Horizon: Trusted Data-Driven Products

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Horizon Digital Economy Research


The Horizon institute is a multidisciplinary centre of excellence for Digital Economy (DE) research. The core mission of Horizon has been to balance the opportunities arising from the capture, analysis and use of personal data with an awareness and understanding of human and social values. The focus on personal data in a wide range of contexts has required the development of a broad set of multidisciplinary competencies allowing us to build links from foundational algorithms and system to issues of society and policy. We follow a user-centred approach, undertaking research in the wild based on principles of open innovation.

Horizon now encompasses over 50 researchers, spanning Computing, Engineering, Law, Psychology, Social Sciences, Business and the Humanities. It has grown a diverse network of over 200 external partners who are involved in ongoing collaborative research and impact with Horizon, ranging from major international corporations to SMEs, from a wide variety of sectors, alongside government and civil society groups. We have also established a CDT in the third wave of funding that will eventually deliver 150 PhDs. Our critical mass of researchers, partners, students and funding has already led to over 800 peer-reviewed publications, composed of: 277 journal articles, 51 books and book chapters, and 424 conference papers, in a total of 15 different disciplines.

Over the years Horizon's focus has evolved from an emphasis on the collection and understanding of personal data to consider the user-centred design and development of data-driven products. This proposal builds on our established interdisciplinary competencies to deliver research and impact to ensure that future data-driven products can be both co-created and trusted by consumers.

Core to our current vision is the idea that future products will be hybrids of both the digital and the physical. Physical products are increasingly augmented with digital capabilities, from data footprints that capture their provenance to software that enables them to adapt their behaviour. Conversely, digital products are ultimately physically experienced by people in some real-world context and increasingly adapt to both. This real-world context is social; hence the data is social and often implicates groups, not just individuals. We foresee that this blending of physical and digital will drive the merging of traditional goods, services and experiences into new forms of product. We also foresee that - just as today's social media services are co-created by consumers who provide content and data - so will be these new data-driven products. At the same time, we are also witnessing a crisis of trust concerning the commercial use of personal data that threatens to undermine this vision of data-driven products. Hence, it is vitally important to build trust with consumers and operate within an increasingly complex regulatory environment from the earliest stages of innovating future products.

Our user-centred approach involves external partners and the public in "research-in-the-wild", grounding our fundamental research in real world challenges. Our delivery programme combines a bottom-up approach in which researchers are given the opportunity (and provided with the skills) to follow new impact opportunities in collaboration with partners as they arise (our Agile programme), with a top-down approach that strategically coordinates how these activities are targeted at wider communities (our Campaigns programme, with successive focus on Consumables, Co-production and Welfare), and reflective processes that allow us to draw out broader conclusions for the widest possible impact (our Cross-Cutting programme).

Throughout we aim to continue to develop the capacity in our researchers, the wider DE research community and more broadly within society, to engage in responsible innovation using personal data within the Digital Economy.

Planned Impact

This primary focus of our proposal is on delivering impact across the maturing Digital Economy, currently entering a crisis of trust in commercial personal data use. We target business, third sector organisations and public bodies from a diverse range of sectors including creative industries, retail, consumer goods, finance, energy, transportation and healthcare, as well as the ICT companies who are delivering the enabling technologies. These will benefit in multiple ways, including:

- Understanding how to better interpret complex and ambiguous human social data, in an increasingly regulated environment;
- Understanding how to embed such interpretations into personally meaningfully products that meet wider objectives of fulfilment, wellbeing and sustainability;
- Knowing how to do this responsibly and legally so as to build trust with consumers, customers and citizens;
- Being able to envision and demonstrate future data-driven products that blend the physical and digital that will drive the merging of traditional goods, services and experiences into new forms of product;
- Learning about the opportunities and challenges raised by such products through public deployments and field trials;
- Expanding the capabilities of the staff through exposure to new concepts, technologies and methods emerging from DE research;
- Gaining access to talented young people (especially CDT students) through internships and Agile projects with the potential to recruit them downstream;
- Entering a neutral environment in which they can engage with other partners at different points along the value chain for future data-driven products enabling cross- sectoral learning.

A distinctive focus of this iteration of Horizon is delivering policy impact. The government increasingly needs to provide leadership in the regulation of the digital. A crucial feature of this is the development of policies and a regulatory framework that ensure that products can be trusted in their use of personal data; prevent online harms; and secure the infrastructure to prevent it becoming a springboard for cyberattacks. Horizon will engage government departments and agencies (e.g. DCMS, DHSC, ICO, NCSC) and work closely with policy makers to tightly integrate understandings of technology and policy in a fast moving domain with a diverse set of stakeholders including platform providers, companies delivering digital products, regulators, civil interest and consumer groups. As part of this work we will provide policy makers with:
- creative tools to directly engage diverse stakeholders in co-creating future policy environments
- policy toolkits for stakeholders subject to these policies to help design products that are demonstrably compliant with these environments
- insights into the practical challenges and opportunities around realising the Secure by Design framework of IoT security currently being developed by DCMS .

Our proposal will ultimately have societal impact through the new kinds of products that will be developed, which deliver greater value to consumers and directly promote consumer welfare, including mental health. Consumers stand to benefit in every aspect of their lives - work, home and play through:

- products that are personalised to their needs;
- products which provide accountable provenance;
- products designed for social use and that can be trusted;
- being recognised as the co-creators of these products;
- methods and tools that directly engage them in their design.

Our proposal sets out a wide-ranging programme of impact activities to deliver these benefits, including Agile translational projects, a strategically coordinated Campaign to maximize impact among clusters of partners; and supporting programmes to develop individuals and the wider Digital Economy community.



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