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Open Data Funding Programmes

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This post is a joint blog between the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) and Cabinet Office


Today, Cabinet Office and BIS have published a joint press release launching the next round of funding for the Release of Data Fund, and the Breakthrough Fund .  These are two of four substantial government funded initiatives to support open data release and innovation in operation this financial year.
The four significant government-funded initiatives to support open data release and innovation are:

  1. The Release of Data Fund
  • Facilitates open and free release of public data through training for public servants, as well as paying for the release of specific datasets as prioritised by the Open Data User Group on behalf of the wider open data community;
  • Has a budget of up to £7m for high quality bids, as announced in October 2011. Fund is administered by Cabinet Office.
  1. The Breakthrough Fund
  • Provides government departments, agencies and local authorities with funding to release open data where there are short-term technical barriers to its release;
  • Has a budget of £2.5m per annum, administered by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.
  1. Innovation Vouchers
  • Provides vouchers of up to £5,000 to encourage start-ups and SMEs to work with a new supplier to develop business ideas using open data beyond their existing network;
  • Has a budget of £750,000 per annum, administered by the Technology Strategy Board.
  1. Open Data Challenge Series
  • A series of seven challenge prizes to generate new products and services from innovative companies, which address social challenges;
  • Has a total budget of almost £1.2m (including over £400,000 in prize funding), administered by the Open Data Institute and Nesta.


Altogether, these funds support both the release of open data (Breakthrough Fund and Release of Data Fund) and innovation using open data (Innovation Vouchers and Open Data Challenge Series). They have a combined value of almost £15m in total, up to £9m of which will be available in 2014-15.  A huge opportunity.


We have already seen some excellent projects get funding through these programmes.  For example, the Release of Data Fund has awarded funding for a Local Voucher Scheme, which incentivises local authorities to release three datasets, including planning data, in a standard format across England.  These three datasets were chosen by the Open Data User Group on behalf of the Open Data community.


For the Breakthrough Fund, last year the Central Government Breakthrough Fund panel awarded the Financial Reporting Council with £590,000 to fund a platform to allow for the release open accounting taxonomies, so that companies can file their accounts electronically.


The Local Government Breakthrough Fund panel awarded funding to 19 local authority projects and the data releases will start to go live during spring 2014, for example, Peterborough Council has developed a standard for data inventories to be published on in a common way.


In March 2014, Nesta and the Open Data Institute announced the winner of the first Open Data Challenge Series, which had the theme of crime and justice.  Check That Bike received £40,000 to further develop their idea.  Also, in 2013-14, over 100 companies received an innovation voucher for open data from the Technology Strategy Board, to explore new business ideas using open data.


For 2014-15, the administrators of these funds have worked closely together to ensure that the eligibility criteria, and focus for each fund complement each other enabling the government to maximise its investment in this exciting, growing area of the economy.  We have also taken feedback from those using the different funding streams into account, to ensure that bids are high quality, relevant, and diverse in topic as well as lead organisation.


The joint press release between the Minister for the Cabinet Office and the Minister for Skills and Enterprise announces synchronised forthcoming rounds of both the Release of Data Fund and the Breakthrough Fund.  The press release, application guidance and forms are now available on at:


More information on the eligibility criteria for the Innovation Vouchers and the Open Data Challenge Series can be found on these websites and respectively.

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