Press release

New funding to accelerate benefits of open data

£8 million of new investment will help public bodies release data so that companies can develop commercial opportunities.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

£8 million of new investment will help public bodies release data so that companies can develop commercial opportunities for that data. The funding runs to 2015 and was announced today by Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude and Business and Skills Minister Matthew Hancock.

The ministers set out 3 new complementary measures to open up access to public data, including:

  • a new £7.5 million Data Strategy Board Breakthrough Fund, to which public sector bodies can apply
  • a new £850,000 Open Data Immersion Programme, to which companies can apply
  • upgrades to the format in which Ordnance Survey data can be downloaded, to make it easier, more accurate and more flexible for companies to use

The announcement coincides with publication by the Cabinet Office of the first quarterly written ministerial statement showing how departments are complying with their obligations for releasing public data, as set out in 2 letters from the Prime Minister, the Open Data White Paper and their own public data strategies.

The new Breakthrough Fund will help government departments, agencies and local authorities with necessary funding to release data where there are short term technical barriers to data release.

The Open Data Immersion Programme will provide support to companies looking to reuse data to develop ideas for new products and services. It will comprise a series of different themed events and competitions run by the Open Data Institute (ODI) to encourage SMEs and start-ups to work with data owners to better understand the business opportunities different data sets provide.

Competition winners will be eligible to take their concepts into early product development with a £20,000 to £25,000 investment. More details will be announced in the New Year.

The Data Strategy Board, the independent advisory board established to create maximum value from public data, advised the government on the shape of the package to create maximum value from public data.

Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, said:

This new funding will help us to exploit the power of open data to fuel social and economic growth. It will free up more data for commercial exploitation and help drive innovation in public services.

But transparency is also about making government better by sharpening accountability. That is why today we are also publishing information showing how departments are meeting their own demanding open data obligations. We are at the start of this process and it has never been done before. There is still some way to go to meet all our obligations, but now we have a benchmark against which progress can be measured. This will act as a spur to further data releases, of higher quality and will help embed transparency in the private sector.

Matthew Hancock, Business Minister and sponsor of the Data Strategy Board, said:

The value and scope for open data is extremely significant. Open data can improve public services, generate new revenue streams for companies and help to stimulate economic growth. That’s why we are backing it through these new investments.

We want to help everyone benefit from open data - whether it’s taxpayers, businesses, the public sector or individuals.

Stephan Shakespeare, Chair of the Data Strategy Board, said:

The combined stimulus package contains new measures aimed at opening up access to public data to stimulate economic growth and to develop more efficient and transparent public services.

The Data Strategy Board will work closely with the Public Data Group (PDG) of Trading Funds when considering data owned by one of the members. An example of this relationship is the announcement of an upgrade to Ordnance Survey (OS) open data products, building on previous open data releases.

The upgrade will enable people to create and customise different maps thanks to upgrades to OS OpenData, the online portal from Ordnance Survey providing free and unrestricted access to a large range of mapping datasets.

This will make OS OpenData products easier, more accurate and more flexible to use and will enable users to create and customise different maps as well as more options to display their data.

All of the measures announced are expected to be in place by early April 2013.

The written ministerial statement published today by the Cabinet Office shows that over a third of government departments, including their arms-length bodies, have met or are on track to meet all their open data commitments instigated since May 2010.

Just over half have met their obligations set out in letters from the Prime Minister in May 2010 and July 2011, and two-thirds of departments have met or are on target to meet departmental commitments set out in their open data strategies.

The average openness score for all departments is 52%, based on the percentage of the datasets published by each department and its arms-length bodies that achieve 3 stars and above against the 5-star rating for open data set out in the Open Data White Paper.

Notes to editors

More details of the different measures can be found on the National Archive website

The Data Strategy Board Breakthrough Fund will be overseen by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills in conjunction with the Cabinet Office. The fund will cover a number of sub-themes of activity, which could include funding for IT/tool development; standardising data; and making data linkable.  It is estimated that this could support up to 10 projects across the public sector. A maximum of £50,000 is available for each public sector body should their bid be successful. Further information on the eligibility criteria and process for making bids will be published shortly.

The ODI is a non-profit (limited by guarantee), non-government, non-partisan organisation. It is receiving partial funding from the government’s Technology Strategy Board (£2 million a year over 5 years). The ODI will match this with industry funding to develop approaches that release the value in open data and use it to create knowledge for everyone.

The Data Strategy Board is an independent advisory board established to create maximum value for companies and people across the UK from data held by the 4 Public Data Group Trading Funds, where appropriate - Ordnance Survey, the Met Office, the Land Registry and Companies House - and from across the wider public sector.

The Data Strategy Board is independently chaired by Stephan Shakespeare (CEO of YouGov Plc). Stephan is also currently leading the independent review of public sector information. Read further details on the review of open data

The Public Data Group (PDG) Board is led by an independent Chair, Claudia Arney, who was appointed in July 2012. The PDG is tasked with driving efficiencies and synergies between its members and others in the public sector, in order to deliver better, more efficient public services.

The written ministerial statement is available to view at

The Open Data White Paper committed the government to issue a written ministerial statement on compliance with the Public Data Principles every quarter. Alongside this we have also collected compliance to commitments set out in the Prime Minister’s letters of May 2010 and July 2011 as well as compliance to commitments set out in departmental open data strategies. The first reporting period is from July to September 2012.

Read the ‘Open Data White Paper - Unleashing the Potential’, and each departmental open data strategy.

Further details of the 5 star open data standard.

The ODI will act as an ‘honest broker’ to conceive, plan and execute the Open Data Immersion Programme to measure the outcomes against the value-based approach. Winners from these events will receive prizes to develop their products and services. 

The Ordnance Survey open data updates will be available to everybody through the OS OpenData website from April 2013. Further information is available on the Ordnance Survey website.

Published 12 December 2012