European start-up programme creates value with access to data

How a unique European start-up programme is creating social and economic opportunities by giving small, innovative businesses access to datasets from major corporates that might previously have been out of reach

Ready access to data creates opportunities for everyone – from large companies to start-ups and SMEs, government agencies and not-for-profit organisations. Used correctly, data can help drive innovation and solve problems in a range of sectors, including transport, healthcare, manufacturing, banking, retail and more.

Open data is data available for anyone to access, use and share. It is increasingly shared via mechanisms such as the website, which collates data from central government, local authorities and public bodies and makes it available for people to build products and services.

While open data has been shown to be a powerful asset, there are very few commercial opportunities that can be built entirely upon public sector open data. In most cases, value comes from a combination of open, shared and closed data. As the Open Data Institute (ODI) has said, data exists on this spectrum, and the richest opportunities often draw on a range of data from across it. The private sector has been cautious about embracing data sharing, and many innovative start-ups and SMEs often struggle to access data from large corporates in order to develop products and services that could potentially resolve major social challenges and create economic value.

At the ODI, we want data to work for everyone and believe in facilitating simple and safe access to appropriate data to enable innovation to thrive, so in response to this problem we are delivering Data Pitch – an EU data accelerator that is the first of its kind, delivered through a partnership between the ODI, the University of Southampton, Beta-I and Dawex, and funded by the EU Horizon 2020 programme.

Last year Data Pitch ran its first competition for SMEs and start-ups, asking them to propose data-enabled solutions to a range of challenges across sectors including retail, transport, tourism and health.

Following our open call,18 start-ups were selected from hundreds across Europe to work on novel AI algorithms, apps, services or wearables that solve specific challenges and have the potential to grow into successful and sustainable businesses. The first group of start-ups includes companies from the UK, Lithuania, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy, Estonia, Denmark and Greece.

Since February 2018 they have been working on a plethora of ideas, including data-driven ways to diagnose male infertility, provide concierge services for local authorities, identify breaks in human bones, predict maintenance schedules for car repair shops and foretell retail trends to optimise supply chain management and reduce product waste and carbon footprints.

What is truly unique about Data Pitch is that it brings together large multinational companies that own data with start-ups and SMEs that innovate with it. We have worked hard to facilitate access to shareable, non-personal data while complying with EU data regulations, and are currently working with high-profile European providers such as German rail company Deutsche Bahn, Portuguese retail business Sonae Retail, German data management provider Uniserv GmBH and Italian big data and machine learning company SpazioDati, all of whom are sharing their data with innovative start-ups on our programme.

In doing so, Data Pitch is building a framework for better and easier co-operation, strengthening the EU data economy and generating growth by encouraging corporate organisations to share their non-sensitive data with agile companies which can use it to create real social and economic value.

So far, in less than six months, the current group of Data Pitch start-ups has attracted €535,060 in further investment and €261,525 in revenue, and created 26 jobs. In addition, the group’s final products and services are expected to create significant value from sales, investments and efficiencies and result in powerful new data-enabled business models.

As the first group of start-ups nears the completion of its programmes, it has been immensely rewarding to see ideas from different countries develop, illustrating the potential of data to open up new possibilities. We believe that this model of collaborative working is enabling the development of ideas and solutions that would previously have been impossible.

We are now preparing to announce the second open call, offering up to 32 more start-ups the opportunity to join the programme, with a number of new challenges. The challenges will cover a range of sectors including pharmaceuticals, automotive, energy, telecoms and finance. We will also soon be announcing our new data providers – more internationally renowned companies who will be sharing data and working with the start-ups with the best ideas.

Successful applicants will receive an important financial and advisory boost to their idea, with:

  • An equity-free investment of up to €100,000
  • Introductions to investors
  • A six-month business accelerator programme
  • Peer networking and support via meetups in major European cities
  • Access to technology and data sets, as well as training materials and webinars by Data Pitch experts

Applications will open on Monday 2 July, when the new challenges will be revealed – to keep in touch please visit our website and sign up for our newsletter. Interested parties should also read the Guidelines for Applicants to find out more about applying to Data Pitch.


By Ryan Goodman, Data Pitch Programme Manager




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