Data Pitch has worked with businesses and startups to show the value of data sharing for companies of all sizes across Europe. As the programme reaches its final phase, what have we learned about the best, and safest ways for businesses to share their data?

Two years ago, in the paper Enter the Data Economy – EU Policies for a Thriving Data Ecosystem, the European Commission’s European Political Strategy Centre stated:

“As the world stands on the cusp of major new breakthrough technologies… advanced economies can reap significant benefits from embracing the data revolution.”

It went on to state that data analytics will soon be indispensable to any economic activity, and that data is becoming the lifeblood of the global economy. The article cited research showing that even limited use of big data analytics solutions by the top 100 EU manufacturers could boost EU economic growth by an additional 1.9% by 2020. 

As we stand on the cusp of a new decade, much work has gone into creating an open and trustworthy data ecosystem, and encouraging large organisations to understand the value of data sharing to bring about innovation and a wide range of associated business benefits. 

Over the past three years, Data Pitch has been working with businesses and organisations that have data which is currently under-utilised. The startup businesses in our programme (47 of them across Europe) needed access to data to develop their products and services and then to scale up so they can thrive, and Data Pitch matched many of them with 13 data providers –  large private or public sector organisations – who were able to do just this. 

Yet it has not been straightforward. Throughout the programme, we’ve learnt a lot about the barriers that need to be overcome for the true benefits of data sharing to be realised by companies, startups and citizens. 

There are a few factors that have come up time and again that we think are critical to successful data publishing and collaboration. Whether you’re a data publisher wanting to get greater value from your data, a company that’s toying with the idea of sharing data, or a startup that needs more data to use, we hope you’ll be able to learn something from our experiences.


  1. Get your whole team ready for data sharing

When organisations embark on the journey towards publishing and sharing data, we’ve found it essential that those leading the march fully explain the benefits internally.

This should be in general terms, but also with specific reference to the challenges you’re hoping to overcome as a business. Defining the issues, and identifying and preparing the data requires clear communication and in addition, those working on the challenges need to have either the support of senior decision-makers or the authority to see the project through on their own. 

Understanding, and communicating the results you expect to see and the value of data sharing to your organisation are also important; for example, saving money, increasing sales or making an existing product or service more efficient. The process of transforming your organisation to one where data sharing is the norm, is likely to involve cultural as well as practical changes. 

An example of this from Data Pitch was the collaboration between Uniserv, a customer data management company based in Germany, and Spanish startup Recognai,which was looking for an opportunity to develop its technology to allow companies to build, monitor and deploy deep learning models in multiple languages to tackle different elements of customer data management and make it more efficient.

Simone Braun, Head of Business Development at Uniserv said, 

“We wanted to take the startup mindset and bring it into our established company to get fresh ideas and to work together on a specific challenge to find new solutions. Our core business is customer data which is a quite sensitive area. Against this background, there was a technically sound discussion with the departments which showed caution and restraint at first. It helped to have an outside perspective though, and the Data Pitch team were helpful in setting everything up. I would say that the process strengthened the company as a whole and even broadened and eased our mindset in terms of data sharing and open innovation.”


2 . Find the right startups to help meet your challenges 

Identifying the right startups, innovators and developers to work on a data-related challenge can be hard, especially if you’ve never done it before – but help is available.

Successful collaboration requires people with the skills, insights and creative vision to develop new solutions and help you gain a competitive edge in the market.  However, scouting the best talent is a time-consuming process and your team might not have the expertise, networks or resources to find and assess potential partners.  

Accelerator programmes can tap into their own networks much faster. They can track down and evaluate the right candidates, saving you time and money, ensuring that your eventual partners will be the best possible fit, giving you the greatest chance of success. 

Greiner International Packaging was matched with not one, but five startups by Data Pitch to help them develop a range of solutions.  

Project Manager Christian Mittermayr said, 

“The main motivation was to look for ideas and a lot of startups have very good ideas and we tried to connect to them to see the potential applications – at first we thought two or three but then we ended up with several startups that had a different degree of maturity. My role is to test different approaches, scout for ideas, look at the feasibility and make a pilot that can bring some benefits that can be rolled out. Our startups were at different levels of maturity, but one, Obuu has already signed a year long license with us and we are in discussions with others to run further pilots post-Data Pitch. Using an accelerator definitely made the process much easier.”


  1. Reach agreement on intellectual property rights

When people and organisations collaborate, it’s always better to be up-front about expectations at the start, especially when it comes to who ‘owns’ the results of the collaboration.

This is especially important when it comes to Intellectual Property(IP). In Data Pitch, IP Rights are assigned to the startups that are designing products and services using data. The data providers are granted a licence to use the products or services for one year after the end of the engagement. If the collaboration is successful, then terms can be negotiated to continue the relationship. 

It’s an arrangement that has worked well but for data owners who are thinking about publishing and sharing their information it’s worth noting that there are grey areas. For example, if a product isn’t fully developed during the timeframe of the project, or if a solution is developed but the data provider has to make adjustments within their own organisation before the innovation can be rolled out, agreeing IP rights might not be so straightforward.  Using an accelerator programme can help businesses think through the process and agree a contract which is fit for purpose. There are also specialist data and IP lawyers who can advise on these matters to ensure that any grey areas are addressed at the start, and everyone enters the collaboration with a really clear understanding of who ‘owns’ what! 


  1. Keep things safe

Data publishers are often concerned about confidentiality in terms of both legality and competitive advantage, but working with accelerator programmes can help overcome these risks.

At Data Pitch we have worked with experts to ensure that data providers involved in the programme comply with laws and regulations (for example, GDPR) and that their commercial interests are protected.

Data Pitch helped its European data providers to set up data-sharing agreements which met GDPR standards and took account of access and security measures needed to protect commercial confidentiality, and provided a legal and technical questionnaire to help them work through the steps. 

They also offered practical assistance – for example, Data Pitch helped the Portugese private healthcare company Jose de Mello Saude to share its clinical and customer data with Romanian startup Soft Centrica.  The accelerator worked with the data provider to ensure the data was anonymised (so the subjects that the data was about could not be identified) and met with privacy requirements. This allowed the company to embrace open innovation, improve its data analysis and provide better tailored medical services to its patients by mapping clinical interactions and outcomes.  


  1. Make sure everything is above board and legal

The repercussions for breaches of data protection can be a barrier to data sharing, as data holders are worried about any mistakes costing the business dearly, so a legal risk assessment is essential.

However, achieving legal compliance can take up a considerable amount of time and resources which a company may not have available, and requires expertise in negotiating and drawing up contracts.  

An accelerator programme such as Data Pitch can help assess legal and business risks, help the data provider pre-process data in order to make it available, and help them design a data sharing agreement, reducing the risks of mistakes being made.  

Data Pitch has created a Legal and Privacy Toolkit which provides guidance, and can help you work through decisions about the legality of data sharing, and this article explores the issues in more detail. 


In conclusion, while there are risks and barriers associated with data sharing, these should be balanced against the risk of not sharing data at all and losing out to your competitors. By working with an intermediary such as an accelerator programme, risks are more easily managed, and you can save a considerable amount of time and effort.  

Data Pitch Advisory Board Member, Hugo Pinto explains:

“The most under-appreciated and yet arguably, most significant barrier to successful data publishing is the understanding in organisations that to gain the greatest value from sharing their data, they need to effect a cultural change. This is less about organisations identifying or selling information than it is about the business finding new value propositions from within its network of partners, collaborators and customers; its ‘ecosystem’, if you like. To do this effectively requires a shift of thinking and culture within businesses. It involves working beyond the boundaries of what might be the current, accepted business model and designing services on top of a much broader range of data.”

If you are ready to innovate with data, and are interested in how working with startups can help your organisation, get in touch with us for more information. 

Image credit © Paul Clarke used under CC by 4.0