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Levelling Up With Open Data - Launch

A project to explore 'levelling up' from a Northern perspective, by working in the open, inviting discussion and suggestions, and developing a prototype visualisation with open data at its foundation.

Launch introduction

The term 'levelling up' will be more familiar in gaming culture than in politics but it became a core part of political speech and decision-making in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. You might know what it means in a game, but what does it mean for the UK?

With no solid definition, 'levelling up' could mean something different to everyone, and with no official 'levelling up' dataset to work from, there isn't a way to currently track progress or keep things accountable. Open Innovations together with the Royal Statistical Society will be leading a project to explore 'levelling up' from a Northern perspective, by working in the open, inviting discussion and suggestions, and developing a prototype visualisation with open data at its foundation.

What open data will we use? Well, this is where you come in…

The project will start in November 2021 and finish in February 2022, with three key stages and events that accompany them, plus opportunities for people to contribute their feedback, suggestions, data sources, etc.

Message from Neil O'Brien

Data has never been more important to our day-to-day lives with the covid pandemic bringing it right into the heart of policymaking.

Open data projects like this will have a pivotal role to play in helping inform our work on levelling up, the defining mission of this Government.

Because without data there is no such thing as levelling up. It acts like an X-ray machine on our economy and our society at large: showing us where the problems are. It tells us what methods we need to rebalance the country and ultimately it will tell us if what we are doing is working.

I look forward to working with the Royal Statistical Society on this open data dashboard. I'm hopeful that together we will use this data to translate rhetoric into something that people can see and feel in their daily lives – as we level up the whole United Kingdom.

Neil O'Brien MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Levelling Up, The Union and Constitution)


The launch event speakers are:

  • Andy Haldane, Permanent Secretary to the Levelling Up Taskforce
  • Neil O'Brien, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Levelling Up, The Union and Constitution)
  • Stian Westlake, CEO Royal Statistical Society
  • Tera Allas, Director of Research and Economics, McKinsey
  • Sam Beckett, Permanent Secretary, ONS
  • Tom Bridges, Leeds Office Leader, Director Cities Advisory, Arup
  • Tom Forth, Head of Data, Open Innovations (formerly ODILeeds)
  • Nancy Hey, Executive Director, What Works Centre for Wellbeing
  • Jodie Levy, Head of Regional Tech Policy Department for Digital, Culture , Media & Sports
  • Alan Reiss, Director of Strategy, Communications and Policing, West Yorkshire Combined Authority
  • Paul Swinney, Director of Policy and Research, Centre for Cities
  • Andy Haldane

    Permanent Secretary to the Levelling Up Taskforce

    Andrew G Haldane was Chief Economist at the Bank of England and a member of the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee until 30 June 2021. He became Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) in September 2021, a position which he is now on secondment from to head up the Levelling Up Taskforce that will report to the PM and the Secretary of State for Levelling Up.

    Among other positions, he is Honorary Professor at the Universities of Nottingham and Manchester, Visiting Professor at King's College, London, a Visiting Fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford and a Fellow of the Royal Society and the Academy of Social Sciences. He has authored around 200 articles and 4 books.

    Andrew is founder and trustee of Pro Bono Economics, a charity which brokers economists into charitable projects, and Vice-Chair of the charity National Numeracy.

  • Neil O'Brien

    MP for Harborough, Oadby & Wigston and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Levelling Up, The Union and Constitution

    Neil O'Brien was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Levelling Up, The Union and Constitution at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on 19 September 2021.

  • Stian Westlake

    Chief Executive of the Royal Statistical Society

    I'm an expert on innovation and technology policy.

    I serve as the Chief Executive of the Royal Statistical Society. We are the learned society for statistics, a professional body for statisticians and data scientists, and a charity that promotes statistics, data and evidence for the public good.

    I am co-author of "Capitalism Without Capital", a critically acclaimed book on intangible investment, and of "Tomorrow, Interrupted", a book on what has gone wrong with the modern economy and how to fix it.

    In the past, I served as adviser to three British ministers for science, innovation, research and higher education. Before that, I led a 50-person policy and research team at Nesta, the UK's national foundation for innovation. Earlier in my career, I worked as a strategy consultant (specialising in healthcare, technology, and corporate and infrastructure finance), and more briefly made and managed investments for a social venture fund and worked as a policy adviser at HM Treasury.

  • Tera Allas

    Director of Research and Economics, McKinsey

    Tera is Director of Research and Economics in McKinsey's United Kingdom and Ireland office, working closely with the McKinsey Global Institute. She leads McKinsey's research on growth, productivity, innovation, technology adoption, and government effectiveness, bringing together deep expertise and more than two decades of experience in economics, public policy and leadership, as well as ten years as a management consultant focusing on corporate and business-unit strategy.

    Tera is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. She is a frequent author, panelist, and speaker on topics ranging from economic development and innovation policy to technology adoption and the future of work. She serves as a trustee of the Royal Economic Society, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, and the United Kingdom's Productivity Leadership Group. She is also a member of a number of expert advisory groups on economic policy and innovation.

  • Sam Beckett

    Second Permanent Secretary - Office for National Statistics (ONS)

    Sam Beckett has been appointed to the role of Second Permanent Secretary and Deputy Chief Executive at ONS. Sam brings a host of experience to the role, most recently as the Acting Permanent Secretary at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Prior to that she held a number of Director General roles in the department, including Director General for Trade, Europe and Analysis. She is also Joint Head of the Government Economics Service and will retain this responsibility as part of her new role.

    Sam has held a number of Director General roles in BEIS and BIS since 2011. Before becoming Acting Permanent Secretary she was Director General, Trade, Europe and Analysis. She is also Joint Head of the Government Economics Service.

    Sam joined BIS from the Cabinet Office where she was Director of the Economic and Domestic Secretariat. Prior to joining the Cabinet Office, Sam was Director of the Fiscal Group in HM Treasury; leading the fiscal policy response to the financial crisis, the government's engagement with the credit rating agencies and establishing the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR). Sam has over 25 years' experience in BEIS, BIS, Cabinet Office and HM Treasury, in roles spanning micro and macro-economics, strategy, policy and corporate services delivery.

  • Tom Bridges

    Leeds Office Leader, Director Cities Advisory, ARUP

    Experienced professional in city strategy, economic development, urban and regional policy, inward investment and business support, regeneration, planning policy, and transport strategy.

    Arup Leeds Office Leader and Director Cities Advisory, leading work to develop client and civic relationships and promoting collaboration, innovation, quality, health and safety and diversity for Arup's Leeds Office, which has 400 staff.

    Responsible for developing and leading Arup's growing city focused advisory activity in the UK. The role includes advising on city and city region strategies for economic development, inclusive growth, skills and innovation, supporting clients on funding and finance, socio economic advice, housing growth, neighbourhood renewal, regeneration programmes and other city-wide potential strategies.

    Previously Chief Officer Economy and Regeneration for Leeds City Council, the UK's second largest metropolitan local authority. Responsible for economic policy, economic growth, inward investment and tourism, business support, regeneration and property, HS2 Growth Strategy, the proposals for modernising Leeds Railway Station (the busiest transport hub in the north of England), the Leeds inclusive growth strategy, and input to the Core Cities and Northern Powerhouse initiatives.

  • Tom Forth

    Head of Data, Open Innovations (formerly ODI Leeds)

    Tom has a PhD in computational biology and now runs software and data consultancy Imactivate as well as being Head of Data for Open Innovations and a partner in the Data City.

     Since 2013 a lot has changed. I still work on computer vision, such as The Little Car Counter, but I now focus on selling systems and data analysis based on this. Our main clients are businesses and governments. I've worked with tOpen Innovations since it started. I was the first associate and I'm now the Head of Data. As early supporters I've played a part in making Leeds one of the world's best cities for open data. I write for various publications about industrial strategy in the UK, and I sell software I've written for Windows 10. My top-seller is the top-rated photo management app PhotoMaps. If you've ever checked your bin day in Leeds using an app, I wrote it. If you're one of the thousands of teachers being surveyed every day by the Teacher Tapp app, that's our work too. My latest thing  is The Data City, we're using huge amounts of data to better understand economic development and the potential for innovation.

  • Nancy Hey

    Executive Director, What Works Centre for Wellbeing

    Nancy Hey is a global leader in the field of wellbeing. In 2014 she set up the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, the UK's national body for wellbeing evidence and practice aiming to understand what governments, business, communities and people can do to improve wellbeing. The Centre is the first of its kind in the world and is working with the OECD, over 18 universities across the UK and in partnership with HM Government, Business and Civil Society.

    She holds a wide range of advisory roles past and present and prior to setting up the Centre, she worked in the UK Civil Service as a policy professional and coach, delivering cross Government policies including on Constitutional Reform.

    She has worked with the UK's top Civil Servants to introduce wellbeing into public policy and to establish the professional policy community in the UK. She has degrees in Law and in Coaching & Development, and is a passionate advocate for learning. She has two young daughters and a devotion to Southampton FC.

  • Jodie Levy

    Head of Regional Tech Policy, Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport

    Jodie is Head of Regional Tech Policy at DCMS and is working to support tech growth across the UK's Nation's and regions, as the digital economy provides a huge opportunity for the Levelling up agenda. In October 2021, DCMS published a report identifying the strengths and potential growth for tech ecosystems across the UK to support this mission, which Jodie and her team in DCMS developed in partnership with Steer Economic Development. Jodie is working to build new partnerships with the tech sector and Government to provide more opportunities for more people to partake in the digital economy locally. Jodie has a background in tech policy, public relations and sustainable economic growth and is a Diversity and Inclusion ambassador for her team in DCMS.

  • Alan Reiss

    Director of Strategy, Communications and Policing, West Yorkshire Combined Authority

    Alan has been a Director at the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Leeds City Region LEP since October 2018. He has been Director of Strategy, Communications and Policing since May 2021 following the election of Tracy Brabin as Mayor of West Yorkshire.

    Over the last three years he has been responsible for leading the Combined Authority's work on economic and transport strategy and policy, and played a key role supporting the five Leaders of West Yorkshire Councils to negotiate the West Yorkshire Devolution Deal agreed in March 2020.

    Prior to this he spent four years as Chief Executive of the Office of the Durham Police and Crime Commissioner, leading change across local policing, community safety and criminal justice in the North East. A Senior Civil Servant by background, Alan was previously Deputy Director of Strategy at the Department for Education, and has held a range of other roles in Whitehall.

    He holds a degree in Politics with International Studies and an MA in International Relations from the University of Warwick, where he was also Education Officer and Deputy President of the Students' Union.

    He is married and kept busy by two young children, and his hobbies include hiking, cooking, and theatre.

  • Paul Swinney

    Director of Policy and Research, Centre for Cities

    Paul is Director of Policy and Research at the think tank Centre for Cities, which tracks the performance of the UK's 63 largest urban areas. He is a regular regional and national media commentator, including print, radio and TV, and speaks at conferences across the UK on subjects relating to the performance of city economies.

  • Paul Connell

    Founder, Open Innovations (formerly ODI Leeds)

    Paul founded Open Innovations in 2013 with the mission to create a place and community to unleash the power of open data and deliver innovation across the region.

    He is an entrepreneur who has built Open Innovations into a 21st century Institution and co-founded DataCity which is a Data as a service Company whilst running his own innovation company. His primary role at Open Innovations is twofold - providing the drive, direction and purpose for Open Innovations and leading and developing our Innovation Services.

    Originally trained as an environmental scientist at Lancaster University and Imperial College he worked for British Coal, ICI and leading global consultancies and clients for nearly 20 years before transitioning his skills to apply them in the domains of Smart Cities, Open Data, Open Innovation and Innovation.

    He is an accredited Cognitive Edge practitioner and applies these techniques in the Open Innovations Innovation practice.


  • Royal Statistical Society