Background and purpose

Office for National Statistics (ONS) is the executive office of the UK Statistics Authority, a non-ministerial department which reports directly to Parliament. Ordnance Survey (OS) is the national mapping agency for Great Britain.

The purpose of this Memorandum of Understanding is to provide a mutually beneficial framework that both ONS and OS can work within to achieve shared goals as part of an ambitious partnership programme.

The vision

The potential benefits of an ambitious, long-term partnership programme between ONS, the UK’s recognised national statistical institute, and OS, Great Britain’s national mapping agency, are many.

Improving the integration of geospatial and statistical information will provide better insight to inform public sector policy – a key goal and deliverable shared by both organisations. Joint engagement with the wider digital community will deliver better access to public sector data for businesses, academics and others through a variety of means, including access to data (open or controlled).

A closer relationship where both organisations share ideas can bring organisational efficiency and help promote innovation with data.

An ambitious partnership should also extend internationally, where both parties’ respected brands and tradecraft developed domestically can provide a “springboard” from which the parties can be a global exemplar of close collaboration between a National Statistics Institute (NSI) and a National Mapping Agency (NMA).

Strategic and tactical workstreams

ONS and OS intend to collaborate on the strategic and tactical workstreams, both domestic and international. For each workstream identified, each of ONS and OS will nominate one individual to lead on liaising with the other party to deliver the relevant workstream.



Innovation and outreach

Work together with others across government to promote a strong community of interest in geography and geospatial data (including GeoPlace).

ONS to promote themselves and their data resources at regular Geovation “show and tell” sessions.

Joint OS and ONS “Geovation Challenges” that encourage innovative ideas and learning around the integration of geospatial and statistical information.

Extend Geovation “incubator platform” to ONS.

Data architecture and platforms

Collaboration on data architecture tools, capabilities and technologies to enable improved geospatial data access and data linkages.

Collaborate on interoperable data and metadata standards that will allow end users to better integrate geospatial and statistical information.

Recent use cases where collaboration in these areas and easier access to data would have been beneficial are:
- joint OS and ONS work on Natural Capital analysis
- co-development of joint statistical and geographical data product for local industrial strategy development

Build on ONS’s Secure Research Service – to investigate whether this platform would give OS greater opportunity to deliver improved access to OS MasterMap and other new alpha and beta products across government and research users.

Data science and joint research

Collaborate on joint data science and research projects to support both ONS and OS objectives to deliver improved services to users.

Data science projects could be aligned to the ONS Data Science Campus (DSC) project pipeline.

Example projects might be:
Mapping the “urban forest”
- satellite imagery analysis to identify and monitor land cover and land use
- public service accessibility and road network modelling and analysis

Work collaboratively to play more of a leadership role driving forward the Government Data Science Partnership and in turn build data science skills and capability.

Co-development of joint statistical and geographical microdata products and analysis

Co-develop joint statistical and geographical microdata products and analysis that supports the development and implementation of key government policy, including Natural Capital and local industrial strategy development.

An example project might be the development of retail boundaries to support the industrial strategy.

Other areas of focus could include migration, trade, business investment and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the UK.




Strategic commitment to align representative and engagement activities in bodies such as the UN and OGC to ensure a consistent approach and demonstrate effectiveness and value of integrated geospatial and statistical policies in the UK, acting as ambassadors for such an approach internationally.

This does not exclude other international activity where ONS or OS are involved separately.

Jointly explore opportunities for collaborative international projects both within and outside the EU.

Examples include:
- UN Global Platform
- Eurostat

· developing international open standards
· providing support for improved use of geospatial data in statistics


To explore potential funding available from Eurostat to develop collaborative workstreams that require the integration of geospatial and statistical information.

ONS and OS look to jointly host (and present at) the European Forum
for Geography and Statistics (EFGS) in 2019.

Promote collaborative working at future European Commission GIS
Committee (GISCO).

Behaviours and communications

Both parties commit to:

Collaborative and co-operative behaviour

Demonstrate positive and pro-active collaborative behaviours in order to develop an effective and coherent relationship based on the best use of respective strengths, appropriate risk and mutual benefit.

Effective communication

Openly and freely share knowledge and information to ensure that each party is aware of information relevant to the delivery of the workstreams identified in this Memorandum of Understanding.


This Memorandum of Understanding will commence on the date of signature and will be reviewed by the parties on an annual basis. Either party may terminate this Memorandum of Understanding on one month’s notice for any reason.

Financial arrangements

Each party will bear its own costs in relation to negotiating and entering into this Memorandum of Understanding. Where appropriate, the parties may enter into contractual arrangements to govern their activities under one or more of the workstreams identified previously.

Status of Memorandum of Understanding

This Memorandum of Understanding sets out the intentions and expectations of both parties, but is not a legally binding agreement. This Memorandum of Understanding does not replace or affect any contractual agreement between the parties.

Signed for and on behalf of the Office for National Statistics: John Pullinger, National Statistician

Signed for and on behalf of Ordnance Survey Limited: N. Clifford, CEO