Energy & Environment Open Data Challenge open for applications

Applications are now open for the Energy and Environment Open Data Challenge. You can start to put your ideas up on the participant platform here. Further details of the datasets which are available and the process for getting involved can be found here. Nesta and the Open Data Institute have been developing this challenge over the last couple of months along with Bristol City Council where the Creation Weekend will be held on 22nd and 23rd March.

The Challenge Definition Day was held back in October and at that point it was identified that there was an opportunity to innovate with open data which would support the developing work on community energy. The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) recently published their Community Energy Strategy which focused on creating a supportive environment for community energy and removing specific barriers to growth. Research for the strategy found at least 5,000 community energy groups active in the UK since 2008. Here DECC define community energy as community projects or initiatives focused on reducing energy use, managing energy better, generating energy or purchasing energy.

This challenge invites teams to see how open data can be applied to three of these aims. Nesta and ODI are looking for teams including businesses, start-ups, social enterprises, community groups, academics, students and special interest groups to use open data to build products and services that support communities to either:

1.       Group buy their energy and save money;

2.       Undertake community based energy efficiency interventions; or

3.       Start to generate their own energy

The aim is to help individuals and teams generate new products and services for communities at the end of the challenge process. The challenge prize methodology is designed so that hopefully these open data driven solutions can speak to real issues. The challenge will be for organisations to match these issues with available open data sets to generate a solution in the form of a new product or service.

ODI and Nesta are working closely with Bristol City Council in the delivery of the Creation Weekend for this Challenge – the weekend where teams get together and pitch to become one of the three finalists for the last stage of the Challenge. Bristol have a heritage of supporting community energy projects and also have a number of existing businesses and startups exploring the opportunities around cleantech. In addition, the city will become European Green Capital in 2015. Bristol has a highly active community energy sector, brought together by Bristol Energy Network who have produced a Bristol Community Strategy for Energy which was launched by Bristol’s Mayor in June 2013. The Challenge Weekend will form a key milestone in the programme of events that Bristol is putting together as part of the British Energy Challenge.

In order to give participants a stronger opportunity to develop ideas from open data ODI and Nesta also incorporating incubation and business mentoring support after the Creation Weekend for the three finalists. They will get support from the ODI in the form of data expertise and Nesta will provide support, helping potential businesses hone and market their products and evidence their likely impact.

This work builds on activity which has come before. For instance, Nesta undertook the Big Green Challenge which was a £1 million challenge prize designed to stimulate and support community-led responses to climate change. The Energy Saving Trust has made available a number of tools and how to guides available to groups wanting to run their own community energy projects. Building on this work, Nesta and ODI are hoping to spur innovation with open data which could be used to support this activity. Through using a challenge prize methodology they are bringing together interested partners and provide a focus for activity and a range of further support.

If you have an idea for a project which could help towards the aims above and could develop into a sustainable organisation please add your profile and idea to Challenge participant platform by 16th March for a chance to make it through to the Creation Weekend in Bristol. Nesta and ODI are also holding a meet up in Bristol on 3rd March to talk through the Challenge – further details here.