‘Interactive visualisations give insight in the regional entrepreneurial climate’

The Economic Board Utrecht was one of our first user outside of journalism. Recently, they launched an interactive, custom-made newsmap at which the user can find companies and experts related to Healthy Urban Living. We spoke with Evelien Boshove, researcher at EBU.

What kind of organisation is Economic Board Utrecht?
‘We are a semi-public government organisation, financed by the province and the municipalities. We try to boost the regional economy based on societal challenges. In this, we are guided by three themes: green, healthy and smart.’

And what does EBU do?
‘EBU brings parties together to take on these themes with the ultimate goal to boost the economy of the municipality. We have a coordinating role, we actually bring the knowledge institutions, governmental organisations and entrepreneurs together.’

How did you get the idea to create tools for companies instead of only provide open data? 
‘I work at the Research department, we have access to the provincial workplace register. This, for example, gives us insight in the regional employment and unemployment data. We also use a lot of open data. Data from CBS, RVO and our own research into award-winning companies or innovative startups, to name a few.’

How do you process this data?
‘A couple of years ago we were still using an outdated program to open up this data, but we missed an interactive component. We were able to publish graphs and numbers on our website, but those are huge files. Remember, we are talking about jobs and companies in the entire province of Utrecht.’

Healthy Urban Living

I can imagine that is a lot of data!
‘So, we were on the lookout for an effective way to open up this data. We actually were ahead of the curve back then. There was only a minimum amount of tools available with which we were able to create interactive charts, let alone publish it online and share it with the public. Then we bumped into LocalFocus, it was exactly what we were looking for.’

What experience do your users have with your service?
‘Smaller municipalities don’t have a department devoted to data, but they do want to know the state of employment for example. We provide them in their needs.’

Oh, I thought you provide non-governmental institutions in particular.
‘We do that too! Entrepreneurs are very happy with the interactive maps for example. It gives them insight in the spread of startups. Not only that, we also connect company information from these startups to the maps. This gives the user in-depth insights in the entrepreneurial climate and economy of the province. These numbers are updated on a monthly basis and we give the entrepreneurs a heads-up about this in our email newsletter.’

About the interactive newsmap which you published this week, what exactly does it tell? 
It is the Healthy Urban Living map. We have put companies on the map that are related this theme. We also visualised taste gardens, products and urbanisation projects related to our themes green, healthy and smart.’

How did you came up with this idea? 
‘We wanted to put all initiatives in the province of Utrecht related to our themes on the map. This actually is a first exploration to map out the subject. It gives you insights in all projects per topic. Regardless of their development status by the way. The goal is to find more initiatives in this field, therefore it is also a call for more.’

The Healthy Urban Living map was recently launched in the presence of partners like Provincie Utrecht, Stad Utrecht, Hogeschool Utrecht, Universiteit Utrecht en Utrecht Science Park.