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Digital Catapult launches Data Catalyser



Birmingham City University becomes first partner to use suite of data sharing services

The Digital Catapult has pushed forward its effort to promote data sharing between organisations in granting the first licence to use its Data Catalyser suite of services.

It has done so in a partnership with Birmingham City University, which will run the West Midlands Data Catalyser as a regional hub for using closed and proprietary data. Smart city strategic and technical consultancy Redpill Group led the development of the partnership.

A number of public sector organisations have already indicated a willingness to provide data, including Birmingham City Council the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership and the West Midlands Combined Authority.

Andrew Carr (pictured), chief operating officer of the Digital Catapult, said that talks are also going on with a number of businesses to become involved in the West Midlands project.

The Data Catalyser includes a technology platform for sharing data, a security layer and legal framework, and is aimed at laying a foundation for an ecosystem of innovators. The idea is to make it easier for organisations to share data in developing new services, products and business models by providing a neutral space.

Carr said: “The Digital Catapult is here to develop breakthroughs for the UK's data sharing movement, and through licensing the Data Catalyser to select organisations we will be able to accelerate the safe links between data innovators, start-ups, scale-ups and data challenge owners across all sectors to deliver new shared innovation and productivity.”

Societal challenges

Projects are likely to be focused on more complex challenges, leaning towards the area of data science, but have the potential to produce practical outcomes. They should also be focused on societal benefits.

“We're looking at people defining specific challenges in areas like intelligent mobility, the environment, transportation or health and well being. We want people who have data to know that bringing it together can address that kind of societal and economic challenge.

“The output may be the development of a new app, for example, that transforms the way we deliver care in the community to the elderly.”

He said Birmingham City University has already identified a handful of projects which can make use the catalyser, although the details have not yet been made public.

“We hope that will spark a breakthrough in people replicating the work we've started to get a greater and accelerated impact on the UK economy,” Carr said, adding that the Digital Catapult wants to launch similar initiatives in other parts of the country.

“Other conversations are happening at the moment. We're looking to expand our local centres from the three we have in Bradford, Sunderland and Brighton, and have a call for opening another three over the coming months.

“We think that as part of that we will license the use of the catalyser to other entities. We see this as the first of quite a few.”


He also acknowledged that it would be difficult to persuade some organisations, particularly in the private sector, to make their data available. But he said the Digital Catapult has been working with legal advisers to assess the barriers to data sharing, and that the legal framework in the Data Catalyser could help to simplify the transfer of data and provide support for managing any perceived risk.

“If you want to experiment and look at open innovation you have to think differently about your risk appetite,” he said.

The Digital Catapult is one the organisations backed by InnovateUK to promote breakthroughs in business and public services; in this case to help businesses find new value in data sharing.


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