The National Archives adopts geospatial data research and development licence as a public sector standard

The Geospatial Commission (GC) is delighted to announce the adoption of our Data Exploration Licence by the National Archives which will enable innovators to gain access to a wide range of geospatial data to develop new products and services.

The investment from the GC and the collective determination of its Partner Bodies to change the licensing landscape and simplify data access for users has come to fruition and this licence is now available for wider use, creating new opportunities for developers and entrepreneurs.

The Data Exploration Licence was created under a project sponsored by the GC and allows access to data from any of our partner bodies (British Geological Survey (BGS), Coal Authority, HM Land Registry, Ordnance Survey and the UK Hydrographic Office) on the same terms and conditions. This licence was one of the first stepping stones taken to simplify and harmonise access and use of location data as part of the Commission’s commitment to improve access to and quality of public sector geospatial data.

The National Archive has now agreed to adopt the licence under the UK Government Licensing Framework (UKGLF) which makes it easier for other public sector bodies to licence their data to developers in situations where the Open Government Licence is not appropriate. This supports the UK’s Geospatial Strategy mission to maximise the value of geospatial data, making it more accessible for research, development and innovation purposes and unlocks the significant economic opportunities offered by geospatial data.

Karen Hanghøj, Director of the British Geological Survey expressed that:

At BGS we recognise that data-driven innovation is changing the way we operate as a society. In support of this we always look for opportunities that accelerate data sharing and the onward use of our data. Since its launch in 2018, the Data Exploration Licence has become an important part of our Data Improvement Programme, to open up access and encourage the downstream innovative use of our data.

Hugh Phillips, Head of Data and Standards, Geospatial Commission said:

It’s really great to see the excellent work that our partner bodies have done to create a single harmonised licence for data exploration being adopted as a standard across government for all types of geospatial data.

Malcolm Todd, Head of Policy at The National Archives said:

We’re pleased to work alongside the Geospatial Commission and its partner bodies to introduce the new Developer Licence. This new licence enables the UK Government Licensing Framework to remain relevant to the needs of HM Government and to re-users.

The Developer Licence can be accessed at The National Archives.

You can learn more about the data improvement resources that have been developed under the Data Improvement Programme in our Best practice guidance and tools for geospatial data managers.


The Geospatial Commission invested £5 million to help unlock the value of geospatial data held by its six expert Partner Bodies – the British Geological Survey, Coal Authority, HM Land Registry, Ordnance Survey, UK Hydrographic Office and the Valuation Office Agency. This joint programme of work is aimed at developing consistent data standards, whilst improving the accessibility, interoperability and quality of these datasets.

In 2018, a harmonised Data Exploration Licence was released that allowed anyone to freely access data held by the Partner Bodies for research, development and innovation purposes.

A benefit of the Data Exploration Licence is that its terms have been agreed across the Geospatial Commission partner bodies, so users can be confident that the same general terms and conditions apply to the use of data provided under any such licence, irrespective of which individual partner body has issued your specific licence.

The UK Government Licensing Framework (UKGLF), administered by The National Archives, provides a policy and legal overview of the arrangements for licensing the use and re-use of public sector information, both in central government and the wider public sector.

It sets out best practice, standardises the licensing principles for government information, and mandates the Open Government Licence (OGL) as the default licence for Crown bodies and recommends OGL for other public sector bodies.

The UKGLF and OGL form part of the Government’s drive to open up access to publicly held information and datasets, promoting transparency and enabling wider economic and social gain. Alongside the OGL, the UKGLF provides a number of additional licences including ‘developer’, ‘non-commercial’ and ‘charged’ licences.

The National Archives

The National Archives is a non-ministerial government department and the official archive for the UK government, and for England and Wales. We preserve and make available to the public our collection of more than 11 million records, including the Domesday Book, Magna Carta, Prime Ministers’ papers, and government tweets. We are expert advisers on information and records management and are a cultural, academic and heritage institution.