The data sharing toolkit

“[Data sharing is] one of the most exciting topics in data and AI in the last decade and probably in the next decade to come.”

Elena Simperl – Principal Investigator of Data Pitch

Data Pitch

Data Pitch is an EU H2020-funded open innovation programme that brings together corporate and public-sector organisations holding valuable datasets with start-ups and SMEs working with data. It is centred around a competition with several challenges and a virtual accelerator programme of 6 months to help start-ups and SMEs develop solutions to meet those challenges.

At the 2019 European Big Value Data Forum, we interviewed Elena Simperl: professor of computer science at the University of Southampton working in user-centric data science and AI. She is a Turing Fellow and a Fellow of the British Computer Society (FBCS), as well as a director of the Southampton Data Science Academy of the Web Science Institute. She has contributed to more than 20 research projects, often as a principal investigator – as for Data Pitch - or as project lead.

The Data Sharing Toolkit

Over the last three years, and in the context of open innovation that characterised the programme participants’ collaboration, Data Pitch has collected a significant wealth of experience, that is now collected in the “Data Sharing Toolkit”, available from the programme’s website at The short report collects lessons learned, resources, and recommendations that span from the access, exploitation, and evaluation of data on one side, to the creation of sustainable businesses on the other.

By dealing with multiple projects and challenges, different models by which data sharing was performed were documented. It is important to study each of the start-ups and their projects to learn about their choices. All start-ups investigated in the study are documented online at

By being “in flight” during the introduction of GDPR in Europe, the programme also had to learn and adapt to the new regulation. The Data Sharing Toolkit includes a “Legal and privacy toolkit” that collects the programme’s learnings specific to these aspects and the impact on the data sharing models they experimented with.

In the interview, Prof. Simperl highlighted how the start-ups demonstrated themselves to be quite advanced technically, but experienced difficulty in recruiting talent. During the programme, they showed how access to subject matter expertise and skills – even just good practices in documenting data – can be an element of more significant friction than the technology per se.

For data holders, friction was often found in changing their way of working. Unless they had previous experience of open innovation – whether through hackathons or participating to previous challenges etc. – a significant part of the 6 to 12 month duration of a Data Pitch challenge was spent just changing the culture and finding the “champions”. These are the right people in the organisation that could feel comfortable working against the new models and promote them to the others. According to Prof. Simperl, if an organisation was already effective at sharing data internally, that was a positive sign of the same organisation being able to share data with others.

The interview closed by discussing the differences between the knowledge developed around the practices for open data and the ones for data sharing, and the – perhaps surprising – characteristics of the latter that make it simpler than publishing in the open.


Data Pitch


Miscellaneous, including automotive, energy, health and wellness, manufacturing, retail, tourism, transport but also cross-sector.


European Union


Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Spain, United Kingdom


2016 - ongoing


Business model



Beta-i, DAWEX, the Open Data Institute, the University of Southampton and the >40 companies and organisations across the EU that participated to the challenges.

Type of organisations

Data-centred technology start-ups, data holder companies of any kind

Data sharing model(s)

Open Innovation, Challenge

Core impact

Through the release of the “Data Sharing Toolkit”, the programme shares with the public the experience developed over three years of experimentation with start-ups and data holders. The toolkit is made of case studies, checklists and other tools that will support future data sharing initiatives.


Data Pitch is an EU H2020-funded open innovation programme that brought together corporate and public-sector organisations that hold valuable datasets with start-ups and SMEs that work with data. It is centred around a competition with several challenges, and a virtual accelerator programme of 6 months to help start-ups and SMEs develop solutions to meet those challenges.

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