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The University of Southampton

Southampton leads the world on emerging open data industry as ODI opens for business

Published: 4 December 2012
Professor Nigel Shadbolt

The Open Data Institute (ODI), founded by University of Southampton Professors Nigel Shadbolt and Sir Tim Berners-Lee, opens officially today.

Based in Shoreditch in East London's Tech City, the world-leading ODI will become the 'go to' venue for those seeking to create new products, entrepreneurial opportunities and economic growth from open data.

It will promote innovation driven by the Government’s Open Data Institute policy, helping the public sector use its own data more effectively and developing the capability of UK businesses to exploit the commercial value of open data.

The ODI’s work will be presented to Cabinet Office Minister, Francis Maude, who says: “The creation of the Open data Institute – the first organisation of its kind in the world – underlines our determination to maximise the potential of data as a material for economic and social growth. The ODI, and the expert team assembled there, are already helping to foster a new generation of innovative businesses built on open data, and to develop the specialist skills among data technologists that will see the creation of new products and services. We look forward to working with them to make data more readily available and accessible, and to further cement the UK’s position as an international leader in open data.”

The ODI was announced in last year’s Autumn Statement. It is receiving partial funding from the Government’s Technology Strategy Board (TSB) – £2m a year over five years. The organisation was the brainchild of Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Professor Nigel Shadbolt and has been substantially supported through its start-up phase with resources and services from the University of Southampton.

ODI Chairman and Southampton Professor of Artificial Intelligence, Nigel Shadbolt says: “I’m delighted to see our vision for the ODI made real. A world first, the ODI demonstrates both UK commitment and leadership. It shows what becomes possible when you make data available and build the conditions for people to use it to create new products and services. The ODI will be a catalyst for business, innovation and greater openness.”

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web and Chair of Computer Science at the University of Southampton, adds: “People are looking to the UK as being a leader. A lot of people have come to me since they heard of plans to launch the ODI with questions about how they can launch one in their own country. I think it’s great to have somewhere to centralise a lot of experience, a lot of the brilliant work that people have been doing in this area both within the UK in the international community. This is just the start of amazing things that are going to happen in this space.”

Current research by Deloitte reveals key features of an evolving open data market. As part of its start-up activities, the ODI has been working with business experts to assess the landscape.

The Deloitte analysis reveals that:

  • The UK is leading the world in open data. Whilst (in which Professors Shadbolt and Berners-Lee had a key role in its development) does not have the same quantity of data as government open data sites in countries including the US and France, in the period studied by Deloitte, received more daily visits than either or;
  • Between January 2010 and September 2012, demand for open data on, measured by the average number of page views for each dataset, has grown by 285 per cent;
  • There are significant variances between supply and demand for open data in different industry sectors;
  • As the environment develops, businesses are organising themselves in to five key “archetypes” based on the ways they use open data.

Costi Perricos, Deloitte Analytics public sector leader, says: “Data has been referred to as the new raw material of the 21st century. Used wisely, open data can create opportunities for individuals and organisations, both in the public and private sectors, to make more informed and more effective decisions about the issues facing them today. While the open data market is still relatively immature in the UK, demand appears to be increasing. As a result of the rapid growth and availability of data today, we can expect to see a new generation of online citizens and businesses emerging.”


Notes for editors

Four start-up businesses are already working in the ODI’s HQ:

  • Mastodon C: A big-data analytics company, which is aiming to increase the environmental performance of cloud computing;
  • Placr: Who create their own commuter-focused apps and make multiple transportation data sets available in one place for developers and create their own; 
  • Locatable: Making house-hunting easier by providing all the information people might need about a location;
  • Open Corporates: Who are aiming to bring all the information about all the companies in the world together in one place.
Full case studies of the companies incubating at the ODI are available from Media Relations on request.

2. The ODI is a non-profit (Limited by Guarantee), non-government, non-partisan organisation.

3. The Technology Strategy Board has helped to develop the Open data Institute and will invest up to £10 million of government funding in the institute over the next five years. The Technology Strategy Board is the UK’s innovation agency. Its goal is to accelerate economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation. Sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Technology Strategy Board brings together business, research and the public sector, supporting and accelerating the development of innovative products and services to meet market needs, tackle major societal challenges and help build the future economy.

4. The University of Southampton is pioneering the development of Web Science – co-founded by Southampton Professors Dame Wendy Hall, Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Nigel Shadbolt – and is firmly at the forefront of the Open data ‘revolution’ both on and off campus. Since 2009, Professors Berners-Lee and Shadbolt have worked as advisors to the Prime Minister to help transform public access to UK government information resulting in the widely acclaimed website. allows people to view public information, with the ability to combine different threads of data and analyse them in innovative ways.

Professor Shadbolt also chairs the midata project, launched in 2011, as part of the Government’s consumer empowerment strategy to give the public more control and access to their personal data.

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