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Using data for local economic policy

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Open data offers many opportunities for better evidence-based policy making. This report illustrates how local industrial strategies can be informed by the use of new data sources to analyse sectors, links between firms and flows of knowledge. In data analysis, like in policy evaluation, risks can be anticipated and mitigated by starting early, bringing everyone on board and replicating examples of best practice.This guide contains case studies on a range of data initiatives that provide examples of best practice and highlight risks that can arise during implementation.

How to use this guide

This guide discusses ways in which data can be used to aid the development of effective local economic policy. We have used our 10 Principles for Developing a Local Industrial Strategy as a framework, but the advice applies to any Economic Development strategy. This guide is structured in order to support those local economic practitioners who have no or little experience of the data available, as well as those with a more advanced knowledge of using data and statistical analysis.

To complement the guide, case studies describing how UK local and combined authorities have applied these principles are referenced throughout, and detailed in the annex.

Section one

How to retrieve and use the data

  • What data is available and where to get it
  • Choosing the data to use – some of the risks attached to new and experimental datasets
  • Using standard industrial classifications – what to be aware of
  • Analysing the data – what to think about

Section two 

Applying the data to economic strategy

This section looks in more detail at how to apply some of the secondary and primary datasets and mechanisms for their analysis to more specific elements of most economic strategies. It addresses the following three areas:

  • Developing a granular understanding of the local economy
  • Understanding the links between firms
  • Understanding supply- and demand-side needs and challenges

Case studies

  • The state of the UK fishing industry by the Office for National Statistics
  • Innovation mapping in Wales by Government of Wales and Nesta
  • The gaming industry in the UK by Nesta
  • Immersive technology mapping, by Immerse UK, Innovate UK and Nesta
  • Mapping tech start-ups and communities in the UK by Nesta
  • Textile industry survey by Greater Manchester Combined Authority
  • Using big data to map and forecast skills by Centre for Cities
  • Labour market characteristics collaboration between Greater Manchester Combined Authority and LinkedIn
  • Data sharing agreements by Manchester City Council
  • School readiness program by Essex County Council and Basildon Borough Council  


Using data for local economic policy