20 Oct 2020

Unlocking open public data to empower scale-ups

  • By 2025, 50 per cent of SMEs should be using big data analytics. At the moment, only 12 per cent do so.
  • By 2025, Europe should be home to 25 per cent of the world’s unicorns. In 2017 we were home to just 11,6 per cent (and nearly half of them are based in the UK), far behind the US and China.

Open public data has huge potential to transform sectors across our whole economy: from energy production and consumption, to transport and mobility, to water and waste management, to agriculture. 

Today it is primarily larger companies that have the resources to most benefit from data. Harnessing data can be a gamechanger for smaller companies looking to grow quickly and be the next European unicorns. Areas as diverse as transport, farming and retail could see up to 15.7 per cent growth if they use open data. 

Back in 2003, the European Union made its first strides towards releasing the potential of the huge quantities of data held by public institutions; this became in 2013 the Open Data Directive, complemented today with the EU Data Portal, a great resource acting as a repository for all this information. 

Furthermore, over one million Europeans are already employed in generating, providing, aggregating, re-using, and enriching open data. This could rise to two million within five years – and only covers those directly employed. 

But we’ve barely scratched the surface of what releasing public data can achieve. Much of it is still trapped in siloes across different institutions, sometimes unreadable or in the wrong formats. To make European data spaces a reality, we first need data that is rightly labelled, annotated, and interoperable – meaning that it is easily comprehensible to all researchers and companies from across Europe, no matter their size. 

EU funds from national recovery and resilience funds, as well as the Digital Europe programme, could be spent on giving public authorities the resources they need to make their data usable and secure at EU level. This will boost scalability and growth for hundreds of thousands of SMEs and scale ups.

Open data for smarter, greener cities

Use of data and data-driven technologies offers a powerful solution to manage essential resources such as energy and water: that’s why all urban planning should be “smart”, i.e., leverage data to make traditional networks, infrastructure and services more efficient.  In 2050, two-thirds of the world population will live in towns, consuming over 70 per cent of energy and emitting roughly the same proportion of greenhouse gases. As city populations grow, demand for services but also pressure on resources will increase.

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