This post details how the work of Icebreaker One supports the National Data Strategy and its New Direction.

Central to the UK’s strategy is the acknowledgement that the usage of data “is limited by barriers to its access – such as when data is hoarded, when access rights are unclear or when organisations do not make good use of the data they already have”.

Icebreaker One (IB1) exists to unlock access to data with clear access rights. IB1 works with organisations on use-cases that enable the better use of data they, and their peers, already have: making it fit-for-purpose for a digitalised age and future-ready for the continuous, rapid expansion of data-enabled services.

What does success look like?

  1. Operational open marketplaces for data that address the needs of sectors most relevant to Net Zero
    (Energy, Transport, Water, Agriculture and the Built World).
  2. Mechanisms to manage Search and Access Control in a distributed, decentralised market using a minimum-viable centralised service to enable coordination and action. 
  3. Mechanisms to deliver neutral co-developed solutions that address market needs, co-designed with the market and directly aligned with policy.
  4. Mechanisms to deliver open standards that address cohesion and interoperability and radically reduce the cost of secure data sharing.
  5. Mechanisms to enable risk-managed and cost-effective solutions for compliant commercial data sharing.
  6. Mechanisms to bring industry use-cases to market that address the business models and culture change required for a digitalised system.

How do these success criteria link to the national strategy?

How Icebreaker One links to the UK’s four strategic pillars

The UK strategy (in bold)has four pillars. Below we provide context on how we support them.

  1. Data foundations: The true value of data can only be fully realised when it is fit for purpose, recorded in standardised formats on modern, future-proof systems and held in a condition that means it is findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable. By improving the quality of the data, we can use it more effectively, and drive better insights and outcomes from its use.
    IB1, working in concert with industry and government, has delivered and is developing the foundations for open standards for data formats that enable them to be findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable. It is also working on measures that will enable data quality to be assessed.
  2. Data skills: To make the best use of data, we must have a wealth of data skills to draw on. That means delivering the right skills through our education system, but also ensuring that people can continue to develop the data skills they need throughout their lives.
    IB1 is delivering collaborative programmes that convene private sector, public sector and third sector actors. We strongly support this pillar as critical to the delivery of the strategy. We recommend that skills development is considered from two perspectives: firstly, developing Data Science skills as a primary discipline and secondly, but as importantly, developing Data Science skills as a component of existing disciplines. For example, as well as providing Data Science resource to a policy maker in a department, the policy maker themselves would benefit from direct training so as to better understand what is, and what isn’t, possible. This knowledge-gap should not be underestimated.
  3. Data availability: For data to have the most effective impact, it needs to be appropriately accessible, mobile and re-usable. That means encouraging better coordination, access to and sharing of data of appropriate quality between organisations in the public, private and third sectors, and ensuring appropriate protections for the flow of data internationally.
    Core to IB1’s mission is the delivery of operational standards, processes and services that enable access to secure data across organisations and jurisdictions. We are working directly with industry, government, regulators and the third sector to understand their needs and rapidly deliver services to market.
  4. Responsible data: As we drive increased use of data, we must ensure that it is used responsibly, in a way that is lawful, secure, fair, ethical, sustainable and accountable, while also supporting innovation and research.
    Core to IB1’s mission is the implementation of rules that unlock efficiencies, enable innovation and research. The trust framework that we have developed codifies and operationalises rules that have been co-developed with industry, government and regulators. We strongly endorse a joined-up approach that will address lawful, secure, fair, ethical, sustainable and accountable practices. Our process also enables the adaptation of these rules in a trusted environment so that when (not if) rules need to change, data marketplaces can adapt to reality.

How Icebreaker One links to the five priority areas of action (Missions)

The missions address key challenges. Below we provide context on how we support them.

  1. Unlocking the value of data across the economy. Data is an incredibly valuable resource for businesses and other organisations. However, there is increasing evidence to suggest its full value is not being realised because vital information is not getting to where it needs to be. To ensure the UK is a world leader in data, our first mission will be to set the correct conditions to make data usable, accessible and available across the economy, while protecting people’s data rights and private enterprises’ intellectual property. Using a considered and evidence-based approach, we will develop a clear policy framework to determine what government interventions are needed to do so.
    Icebreaker One has developed processes, systems and market-facing services that make data usable (via data standards), accessible (via Search) and available (via Access Control) across the economy, while protecting the rights (personal and commercial). IB1 have co-developed these solutions with government, industry and the third sector through broad and deep consultation and collaboration to build the evidence base for pragmatic action.
  2. Securing a pro-growth and trusted data regime. We want the data revolution to benefit businesses large and small. That means maintaining a data regime in the UK that is not too burdensome for the average company; one that helps innovators and entrepreneurs to use data responsibly and securely, without undue regulatory uncertainty or risk, to drive growth across the economy. But we also want the public to be active agents in the thriving digital economy and to have confidence and trust in how data, including personal data, is used. The UK’s data regime will support vibrant competition and innovation, building trust and maintaining high data protection standards without creating unnecessary barriers to data use.
    The IB1 approach is open-by-default and pro-actively engages with large, small and micro businesses. Its mission includes radically reducting the ‘friction’ (financial, operational and technical costs) of data sharing, while maintaining trust and confidence, and implementing financial-grade security. Transparency is at the heart of its approach, with continuous open consultations, public webinars and publications. It aims to drive Net Zero economic growth and make the most of the thriving digital economy to join the dots across national strategies.
  3. Transforming government’s use of data to drive efficiency and improve public services. The coronavirus pandemic showed that there is massive untapped potential in the way government and public services use and share data to help and protect people. To sustain the high watermark set by the pandemic, the government will undertake an ambitious and radical transformation of its own approach, driving major improvements in the way information is efficiently managed, used and shared across government. To succeed, we need a whole-government approach that ensures alignment around the best practice and standards needed to drive value and insights from data; and the creation of an appropriately safeguarded, joined-up and interoperable data infrastructure to support this. We also need the right skills and leadership within the public sector to understand and unlock the potential of data.
    IB1 strongly endorses an appropriately safeguarded, joined-up and interoperable data infrastructure. We propose government copy the open outputs of the collaborative work being undertaken by IB1 and, wherever relevant, directly engage in the co-development of open solutions that deliver in the national interest.
  4. Ensuring the security and resilience of the infrastructure on which data relies. The use of data is now a central part of modern life, so we need to make sure that the infrastructure underpinning it is safe and secure. The infrastructure on which data relies is a vital national asset that needs to be protected from security risks and other concerns, such as service disruption. Interruption to data-driven services and activities can cause disruption to businesses, organisations and public services. While these are also commercial risks to manage, the government has a responsibility to ensure that data and its supporting infrastructure is resilient in the face of established, new and emerging risks, protecting the economy as it grows.
    IB1 strongly endorses and supports this approach. It has helped to pioneer the usage of financial-grade systems, processes and policies to deliver a trust framework for data sharing that operates in the national interest. This work has been undertaken openly and collaboratively with government and regulators, the private and third sectors.
  5. Championing the international flow of data. The flow of information across borders fuels global business operations, supply chains and trade, powering growth across the world. It also plays a wider societal role. The transfer of personal data ensures people’s salaries are paid, and helps them connect with loved ones from afar. And, as the coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated, sharing health data can aid vital scientific research into diseases while uniting countries in their response to global health emergencies. Having left the European Union, the UK will champion the benefits that data can deliver. We will promote domestic best practice and work with international partners to ensure data is not inappropriately constrained by national borders and fragmented regulatory regimes so that it can be used to its full potential.
    IB1 is a global initiative headquartered in the UK. Its ambition is to build on previous success in the delivery of international standards and approaches for data sharing. Specifically, with a Net Zero focus, to enable cross-border data sharing that enables delivery of international targets such as the Paris Agreement (Icebreaker One is a Tier 1 member of Mission Innovation). Such initiatives are critical to the long-term, credible delivery of green investment, financial instruments such as Green Bonds and reporting frameworks such as TCFD.

How Icebreaker One supports the New Direction


The outcomes highlighted include the need to “maintain high data protection standards without creating unnecessary barriers to responsible data use”. That the UK must:

  • keep pace with the rapid innovation of data-intensive technologies
  • help innovative businesses of all sizes to use data responsibly without undue uncertainty or risk, both in the UK and internationally
  • ensure the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is equipped to regulate effectively in an increasingly data-driven world

The IB1 framework for delivery has demonstrated leadership in keeping pace with rapid innovation of data-intensive technologies. It has worked collaboratively with large and small businesses, regulators and government both in the UK and internationally.

The main focus of the New Direction is on personal data. While the primary focus of IB1’s work has been on industrial data, its solutions will become relevant to personal data in specific use-cases (e.g. domestic smart meter data) as it evolved. A research note on this topic is below:

Specifically, the operating framework developed by Icebreaker One has been built upon the principles and practices of Open Banking. That regulated instrument effectively codified the intent of GDPR around a practical use-case (banking) in a manner that codifies a trust framework for the sector, while enabling the specific details of the rules needed for the use-case(s) to be adapted without having to ‘start again’.

Through extensive collaborative work, IB1 has proven that this framework is extensible, adaptable and fit-for-purpose across sectors. This framework, based on our current understanding, could be applied to enable a managed environment for policy evolution. IB1 strongly recommends that a use-case approach be applied to understand the potential outcomes and impacts of adapting policy.

The specific benefit that IB1 can bring to this New Direction is the development of Codes of Practice that are co-developed with government, industry and the third sector (e.g. )