If you didn’t already have it marked on your calendar, Saturday February 23 is Open Data Day. Rather suitably, to highlight the call for more data to become available, the recently opened Open Data Institute (ODI) has launched a new initiative.

The Open data Immersion Programme is a series of events that will run over three years for data owners and data users.

The aim is to help small and medium enterprises and startups to work with data providers, industry experts and business leaders in order to come up with new ways of using data sets and make new business opportunities.

The programme is being funded as part of the £8 million ($12.2m) package from the UK government’s Data Strategy Board. That package was announced last year and is an investment that is aimed at helping public bodies to release their data so that it can be used in commercial pursuits.

The Immersion Programme is aimed at startups and other interested parties that work with open data. The first series of the programme follows the theme of Crime and Justice. For more details and to apply, you can read more here.

There will be an initial daytime event to start the series where data owners and consumers can discuss the issues that might be solved by using open data. Following this first meeting, applicants then have three months to develop their idea and create prototypes.

Once this time is up, a weekend gathering will provide the means to hone ideas and present them. A few smart applicants will be chosen to take their ideas further with the ODI Incubation Programme for a further six months.

Teams or individuals who sign up can possibly win £10,000 in pre seed funding and at the end of the entire 9-month process, the final winner can win up to £50,000.

As you might expect, Nick Hurd, the Minister for Civic Society with responsibility for government and transparency, is pleased that the programme is being launched. He said:

Open Data has the power to drive economic growth and create prosperity. By investing £850,000 in setting up this fund, Government is demonstrating its commitment to delivering this through transparency. Recent evolutions in technology and open data are revolutionising the way citizens interact with their governments and each other. We want to take that a step further and support innovative business ideas that arise from that data.

This Immersion Programme will bring together the very best ideas for businesses to use open data, explore the challenges they face and support them with expertise as they tackle those challenges. I look forward to seeing what exciting initiatives grow out of this.

The first series is expected to start toward the end of March, so get your application in now if you want to join in.