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Data and Innovation for the North

Over the past 12 months ODI Leeds has been asked to contribute our thoughts and experience to organisations and policy makers on how to support and grow the world class ecosystems around innovation & data that already exist in the North of England.

We have tested our thinking with the ODI Leeds sponsor group, and have support at CEO level in local government, "friendly" responses from DCMS & BEIS, and huge support from academic & public institutions, business leaders and entrepreneurs in Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Hull & Sheffield.

We have summarised our initial thoughts below, but you can contribute your experience and suggestions via a Google Doc.


"Build a new institution that meets the ambition, history and values of the North, and provide the platform for its great cities to innovate. Be radically open and create huge value with data, artificial intelligence, and technology."


To use the existing capability and established delivery capability in the North to build a shared data infrastructure, shared social & civic capital, shared tools and approaches to deliver quickly and credibly for each city and the North. The strategy will be delivery.


  1. Independent
  2. Non-Partisan
  3. Non-profit with a commercial focus
  4. Mission led. It must work on the big challenges, problems and opportunities that we know are important - decided by our cities.
  5. Innovative & Pragmatic. We will lead by example.
  6. Federated across the cities of the North with funding for each city, each independently deciding what to do, many parts loosely joined, with aligned interest and shared assets.
  7. Radically open in everything it does so that anyone can reach into the organisation access the assets, to help, to share and join in.
  8. Leverage the work, IP, and investment of our centralised institutions of the UK that do not currently work for the North. i.e. Innovate UK, The Catapults, ODI HQ, The Turing Institute, The Ada Lovelace Institute, The ONS, Parliament, NESTA, BBC, Government, University Funding & Research, TechNation and... (Many centralised London-centric organisations)
  9. Amplify the outward looking, Northern-European, cosmopolitan voice of innovation of our great Northern cities, in a post-brexit world.
  10. Measure ourselves against the surpluses and spill-overs that we make and enable, use our own tools and data to do this.

What will it deliver

  • A physical space (similar to ODI Leeds) in each city.
  • An open data and innovation platform for the North, owned & run collectively.
  • World class innovation programme - building capacity, sharing knowledge & creating the businesses of the 21C.
  • An always on data asset - The Data City, updated monthly, mapping the development, performance and opportunity of the economy for each city. It will be #radicallyopen, meaning anyone can use the data to tell their own stories, pitch and win inward investment and measure their impact. This will measure in near real time, the impact and efficacy of the Industrial Strategy.
  • Open source development capacity and toolset for city and civic innovation.
  • Definite return on investment in terms of revenue, civic capacity, social capital, enterprise & entrepreneurship, and measurable surpluses and spillovers from its activity.


We will start with Newcastle, Hull, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester & Liverpool, and build connections and capacity out from these centres.

Each city will need to work with its close partners from the very beginning, e.g. Leeds must include Bradford, Manchester must work with Bolton, Newcastle with Sunderland, and Sheffield with Rotherham.

Being #radicallyopen makes this so much easier to achieve.

Funding & Timing

50M over 5 years from end of 2019, with a 500k budget for 2018 to support the development, business case, strategy mapping, establishment and capacity building of the proposition.

Think we're missing something? Got your own suggestions towards building an innovation platform for the North? Remember you can add your own comments to the Google Doc that started it all.