Levelling Up With Open Data - Launch

Levelling Up image
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.


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
  • Stain 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.

  • Tom Bridges

    Leeds Office Leader, Director Cities Advisory

    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 ODILeeds)

    Tom has a PhD in computational biology and now runs software and data consultancy imactivate. He is an associate at Open Innovations where he'll be happy to help you solve problems you have using data. He's particularly interested in data on housing, transport, and income inequality both within Leeds and across the UK and Europe. He blogs at tomforth.co.uk and keeps a more polished internet presence at imactivate.com.

  • 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

    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 ODILeeds)

    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.

Next steps...

  • Working Session

    January 2022

    The second stage is an 'open working session' where Open Innovations will lead an online, collaborative session that brings people together to proactively gather resources, share work, test things, offer suggestions, etc. We want your contributions to the concept of 'levelling up' and what data you think demonstrates it best. It might not even be a dataset that exists yet, or could even be something that we don't know how to measure yet (like 'pride in the community').

  • Show and Tell

    February 2022

    The third stage of the project is a 'show and tell', where the prototype visualisation will be showcased alongside talks about its development, the datasets used and why, and how people can still get involved in making it better.


  • Royal Statistical Society