Two Manchester companies have won funding from the Open Data Institute (ODI) via its Innovate UK funded R&D programme for projects that explore approaches that enable trustworthy and ethical sharing of data to help citizens and businesses lower their impact on the environment.
Open Data Manchester and Your Dsposal, both based in Federation House, Manchester, have been awarded funding to work on projects that will benefit the environment. The projects have each received funding between £15-20k, and will conclude their research at the end of January 2021.
This Stimulus Fund is part of the ODI’s research and development programme – which includes a project to support data institutions in becoming sustainable and a project to create guidance and tools to help sectors build data infrastructure and address common challenges – and a broader programme of work on data institutions. A data institution is an organisation whose purpose involves stewarding data on behalf of others, often towards public, educational or charitable aims.
Open Data Manchester is a not-for-profit organisation that supports organisations to release data – and helps people to use it. It has been investigating the use of cooperative structures to help people control the data they collect for themselves and common good since 2014.
The organisation is working with Carbon Co-op, also based in Manchester, to help its members achieve benefits including better delivery of services and more environmentally sustainable energy usage, by developing a cooperative model for sharing energy data.
Julian Tait, CEO, says:
“There are 100s of small scale energy and eco-efficiency cooperatives in the UK, many of which deliver services that create lots of data relating to energy use, such as power usage from smart meters, home energy performance assessments and specific electrical appliance data from water heating to electric vehicles.
“Many energy cooperatives are small in scale and don’t have the capacity to understand, realise the value and share data that they generate through their activities, so data is under utilised. We want to help Carbon Co-op and other small scale energy co-ops to apply our model to realise the value of the data they collect and potentially develop services such as smart grids, microgeneration schemes, better energy load balancing and services based on the behavioural aspects of energy use.
“Cooperatives are intrinsically democratic organisations with enhanced layers of governance and accountability that enables them to act ethically and return value to their members. Through the work supported by the ODI we hope to develop our model for data cooperatives drawing on these strengths, bringing value to members, and developing more environmentally effective energy services”.
Your Dsposal uses Environment Agency open data to create an accessible directory with profiles for almost 500 recycling centres in England, providing basic information on these facilities.
Director Sophie Walker says,
“As everyone creates waste, it should be easy to find the information needed to be able to handle it in a responsible and environmentally friendly way but the public is often confused about the services their councils offer and struggle to access the relevant advice.
“Waste crime costs the UK economy around £1 billion a year, and Defra has highlighted that the lack of digital systems in the waste industry makes it easy for serious and organised crime to take advantage.
“By developing a data infrastructure, bringing together and sharing data on sustainable waste services in the UK we can make it easier for the public to find accurate information about their local recycling facilities, developing an open data standard for Household Waste Recycling Centres and releasing a prototype open dataset.
“This project will allow us to understand, harmonise and validate data for all recycling centres in the UK including useful information such as location, opening hours, waste types they will accept, vehicle restrictions, charges levied and special measures in place due to Covid-19.
“We are thrilled to be supported by the ODI, and the Stimulus Fund allows us to accelerate our work and tap into expert advice. Making it easier for people to do the right thing with their waste and recycling is critical to enabling the UK to meet its recycling targets. We’d be delighted for anyone who is interested in this area to get in touch with us and we welcome collaboration on this project.”
The energy sector is also set to benefit from considerable funding announced in last week’s Emergency Budget – £2bn to create green jobs and £1bn funding for improving the energy efficiency of public sector buildings.
Leigh Dodds, Director of Delivery at the ODI said:
“These projects show the potential that sharing data has to solve challenges in creating a zero net economy in the UK and globally. It’s great to see people coming together to solve challenges that affect us all.
“We want to help these projects succeed. Our experience of ethical data sharing and improving data infrastructure, like supporting and growing data institutions and data access initiatives, will help these projects become sustainable for the benefit of all. We look forward to working with them to develop tools and guidance that will support the development of other impactful initiatives.”