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The potential of smart data research

Joe Cuddeford, director of Smart Data Research UK, opens our new blog series

Welcome to our new blog series, The World of Smart Data. With these blogs, Smart Data Research UK hopes to explore many facets of this field, and we welcome your input. Maybe you are applying data analysis to address challenges or pioneering new methods to advance smart data research. Perhaps you are contributing to a smart data research service. If you’re interested in contributing, please get in touch:

The potential of smart data research

In today’s interconnected digital economy, almost everything we do leaves a trail of data behind. From commuting patterns to entertainment preferences to online purchases, our lives are increasingly entwined with the digital realm. This treasure trove of information, which we call ‘smart data’, holds immense potential to improve lives. At the recent Institute for Government Data Bites event, supported by Smart Data Research UK, I set out the case for harnessing this potential to drive positive change. 

Smart data is a national asset

Smart data isn’t just a resource for private companies; it’s a national asset with the capacity to fuel research initiatives that benefit society as a whole. Recent breakthroughs exemplify this – for instance, studies using data from loyalty cards have shown it may be possible to detect certain types of cancer earlier based on shopping habits.   

However, accessing and using smart data for research is a cumbersome process. Researchers face significant hurdles, from navigating relationships with companies to negotiating data access and overcoming legal and technical obstacles. The inefficiency of this model has restricted the scope of research efforts, limiting the realisation of smart data’s full potential.  

To address these challenges, our £59m programme will invest in data institutions that work as trusted intermediaries between data suppliers, researchers and the public. Key objectives include: 

New data services

Expert institutions will work with companies to acquire and steward data on a large scale, providing an efficient, secure service to all approved researchers.  

Support for innovative research

The programme will support the piloting of pioneering approaches to unlocking new insights from smart data, addressing pressing social and economic challenges. 

Public engagement

Actively involving the public in decisions about the use of their data will ensure transparency and accountability.


A central hub will establish common approaches, policies and shared resources.

Smart data is not always easy to acquire and there are challenges handling the data in its raw form. It’s also valuable to view smart data alongside other established data sources to understand the full picture. By fostering collaboration between researchers, industry stakeholders, and the public, we can begin to unlock the full potential of smart data for research, driving positive societal impact. Join us on this exciting journey as we explore the possibilities of smart data research, paving the way for a future where data-driven insights fuel innovation and improve lives. 

Joe Cuddeford is the Director of Smart Data Research UK


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