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 (Saturday 23 February), a global event aimed at encouraging the publication and use of open data.
The Immersion Programme is being funded as part of an £8 million 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, with winning projects at each event eligible to take their concepts into early product development.
Prizes of up to £25,000 for pre-seed investment will be awarded to the winners, and successful teams may be included in an ODI incubation programme. Further support for ideas will 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."
ODI 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."
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.
In welcoming tomorrow's Open Data Day, Simon Dennis, director of central government at business intelligence software firm SAS UK, said: “This Saturday citizens, entrepreneurs and businesses alike will learn how they can personally capitalise on the information being made available through global open data initiatives."
Dennis said the purpose of opening up data was about creating economic opportunities, cultivating innovation and making our lives more efficient. He said governments around the world have started to realise this, which is why they are making anonymised information available to the general public.
However, he added: "Aiding the private sector is all well and good, but the public sector also stands to benefit from the power of Big Data analytics. Hopefully it will also act as reminder to the UK government that it too can capitalise on the sharing of citizen insights horizontally across the entire public sector".