ODI launches £850k scheme to create businesses from open data

The Open Data Institute (ODI) has unveiled a new initiative that will accelerate innovative open data ideas and develop market-ready businesses.

The Open Data Immersion Programme will consist of a series of events run over three years, convening a range of data owners and data users. It will help SMEs and start-ups work with data providers, industry experts and business leaders to develop ways of using data sets to create new business opportunities.

The programme is launching ahead of International Open Data Day tomorrow [February 23rd], a trans-global event aimed at encouraging the publication and use of open data.

Government backing

The Immersion Programme is being funded as part of an £8m package of investment from the government’s Data Strategy Board announced last December. Key features include:

  • Sector-specific events that will focus on challenges formulated by industry experts
  • Winning projects at each event will be eligible to take their concepts into early product development
  • Prizes of up to £25k for pre-seed investment will be awarded to the winners
  • Successful teams may be included in the ODI incubation Programme.
  • Further support for ideas will also be available in the shape of Innovation Vouchers being offered by the Technology Strategy Board.

Welcoming the Immersion Programme, the Minister for Civic Society with responsibility for government transparency, Nick Hurd said:

“Open Data has the power to drive economic growth and create prosperity. By investing £850,000 in setting up this fund, Government is demonstrating its commitment to delivering this through transparency.Recent evolutions in technology and open data are revolutionising the way citizens interact with their governments and each other. We want to take that a step further and support innovative business ideas that arise from that data. This Immersion Programme will bring together the very best ideas for businesses to use open data, explore the challenges they face and support them with expertise as they tackle those challenges. I look forward to seeing what exciting initiatives grow out of this.”

Chair of the Data Strategy Board, Stephan Shakespeare said:

“I feel positive that through the work the ODI have underway the new opportunities offered by the Immersion Programme will be seized by companies and entrepreneurs across the UK. I’m looking forward to real, innovative ideas coming through. This programme complements fully the aims of the Data Strategy Board and the rest of the work we are undertaking”.

New model

The ODI Immersion Programme is a new model for developing businesses from open data. Each sector-focused series will span a nine month period and constitute: an initial event where participants and experts shape the challenges; a development period to grow ideas; a creation and innovation weekend where products are developed, tested, judged and funding is awarded and; a review period where funded ideas get access to additional expertise.

The ODI’s CEO. Gavin Starks said:

“This new programme is a great way to help ideas emerge. All new businesses are hard work, and open data businesses have their own specific challenges. We will help shorten the path between ideas, experts, and funding: applying structured and rapid feedback within a time-limited programme that will help surface and refine those which show the greatest promise.”

First series

The first series to be explored through the Immersion Programme is Crime and Justice, beginning in March. Participants will work with a range of specialists and industry experts including for example, police forces, government departments, private security companies and charities. Attendees will innovate using datasets that may include crime data, sentencing statistics, poverty measures and rates of re-offending.

Further planned Immersion Programme series in 2013 include Energy and the Environment and Personal Data.