EU commits €14.4m to support open data across Europe

Tim Berners-Lee, co-founder of The Open Data Institute, addresses members of the open-data movement at the second ODI Summit. Photograph: Paul Clarke/ODI


The European Union has committed €14.4m (£11m) towards open data with projects and institutions lead by the Open Data Institute (ODI), Southampton University, the Open University and Telefonica.

The funding, announced today at the ODI Summit being held in London, is the largest direct investment into open data startups globally and will be used to fund three separate schemes covering startups, open data research and a new training academy for data science.

“This is a decisive investment by the EU to create open data skills, build capabilities, and provide fuel for open data startups across Europe,” said Gavin Starks, chief executive of the ODI a non-for-profit organisation based in London co-founded by inventor of the world wide web Sir Tim Berners-Lee. “It combines three key drivers for open adoption: financing startups, deepening our research and evidence, and training the next generation of data scientists, to exploit emerging open data ecosystems.”

Money from the €14.4m will be divided into three sections. Through the EU’s €80 billion Horizon 2020 research and innovation funding, €7.8m will be used to fund the 30-month Open Data Incubator for Europe (ODInE) for open data startups modelled on the ODI’s UK open data startup incubator that has been running since 2012.

‘Radically change the way organisations value data’
The new European startup incubator will be operated by the ODI on behalf of a consortium of seven organisations, including the University of Southampton, Telefonica, Fraunhofer and the Guardian. It launches in spring 2015 taking on up to 50 new startups, which will receive between €50,000 and €100,000 to develop an idea, along with mentoring, technology and infrastructure support.

“Open data has the potential to radically change the way organisations value data,” said Elena Simperl, associate professor at the University of Southampton. “An incubation program like ODInE’s will offer small and medium innovators in this space mentoring, technology, and financial support, helping to build a business network around open data across Europe.”

“ODInE stands for those entrepreneurs, startups and small to medium sized enterprises that wish to use open data to create economic and social value,” said Daniel Dietrich, co-founder and chairman of Open Knowledge Foundation in Germany. “This is the logical next step needed to grow the European open data ecosystem towards a sustainable data economy.”

‘Open Data currently only covers the tip of the public data iceberg’

A further €3.7m will be used to fund 15 researchers into open data posed with the question “how can we answer complex questions with web data?”. Two research posts will be made available for PhD students at the ODI and University of Southampton in the UK, University of Bonn and Fraunhofer in Germany, Université Jean Monnet Saint-Etienne in France and the University of Athens in Greece.

A third fund of €2.9m will be used to establish a new European Data Science Academy (EDSA) using e-learning technologies to create a new pan-European portal for analysing data and educating data scientists. The ODI and the Open University will lead the project with seven other organisations across Europe.

“Our experiences while building various open-data portals showed, that Open Data currently only covers the tip of the public data iceberg,” said Sören Auer, professor at the University of Bonn, and head of department at Fraunhofer. “Significant further efforts are required to increase the depth and breadth of available open data as well as to facilitate their integration and use to truly establish sustainable data value chains.”

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