The UK's one of the top countries in Europe for data innovation

Lynsey Barber
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Data flows freely in the UK, a think tank has found (Source: Getty)

The UK is one of the most innovative countries in Europe when it comes to making the most of data, a new report reveals.

Innovative use of data, such as applying it to healthcare or making cities safer, contributed €300bn to the region's economy, or around two per cent of GDP, according to the Centre for Data Innovation think tank.

And the UK was rated the fifth best country in Europe for data innovation based on more than 30 different indicators such as policy, skills and use of data-driven technologies in industry.

Read more: Is your greatest asset people, or data?

Revenues of the UK's data companies - an indicator of a healthy data economy - were found to be €14.6bn, the highest of any of the 28 EU member states.

The UK was ahead of Europe's biggest economies such as Germany and France, and behind only Denmark, Finland, Netherlands and Sweden in the ranking, which identifies that strong national leadership and public policy were more important factors than a country's income.

The UK was also found to be "well ahead" of other when it comes making government datasets open.

“Supporting data innovation can help countries grow their domestic economies, improve the lives of their citizens, and maximise their competitive advantage in Europe and internationally. But countries need strong national leadership and the right public policies to realise the full benefits of data innovation," said the centre's director and co-author of the report Daniel Castro.

The research found that the biggest priorities for fostering data innovation were making the supply and flow of data free via open data initiatives and freedom of information and avoiding laws that stifled this or added additional local restrictions.

Promotion of data infrastructure such as broadband, digital public services and smart cities were also important, as was promoting data skills among the public.

Read more: How the UK's data laws will now be fit for the digital age

The government has indicated that it will largely adopt new rules on data due to come into force next year in the UK's own domestic laws after leaving the EU in March 2019.

The UK played a fundamental role in the creation of the Europe-wide General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the issue of free flow of data has been seen by the tech industry as one of the biggest potential issues of Brexit.

In one of several Brexit position papers published over the summer, the government indicated it was looking for an adequacy agreement in which the EU recognises the UK's laws.

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