Researchers Can Plug In To £1.1m Open Data Funding

Lisa Smith, BA (Hons), CeFA

Small businesses with big ideas can cash in on a government-backed cut-price scheme to access open data to kick-start research.

The innovation vouchers scheme has received a £1.1 million boost from the government to widen the amount of data to more industry sectors.

The voucher scheme was opened to small and medium-sized businesses in September 2012.

Firms looking at the viability of growing field, built environment and space projects were offered £5,000 to help develop their ideas.

Around 200 firms have picked up funding to access open data for research so far.

Explore new ideas

Now, the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is widening the scheme to include energy, water and waste.

The funding will be open for three years – £100,000 in year one and £500,000 in the subsequent years.

Universities and science minister David Willetts explained the gives small businesses with limited resources the chance to explore new ideas.

“This cash provides business with a good chance to grow by developing ideas that would otherwise remain on the back burner. Accessing open data can help develop ideas in to products and services, unlocking value and boosting growth.”

Firms can apply to the Technology Strategy Board for vouchers.

Chief executive Iain Gray said: “The scheme offers more than vouchers.  Our portal is a gateway for more than 40 projects run by universities and organisations around the UK.

“These offer data support for businesses that had no access to such information by making innovation an easier path to follow.”

Big data plans

“Businesses can test their ideas cheaply and effectively with the vouchers.”

The BIS is offering 100 vouchers every quarter in a draw – then businesses can use the ticket to link up with universities, research and technology organisations and technical consultants.

Businesses who have won the lucky dip  have made the move from developing in to working prototypes.

The innovation project is part of a larger government initiative to give private businesses greater access to open public data  – including the launch of the Open Data Institute opening in London to help commercialise the ‘Big Data’ held on behalf of the public sector.

A £7.5 million Data Strategy Board Breakthrough Fund and £850,000 open data Immersion Programme are also offering partnerships with private businesses to access public data.

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