Higher education and research institutions generate lots of data but it doesn’t get used as it lacks contextualisation. SIRIS Academic look to change that
- Age of business: Founded in 2010
- Name of business: SIRIS Academic
- Location: Barcelona
- Partners: Solange Chavel, Philipp Reichmuth, Bernardo Rondelli and Sebastian Stride
- ODINE Funding: €100k
What does SIRIS do?
SIRIS is a research-driven consultancy that provides data-driven strategic consulting and organisational development services to higher education, research and innovation institutions and policy-makers. We combine qualitative, quantitative and participatory methods, and explore advanced data solutions at SIRIS Lab, our R&D division.
How did you meet?
The founding partners first met in Samarkand, Uzbekistan in the late 1990’s. As PhD students they were confronted by the collapse of the Soviet system of Higher Education (HE) and Research. Over a period of 10 years, they acquired a strong expertise creating and coordinating international research projects and developing innovative, data driven approaches to save and transmit knowledge. When they returned to Western Europe, they realised that the ongoing globalisation of HE and research had opened up a market opportunity for this type of expertise, and chose to leave academia in order to launch a new adventure.
Where did the business idea come from?
Data science has the potential to disrupt the consulting industry, but only if the data is integrated with domain and context based expertise. In our sector, HE and research institutions generate a lot of data, but leaders and managers rarely use this data for driving their strategies because it lacks contextualisation and meaning. Our university analytics data platform, UNiCS, will provide an integrated service solution to our clients.
Are you working with any other partners?
Through SIRIS Lab we collaborate with leading research institutions and funding agencies such as Universitat de Barcelona, European Research Council, CNRS and Durham University. Thanks to ODINE, we have started networking with Open Future Telefonica and Amazon Web Services. Despite receiving valuations and offers, we’ve decided to keep full ownership internally for the moment.
How has ODINE helped you so far?
We have significantly accelerated the development of UNiCS. While continuing to advance on the technology side, ODINE has helped us refocus on the business model and the user experience we would like to build. We are applying design thinking techniques and benefiting from the tech and business expertise of MM1 Consulting and Elsevier, mentor companies provided by ODINE.
What advice would you give to other companies pitching to ODINE?
We would advise them to focus on the value they will create for users, by exploiting open data already available. Spend at least as much time on building a robust business model as they spend on thinking about the technology. Also, define short-term development goals and test as soon as possible within real contexts. Learn by doing and not by planning.
How would you encourage big business to buy into the open data movement?
When open data business models are profitable, big business jump at the opportunity. It is trickier to convince them to release data when they don’t have a business model to exploit it themselves… or when their business model is based on proprietary data!
What’s the key trend in open data at the moment?
Moving from mute repositories to domain-expert answers and visualisations. We want UNiCS users to exploit the data according to their intuitions and requirements, without worrying about the data sources and format.
(This article first appeared on the Guardian)