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BPE’s expertise secures pioneering data trust work

BPE Solicitors has been appointed as the sole legal representative to advise on a world first, ‘data trust’ pilot project for use in the Sharing Cities programme, in partnership with the Open Data Institute (ODI).

Following an open tender process led by Partner Rob Bryan, the Top 200 law firm was selected thanks to its dedicated Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (‘STEM’) offering.  BPE is advising on one of three pilot projects being rolled out, each with a different focus, but all with the aim of creating a new, safe and secure way for stakeholders to collect and share data.

The ODI regards a data trust as ‘a legal structure which provides independent third-party stewardship of data for the benefit of a group of organisations or people.’ BPE is advising on the structure that will allow this to happen with greatest efficacy. It has been awarded the pilot project which covers the Royal Borough of Greenwich in London, the lead location of the Sharing Cities programme in the UK which is led by the Greater London Authority.

BPE and the ODI are working with The Royal Borough of Greenwich and the Greater London Authority to look at whether data collected through the Sharing Cities Programme could be made available in a data trust to bring about benefits for citizens. The data could be about energy consumption, collected by sensors and devices in buildings, or about parking spaces and charging bays for electric vehicles, which would inform products and services that citizens can use as they navigate their cities.

BPE is already well known for its work in advising on energy efficient buildings and autonomous, electric vehicles.

The pilot project will explore the feasibility of creating a data trust to make the data collected available to a number of stakeholders, while maintaining the privacy of residents. The Greater London Authority (GLA) is providing the Urban Sharing Platform as part of the Sharing Cities programme, where the data will be centralised and made available for appropriate re-use.

Additional benefits of the data trust will also be examined such as providing insight to help develop new products or services. It is being funded by Innovate UK through the ODI’s R&D programme.   

“To be involved in something which is not only a world first but that will also help to revolutionise the way in which data is collected and shared for the greater good, is hugely rewarding, given the wide benefits that such dissemination can provide,” said Rob. “That we were able to win this ground-breaking work is testament to the knowledge and skill of team members including Rupert Parker and Emily Barwell; we are proud that BPE is the first legal team in the country with a dedicated STEM specialism.”

“We are committed to supporting the use of open data, and the work we will be doing with the Royal Borough of Greenwich, the Sharing Cities programme and the Greater London Authority is about determining what the data trust might look like. At the end of March we will submit a report which will consider all the legal issues, which it is hoped will give organisations more confidence not only in data collection and sharing but also start to provide the tools necessary to implement data trusts for the benefit of wider society.

“Through our work on the pilot, we hope that local authorities across the country will benefit and explore similar initiatives. The modelling we will do will help to translate what is currently an uncertain legal position and provide confidence in a blueprint that can potentially be used on a wider scale.”

Jeni Tennison, CEO at the Open Data Institute said; “Increasing access to data can help people, communities and organisations make better and more timely decisions - such as which energy supplier to use, the route a bus should take, or whether to invest in creating a new product. But the people and organisations that have data, use it, and are affected by its use need to trust that it is stewarded well and shared equitably and for agreed purposes.”

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