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How Data can Change The Face of Economic Development

  • Tuesday, July 2, 2024
  • Posted By The Growth Company

Data is everywhere, and it is increasingly playing a role in business and our everyday lives. Decision making driven by robust data can create transformational impacts – now is the time to truly embrace data for good in economic development.

Our everyday interactions and experiences are increasingly influenced by data-driven decision making. Some may be quite obvious, such as receiving content recommendations for our favourite series, others will be more discrete, like drinking a cup of coffee that has been blended based on in-depth research and data analysis on taste experiences. Data about our behaviours and preferences drive how businesses pitch themselves in the marketplace, while the use of data to drive decision making of course extends far beyond business into applications from predicting the weather, looking after our health, to keeping us safe in our daily lives.

Data-driven decisions are not new. Data has been informing our activities in one form or another for centuries as a key component of how our brains operate, though recent years have seen data-processing capabilities increase exponentially with new algorithms, artificial intelligence and natural language processing tools. Data is presenting more and more powerful possibilities for evidence-based decision making, but its use still varies considerably in practice.

Across a range of settings, the usage of data-driven approaches to decisions is still seen as new and innovative. In the public sector specifically, recent years have seen positive progress, though this has touched some areas of policy more than others.

For example, while data capabilities were more limited at the start of the pandemic, the UK Government’s COVID-19 dashboard achieved significant strides in playing a key role in managing the coronavirus pandemic. Over time, the dashboard played a part in people’s everyday lives with over 100,000 users a day on average, and the dashboard was shortlisted in July 2021 for a Royal Statistical Society Excellence Award.

There have also been strides elsewhere in government and the civil service, and too many to name here. Gradually, more people working in the public sector are being provided training around data usage to support their work. In 2023, One Big Thing, which is a annual initiative for civil servants to take shared action around a reform priority, saw all civil servants offered a day’s worth of data skills training. The Civil Service has highlighted better interpretation, use and communication of data as “essential to creating better policies, improving services and helping citizens”. Strong uses of data present a myriad of opportunities and while progress is clear, there is much more potential for it to drive transformational changes – including in business support and economic development.

Until recently, local business support interventions, economic strategies and regeneration activities have largely been led by local expertise and traditional techniques. Data has certainly been used, but the data has often been historic, limited in its coverage, and based on sampled estimates. While this is somewhat useful, the power of modern data intelligence can bring so much more.

At Growth Flag, providing comprehensive, robust and forward-looking data and insights is at our core. We can all look back and consider what has happened, but looking forward and highlighting the next set of trends before they happen? That really can be transformative.

The UK as a whole has struggled with stagnant economic conditions and low growth for around two decades. However, as identified by Growth Flag such as in our Annual Report, there are significant numbers of businesses which demonstrate signals of achieving high growth potential. Our Growth Score shows the likelihood of businesses achieving 20% growth over the next year, offering valuable insights into local businesses and the places in which they operate. Neither historic growth nor growth potential are equal throughout local places. Growth also looks different for different types of businesses, so our data is based on multi-variate analysis to allow for direct comparisons and strong forecasts of performance. With Growth Flag data, it is possible to secure a deeper understanding of businesses and places, the challenges they face, and new insights to underpin prioritisation, targeting and strategic interventions..

Growth Flag data is already being used by local and combined authorities, education and training providers, government departments, transport operators and business support providers to drive growth in places. Our data is helping in pinpointing targets in commercial operations, reaching businesses in urgent need of assistance, supporting businesses to scale, developing real-time evidence to inform local strategies, and being factored in to new investment decisions and policy-making.

In a challenging and often fast-changing environment, having robust data to guide decision making is more important than ever, whatever the topic or context. As we create and consume more data than ever before, there is a real opportunity for data, when used effectively, to drive positive and impactful decision-making, and we believe this should extend to local places.

At Growth Flag, we’re committed to helping the public sector use data for good and step by step, change the face of economic development, combining local expertise, powerful data and meaningful strategy. Our data and insights will help make this change possible.

We’re already helping local places from Aston to Preston, Newcastle to Salford to drive forward and realise the growth potential, as growth is everywhere and Growth Flag can help you find it.


Growth Flag’s forward-looking outlook on growth is powered by a collaboration between Red Flag Alert, a data intelligence company expert in highlighting risk, and the Growth Company, a social enterprise with 30+ years’ experience of delivering economic and business growth. Get in touch to learn more about how Growth Flag can support local places at