New checklist and data sharing case studies published by the Royal Academy of Engineering to guide organisations

Engineering, business and governance challenges need to be addressed if the UK is to break down the barriers to sharing personal and non-personal data without eroding trust between organisations, according to a report published yesterday by the Royal Academy of Engineering. The report uses real-world examples to demonstrate the critical role of engineering in developing innovative data sharing approaches.

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Data sharing is widely recognised by government and other stakeholders as a key enabler for unlocking the value of data, estimated at up to £60billion[1] a year to the UK economy and an important part of the government’s Digital Strategy.

Some organisations work on collecting, storing and processing data to improve their own business processes or create new products and services. The report found that opportunities to create value increase when data is shared or exchanged across organisational boundaries, but that mechanisms that build trust needed to be put in place to share commercially sensitive or personal data.

The report also indicates that data is only valuable if it is managed well, and that a robust data engineering approach is needed to assemble, structure and manage data over its entire lifecycle in a way that also meets the business requirement to release its value. In the case studies this approach was found to aid data exploration, interoperability, provenance tracking and quality assurance. The report identifies the challenges involved in growing data sharing capabilities, including establishing good data management that underpins effective and appropriate use of data. Engineering best practice and effective collaboration with other disciplines are both highlighted in the case studies as ways to address these issues.

A further finding of the report is that engineering is vital to develop the enabling functions of data sharing, such as identity management, managing access and usage constraints, monetisation, and anonymisation and privacy enhancements. These functions are shown to help to address business, legal and ethical requirements.

Professor Jim Norton FREng, Chair of the working group that prepared the report, said:

“This is a crucial time in the development of a data economy, and engineering has an important role to play. More needs to be done to raise awareness of the opportunities of data sharing, to progress approaches to data sharing and guidance, and to share best practice. We need to work globally to build the data, ethical and privacy architectures to support appropriate data sharing and recognise the value of linked datasets.”

The report illustrates ways in which data sharing can release value through 10 case studies that provide a snapshot of mainly non-personal data sharing activities from manufacturing and logistics, energy, infrastructure, aerospace, smart cities, transport, health, and consumer applications. The case studies show how engineering fundamentals, such as architectures and technologies, work alongside governance and the development of business models. The Academy has developed a best practice checklist based on these case studies to guide organisations through the main areas for consideration when developing data-sharing solutions.

Notes for Editors

  1. The project was overseen by a working group of Academy Fellows and data experts:

Professor Jim Norton FREng, Chair of the working groug

Professor Mandy Chessell CBE FREng, IBM

Professor Mark Girolami, Alan Turing Institute

Professor Aija Leiponen, Cornell University

Alastair McMahon, O2 Data and Insights

Hetan Shah, Royal Statistical Society

Dr Mike Short CBE FREng, Department for International Trade

Dr Liane Smith FREng, Larkton Ltd

Dr Jeni Tennison OBE, Open Data Institute

Professor Jeremy Watson CBE FREng, University College London

Steve Yianni FREng, TWI and AIRTO

  1. Royal Academy of Engineering. As the UK’s national academy for engineering and technology, we bring together the most successful and talented engineers from academia and business – our Fellows – to advance and promote excellence in engineering for the benefit of society.

We harness their experience and expertise to provide independent advice to government, to deliver programmes that help exceptional engineering researchers and innovators realise their potential, to engage the public with engineering and to provide leadership for the profession. 

We have three strategic priorities:

  • Make the UK the leading nation for engineering innovation and businesses
  • Address the engineering skills and diversity challenge
  • Position engineering at the heart of society

We bring together engineers, policy makers, entrepreneurs, business leaders, academics, educators and the public in pursuit of these goals.

Engineering is a global profession, so we work with partners across the world to advance engineering’s contribution to society on an international, as well as a national scale.

For more information please contact: Victoria Runcie at the Royal Academy of Engineering Tel. 020 7766 0620; email: Victoria.Runcie@raeng.org.uk

[1] Centre for Economics and Business Research, ‘The Value of Big Data and the Internet of Things to the UK Economy’ SAS:2016, page 5