovation.

Leigh Dodds, Director of Delivery at the ODI, said: “UK companies are still lagging behind in realising the significant value of sharing data. Yet the respondents who reported sharing data note the same range of benefits as our research into case studies and our report clearly demonstrate. It is therefore important that businesses are made aware of the advantages and incentivised to open or share the data they already collect in trustworthy ways.

“Professional bodies, regulators and industry groups also have an important role to play and must convene businesses and explore the benefits of sharing data and encourage collaboration. UK businesses are at risk of being left behind in the global market if they do not find ways to share data and leverage it to innovate.”

Martin Aston, Senior Manager at Airbus, which is sharing engineering data on its aeroplane concepts with supply-chain partners to improve the efficiency of its product design process, said: “Although the financial return on investment of the APROCONE (data sharing) project is still being analysed, some processes that used to take several weeks can now be done in a number of hours.”

Currently, development costs of aircraft can run into billions of pounds. This represents a series of costs related to the marketing, design and engineering effort that goes into a new product. For aircraft, the design and engineering costs are significant, as they involve the creation of new engineering techniques and technologies for materials, parts and product assembly. The reduction in time taken for some processes in the APROCONE project could mean huge cost savings for aircraft manufacturers, their suppliers, the airlines that buy them and end-users.

The ODI has developed tools to help private sector companies share data to unlock innovation and create value for their businesses. The ODI also provides training, consultancy and thought leadership to companies seeking to benefit from increased access to data.

Find out how we can help your business to share data and sign up for your free toolkit