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Mapping the way to economic growth using digital data from Ordnance Survey

  • Mapping data from Ordnance Survey has been an essential tool to capture and convey the locations of economic activity and associated research strengths, in order to build the Review's evidence base and to make the case for investment

    Robin Webb, Head of the Review Team, Review of Universities

The challenge

Building strong and sustainable growth for the UK economy is a key government priority. To support this agenda, the government asked Sir Andrew Witty to undertake an independent review to explore how universities can drive and support economic growth by working with organisations such as Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), as the local bodies responsible for setting strategies, to drive economic growth across the country. The purpose of the review is to focus on how universities can drive growth in their areas and for the benefit of the wider UK, and to disseminate knowledge and best practice.

A key challenge, fundamental to the success of this review, is a clear understanding of where in the country there are areas of industrial clustering, and where the ‘centres of excellence’ that are going to support growth actually are in the country in relation to those industrial clusters. To drive growth, it is vitally important to have the right knowledge, skills and expertise in the right part of the country for the right industry.

In order to obtain the best possible response from this review, the statistical information presented in the report needed to be understandable, presenting the facts in a clear and concise way, painting the picture of the current situation in the UK as it stands today.

The solution

Geography and location are fundamental to the success of the Witty Review, so BIS decided to take advantage of mapping data available from Ordnance Survey under the Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA) – a licensing agreement that allows all public sector organisations across England and Wales to use geographic data provided by Ordnance Survey, free at the point of use.

Mapping data from Ordnance Survey was used to collate and present statistical information on over 40 separate maps that form part of the report. Maps included university rankings, by subject and location, leading technology capabilities by location, the geographical spread of capability in energy, automotive, aerospace and much more.

Better intelligence to underpin €6.2 billion of European Structural and Investment funding in England over the next seven years:

  • Ordnance Survey data has turned complex tables and large spreadsheets into clear and understandable intelligence that is easy to understand, helping customers and stakeholders clearly absorb the evidence in the report.
  • Relationships in data that would have ordinarily been hidden become clear and recognisable as soon as the report data is mapped out using data from Ordnance Survey, enabling more accurate and informed customer responses.
  • Not using mapping in this way would significantly limit the report’s ability to provide insight on how universities can support economic growth.

Increased customer reach to over 150 respondents:

  • Choosing mapping to represent information in this way has significantly influenced the level of feedback and engagement received as a result of publishing this report. Viewing evidence in a geographic way has introduced a new perspective that has engaged customers and stakeholders that were previously out of reach.
  • Mapping data from it has enabled a much greater amount of data to be included in the report.

Greater transparency:

  • Mapping statistics using data from Ordnance Survey has made the data contained within this report more accessible and transparent to government stakeholders and members of the public. Mapping data from this report in this way has painted a true picture of current capabilities in this country, in a way that every reader can recognise, and has provided insight that will help define and influence the perception of industry, also focusing internal attention on areas that need it, informing local policy and strategy. Further maps will be presented in the Review’s Final Report, due to be published in autumn 2013.

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