EU puts €14.4m into UK-inspired open data movement

The EU is investing £11m in three ‘open data’ initiatives

The EU is placing €14.4m (£11m) in three open data initiatives. One of the projects builds on a startup programme fostered by the London-based Open Data Institute, which was founded by Nigel Shadbolt and Tim Berners-Lee with £10m of UK government funding in 2012.

The EU will invest €7.8m in a Europe-wide incubator, €3.7m in a web data research network and €2.9m in an academy to train data scientists.

Gavin Starks, ODI CEO, said: “This is a decisive investment by the EU to create open data skills, build capabilities, and provide fuel for open data startups”.

The 30-month incubator programme will be funded through the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, which has a chest of €80 billion to spend over seven years (2014 to 2020).

The University of Southampton led a consortium of seven organisations to get the funding for the Open Data Incubator for Europe (ODInE). The other six are the ODI itself, mobile phone company Telefonica and its startup arm Wayra, German broad-based research organisation Fraunhofer, and the Open Knowledge Foundation Deutschland.

The ODI will recruit startups every two months, aiming at 50. It will receive €500k to administer the project and €5.5 million will be allocated to the startups. ODInE will launch in the spring of 2015.

Elena Simperl, associate professor for University of Southampton, said: “Open data has the potential to radically change the way organisations value data. 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.”

Daniel Dietrich, co-founder and chairman Open Knowledge Foundation Germany, added: “Governments and other organisations, such as universities and companies, have embraced the idea of making data available to be reused by others to create new products and services. 

"ODInE stands for those entrepreneurs, startups and small to medium sized enterprises that wish to use open data to create economic and social value. This is the logical next step needed to grow the European open data ecosystem towards a sustainable data economy.”

The €3.7m research network funding will support two to three PhDs funded through each participating institution. Besides the ODI, Fraunhofer and Southampton, this includes the University of Bonn, the Université  Jean Monnet Saint-Etienne and the University of Athens.

The project, Web Data and Question Answering (WDAqua), is part of the EU’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Networks (ITN), which is also funded through Horizon 2020.

The European Data Science Academy (EDSA), which is ear-marked for €2.9m, will develop and deliver open educational materials. The ODI will receive €323k to lead the analysis of industry sector specific skill sets for data analysts and will develop curricula and training in different languages.

The EDSA will involve, in addition to the ODI, Southampton and Fraunhofer, four other educational institutions: The Open University, the Slovenian Institut Jozef Stefan, Kungiga Tekniska Hoegskolan, in Sweden, and the Technisce Universiteit Eindhoven. Idexlab, a French open innovation company, and Persontyle, a UK ‘social enterprise’ focused on numeracy and data science, are also involved in the EDSA.

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

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