News & Events


Data Trusts hold huge potential

Top 200 law firm, BPE Solicitors spoke at a high-profile event at the Royal Society of Arts in London this week, where the findings of a major research programme into 'data trusts' were unveiled.

The research programme, funded by Innovate UK and the Office for Artificial Intelligence, involved several projects examining the use of data trusts in different scenarios. BPE’s Science and Technology team, led by Partner, Rob Bryan, advised on the use of data trusts to improve public services in the Royal London Borough of Greenwich.  Specifically, the project examined how data could be used to improve energy use and environmental impact in a communal heating system, and the potential of using electric car charging points and parking sensors to share information about the availability of parking spaces.

The research found that data trusts are a good approach to sharing data and that there is significant demand across public, private and third sector organisations. BPE has provided guidance on responsibility for the use and exploitation for the data and how the trust should be built (as this will depend on a number of different circumstances).

The concept of using data trusts to share data between public bodies may allow local authorities to use information in a better way and enable both budget savings and improvements in efficiency.

After a national tendering process, BPE was one of only two law firms appointed to advise on the legal governance of data trusts. Pinsent Masons advised on pilots in relation to food waste and endangered wildlife.  For more information about the pilot projects and data trusts please visit www.bpe.co.uk/datatrusts.

Rob Bryan, Head of Science & Technology at BPE Solicitors, commented: “We were delighted to have successfully tendered for this exciting pilot to advise on the legal governance of data trusts and to help determine their benefits for organisations. These pilots are ground breaking and the research shows that the potential for data trusts is great, particularly for public bodies. We are delighted to have presented our report and look forward to advising on and supporting the creation of data trusts in the future.”

Jeni Tennison, CEO at the Open Data Institute, said: “We only unlock the full value of data when it gets used, so we really need to find good ways to share data more widely without putting people at risk. We have learnt a huge amount from our research about how data trusts can help, and are very grateful to everyone who worked on the pilots with us, but there is more to do. We need to understand more about how data trusts should be monitored, audited and regulated so we can trust them. We need more pilots, such as the wildlife pilot, to be funded to move into the next phase. We also need more research into other data access models such as data cooperatives, data commons and people-led data trusts which may sometimes be more appropriate.”

BPE Solicitors is running a series of legal briefings for local authorities in May to explain the concept of a data trust and how they can be used by public bodies. The events will take place in Cheltenham (1 May), Bristol (9 May) and Exeter (15 May).  Places are limited so if you would like more information or to attend one of these events, please contact BPE on 01242 224433 or email bpe@bpe.co.uk.


These notes have been prepared for the purpose of articles only. They should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice.

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