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UK Government grants data: what does the data say?


On Thursday 29 October 2020, 16 central UK Government departments published open data about the grants they have made, using the 360Giving Data Standard. This is a significant development and a long time coming, as we discussed in a recent blogpost. In this post, our Support and Engagement Manager Katherine Duerden walks us through the data and what to look out for when exploring it using GrantNav.

Our flagship search-engine for grants data, GrantNav has now been updated to include over £30bn of grants data published by 16 central UK Government departments. This means data about over 43,000 grants is available to explore, alongside awards made by the UK’s leading trusts and foundations (who had already been publishing their grants data openly in the 360Giving Data Standard).

Although the published data file includes 114 grant records with a total value £1.2bn – which  represent single and aggregated awards made to 375,721 individuals – this data does not appear in GrantNav, because the 360Giving Data Standard doesn’t allow for aggregated awards.

Why this data looks a bit different 

The grants have been shared using the 360Giving Data Standard, which allows the information to be included in our tools and analysed alongside the grants shared by over 150 other funders. However, there are some features that users of the data should be aware of when exploring the information in GrantNav.

  • Grants with dates outside 2018-19

In the government grants data ‘Award Date’ refers to when the grant was originally awarded but ‘Amount Awarded’ refers to the single year value for the 2018-19 period. There are over 1,300 grants awarded in previous years, in particular some long-running grant schemes to fund research from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy appear in the data, stretching back to 1999. Alongside these are 3,351 awards from the 2016-17 period published using the 360Giving Data Standard by the Department for Transport and Ministry of Justice, which have appeared in GrantNav since January 2018.

  • Minus value grants

Over 800 grants awarded by the Department for Education and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government have minus award values, which reflect accounting adjustments or returned grants.

  • Transactions

All Department for Education grants are published at a transaction level so recipients may have multiple grant records representing a single award.

  • Redacted data

Over 2,000 grants have recipient information replaced with ‘Redacted’ to remove personal information or for national security or commercial security reasons.

  • Grants awarded by other grantmakers and duplicate grants

The government’s grants data includes both grants awarded directly by central government departments and grants awarded on their behalf by other funders. This means that data includes grants distributed by arm’s length bodies such as Arts Council England, Sport England, Natural England, Historic England, UK Sport, the Rural Payments Agency and the UK Research and Innovation research councils. It also includes government funded programmes delivered by grantmaking foundations such as Coop Foundation and Virgin Money Foundation.

The inclusion of these grants provides a comprehensive account of grants funded by central government. However it also presents challenges because awards distributed by existing 360Giving publishers may already appear in the 360Giving dataset, leading to duplicate grant records and introducing the risk of double-counting when the data is analysed.

The duplicate grants that now appear in GrantNav are most obvious when looking at Recipient views in the tool. For example the duplicated grant records published by Sport England and DCMS about an award to Vulcan Boxing Club made in November 2018, or the two awards of £10,000 made in December 2018 to the Sycamore Project published by both Coop Foundation and DCMS.

Which departments have shared data?

The data from the 16 central government departments that have published data can be viewed and explored via this filtered GrantNav search. They range from the largest funder Department for International Development, who shared 1,512 grants worth £8.3bn, to HM Revenue and Customs, who published 8 grants worth £1.6m.

What types of organisations has the UK government funded?

Over 16,000 entities received funding in the 2018-19 period and by looking at the organisation identifiers it is possible to break down the funding by recipient type. 

Just over a quarter of the recipients and nearly 20% of the amount awarded went to educational establishments, including schools, universities and other learning providers. Registered companies are 23% of the recipients and 7.4% of the amount awarded. Charities are nearly 12% of recipients but only 3% of amount awarded, with CICs making up just over 1% of the recipients. 

However nearly 40% of recipients have no recognised organisation identifier which means 70% of the total value cannot easily be matched to an organisation type. Further research needs to be carried out to understand the full picture of who receives grants from the UK government. The Statistics development plan published alongside the grants data sets out plans to improve data quality of their recipient data to identify organisations and combine duplicate records to enable more accurate recipient level analysis, so improvements are likely to be evident in the 2019-20 government grants data, to be published in March 2021.

Organisation type No of recipients Total awarded (£m) No of grants
Unknown 6,217 21,606.8 15,017
School/Education 4,334 5,868.7 19,222
Registered Company 3,781 2,286 5,391
Registered Charity 1,936 936.1 3,877
Community Interest Company 176 132.3 245
Community amateur sports club 30 0.8 31
Total 16,474 30,830.7 43,783

Where to find further information about government data

Further information about government grantmaking, how the data has been compiled, and the plans to improve and extend the information published in future, can all be found in the Landscape Report and Statistics development plan available to download via the Government Grants Register.

GrantNav 2:0

The particular qualities of the government grants data outlined above pose new challenges for users of 360Giving data for analysis and also for users of GrantNav. Our flagship tool was first launched in Autumn 2016 with data from 26 funders, with a total of 180,000 grants worth £8bn. Now with six times the funders and 2.5 times the grants, the tool has started showing its limitations. 

We carried out user-research this summer and now we’re working on a redevelopment of GrantNav to make it easier to explore, with better search and filtering functionality, and improved design and guidance, to make it fit for the expanding dataset. The results of this work will be launched in 2021.

Realising our vision of a 360 degree view of UK grantmaking

The UK government sharing its grants data using the 360Giving Data Standard is a major milestone for our initiative. Our name expresses the vision that by bringing together open and comparable data about grants from all types of funders, from central and local government, lottery distributors and grantmaking foundations both large and small, it will be possible to have a 360 degree view of UK funding. 

The majority of funders sharing their grants data are philanthropic grantmakers who fund charities, and as an initiative founded by and with the support of grantmakers and philanthropists this profile of 360Giving publishers is likely to continue. However as the number and range of funders grows to include the UK’s largest grantmaker, central government, so too will the scope of types of organisations, causes and activities described by the data, along with the potential users of the information. 

In 2021, along with launching a new improved GrantNav, we’ll be looking at making developments to the 360Giving Data Standard itself, so it remains fit for purpose and accommodates the needs of our growing community of publishers and users.


Katherine Duerden is Support and Engagement Manager at 360Giving. You can read more blogs about government data by selecting the Government data category on our blogs page.