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Business finance support: opening up GOV.UK data

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The business finance support finder
The business finance support finder

Update: as part of our migration work to make our frontend architecture simpler, we will be removing the business support API. See Tim's blog post for more details and dates you need to know.

From Monday 20 March 2017 the API will show a warning and the content it returns will no longer be updated. From Tuesday 18 April 2017, the API will stop returning content and will only display a warning. The API will be completely removed on Tuesday 2 May 2017.

The warning message will give more details of how to continue getting content about business finance support.

We’ll link to more details on the removal of this API once we’ve published them.

Business finance support: opening up GOV.UK data

We’ve just made it possible for others to re-use GOV.UK data on grants, loans and other support available to businesses.

This blog post tells you more about this project, and how you can use the data.

Helping others to re-use business finance support data

GOV.UK has an in-depth database of information about grants, loans and other financial assistance available to businesses in the UK, which users can browse based on things like their location, size, and type of industry.

We’ve had a number of requests to make this data available in an easily consumable format for other people and organisations to re-use, in their own way and tailored to the needs of their own audiences.

We’ve recently achieved this by adding something called an API to the tool -  an  API specifies how various pieces of software interact, and a common use-case for APIs on the web is to present data in a common format.

At present the new API is a beta release, which means it is a fully working prototype, available to our users. However, it may be liable to change and should not be considered a fully supported public release.

How to use the business support API

The new API allows anyone to search the underlying business support data based on relevant criteria.

This direct access to the data can be used to power applications without the need to replicate the data itself, the API acting as the authoritative data store for this type of business related financial support.

You can find the business support API data here.

It is organised into pages of results which can be refined by using specific criteria in the search query e.g. by business size, location, sector, stage or support type and any combination of these terms. So we’ve provided a searchable taxonomy for the data we’ve exposed.

A few improvements behind the scenes too

We’ve also had the opportunity to redress some technical debt accumulated in the run-up to the GOV.UK launch in October 2012.

The searchable, categorised data living in one system and the detailed editorial content in another. This created a convoluted workflow for our editors when updating records from both systems, and equally caused some headaches for developers.

We needed a way to merge the two systems with little or no impact to our business finance finder application, the API provided this protection while we made architectural changes to our editorial tools.

What comes next

Presenting this data via an API benefits our users, and it paves the way for external companies, agencies and individuals to build applications off the back of the API data.

The architecture of the GOV.UK platform also benefits from this pattern of greater resilience to future changes.

We’d love to hear about how people are re-using our data, and other ideas for improving the service we offer - just comment on this blogpost.

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  1. Comment by Pat posted on

    I like how you provide the data both through the normal graphical user interface and as machine-readable data.

    Is the JSON at just a dump of the whole database?

    I can't see any documentation for the API. It seems to be a matter of learning the paramater names from the example URLs, and the allowed parameter values by playing with the GUI.

    I like this approach of publishing machine-readable data. Hopefully scraping (at least for government websites) will become a thing of the past.

    • Replies to Pat>

      Comment by Brad Wright posted on

      Thanks for your comment, Pat.

      The data you see at the main endpoint is a paginated dump of all published business support schemes available through the tool on GOV.UK. We hope to provide some better documentation soon, we just wanted to get the data out there to the public first.

  2. Comment by Max Froumentin posted on

    From what I can gather on github, this application uses the API, just like a lot of content served by smart-answers and possibly more.

    If that's correct, how about making govuk_content_api public so everything is, by default, machine-readable?

    • Replies to Max Froumentin>

      Comment by Brad Wright posted on

      Releasing this data as-is is a matter of following user needs - we have some existing users who wanted to use this specific data to build new things. There's not a clear user need to open the entire API yet, which is why our approach is to open things in piecemeal as needs come up. It would also need some documentation and other work to make it better, which is another reason to hold off until there's a set of needs to be met.

      We'll be revisiting the topic of APIs once we've completed the move of government organisation websites to GOV.UK.