New report shows open data is at the heart of innovation

SME report 2021 coverOpen access life science resources such as data and software, are fundamental for breakthrough discoveries, scientific excellence and entrepreneurial endeavours. Seventy-six percent of companies surveyed in our newest report “Open data: a driving force for innovation in the life sciences” state that their product or service would not exist without data on open repositories. 

While the importance of these freely available resources is widely accepted, there are sparse efforts to quantify the benefit, despite the need to demonstrate value to funders and policymakers. This report is an up-to-date quantification on the benefit of open data to industry and innovation, with an extensive survey, testimonials, and analysis of the hotspots of European innovation. 

Sitting at the core of this report is a qualitative exploratory field study and open questionnaire targeting life science Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) across Europe run by ELIXIR Industry Officer Dr Katharina Lauer and Professor Hannes Rothe at the Freie Universität Berlin.

The results of this survey show that open data is fundamental for innovation in the life sciences. Hanz Garritzen, Vice President of Sales at Finnish SME Medisapiens puts this plainly: “Without open data resources, large companies, such as pharmaceuticals, would be hampered in their work but would not cease to exist. In contrast, small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as the startups, would be severely impacted as in many cases their business models are dependent on the availability of open data resources”. Not only this, but our survey shows that the real value of open data lies not only in accessing one database but in combining multiple open data repositories. 

Aside from looking at the digital foundations for these companies, the report also looks toward the physical ecosystems that nurture new SMEs. Close proximity to customers, large pools of highly qualified graduates, and existing infrastructures all make for attractive environments for SMEs to set up shop. This report casts a spotlight on the largest European Innovation Ecosystems: Cambridge, UK; Berlin, Germany; and Barcelona, Spain and dissects the key factors in their success at attracting entrepreneurs.

Map showing the regions within Europe with highest concentrations of life science startups

Mireia Rodríguez, founder and CEO of BITAC commented on their motivations to locate to innovation hotspot in Barcelona: “BITAC’s decision to locate its headquarters in Barcelona was inspired by the city’s strong entrepreneurial and digital health scene and the first-class scientific infrastructures of Catalonia”. 

Find out more

For more insights, opinions from entrepreneurs and results from the survey you can read the report in full. To learn more about open data and innovation, why not check out and subscribe to our Data for Life podcast series, where you can hear more from our entrepreneurs featured in the report, Abel Ureta-Vidal and Maria Chatzou Dunford, and many others.

If you want to find out more about how you can engage with ELIXIR’s industry programme then please sign up to our quarterly Industry newsletter and take a look at our Innovation and Industry page or contact ELIXIR’s Industry Officer Katharina Lauer (katharina.lauer [at]

Thu 19 August 2021