New Report: Unlocking the UK Sharing Economy


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The UK Department for Business, Innovation & Skills undertook a review of the UK Sharing Economy led by Debbie Wosskow, CEO of peer-to-peer travel club, Love Home Swap

The aim of the review is to assess the social and economic potential of the sharing economy for the UK, and to make recommendations on how this potential can be reached. It also considers risks to consumers and concerns of established businesses.

The focus has been on 3 sectors where the sharing economy is increasingly well-established:

  • personal and commercial space
  • transport (eg car clubs and ride sharing)
  • time and skills

It also looks at sectors where there is significant growth potential, such as:

  • fashion
  • food
  • personal items (eg power tools)

The review makes a number of general recommendations:

Fostering innovation in the UK

  • An Innovation Lab for the sharing economy should be created as an incubator and research centre. This should be led by private sector investment and supported by Nesta and Innovate UK.

Trust and Identity

  • The Disclosure and Barring Service should fully digitise criminal records checks, so they can be done quickly, more cheaply, and be integrated into third party services such as sharing economy platforms.

Government procurement 

  • The government should update its procurement frameworks, so that sharing economy platforms are an option when travelling, alongside the more traditional services. This should include ride-sharing and carpooling as alternatives to trains and taxis, and accommodation sharing as an alternative to hotels and short-term lets.
  • All public bodies that maintain car fleets should investigate whether they can save money by sharing their vehicles with the public when not otherwise in use, or by replacing their fleets with membership of an existing car club scheme.

Insuring the risks

  • The British Insurance Brokers’ Association’s released a new guide to insurance and the sharing economy, which is published alongside this report, as well as their recommended list of insurance brokers keen to work with the industry. 
  • Sharing economy companies need to pool their resources to jointly negotiate insurance coverage.

Digital Inclusion

  • The government has published a Digital Inclusion Strategy and works with partners such as Go ON UK, the cross-sector digital skills charity, to reduce the number of people who are offline or who lack the basic skills to use the internet by 25% every two years.


  • HMRC (Revenue & Customs) and HM Treasury should create a guide to tax in the sharing economy, and an online tax calculator to help users of sharing economy services to easily work out how much tax they are liable to pay.

Sharing government assets

  • The public sector owns a vast range of assets – from the government and local authority property portfolios to hospital medical equipment to vehicle fleets. In many cases these are already being shared. However, there is still much more that could be done. Unlocking more public sector assets could have huge benefits for communities and taxpayers.
  • The government should simplify the registration process for Space for Growth to remove the requirement for security vetting in buildings where this is not necessary. The online booking system should also be improved – making it as easy as possible to book government space.

Sharing economy industry representation

  • Sharing economy businesses should join together to create a trade body, representative across all sectors. The UK is ideally placed to house an organisation that could represent the interests of the sector across Europe.
  • The sharing economy trade body should establish a kitemark for responsible sharing platforms.

Sector recommendations:

  1. Shared space and accommodation
    • Regulations for those providing accommodation should be proportionate to the scale of operation – someone renting out a spare room a few nights a year should not be subject to the same level of regulation as a business renting out 100 rooms year-round. Regulations should apply in the same way to businesses that see themselves as part of the sharing economy and to traditional hospitality providers.
  2. Sharing tasks, time and skills
    • Skill sharing platforms should agree to ensure workers are paid at least the Living Wage. This should form part of the kitemark for sharing economy platforms.
    • Government departments should embrace time banks as a way of giving their staff the opportunity to volunteer with local charities and services, and to access new training and development opportunities for civil servants.
  3. Shared approaches to transport
    • ​​Drivers that have undergone appropriate safeguarding checks should be allowed to make a profit from ridesharing. This should only apply for journeys where taking paying passengers is not the primary reason for the journey.
    • The Greater London Authority should be given powers to coordinate car club parking bays across London, to ensure there is a consistent approach that allows one-way trips.
  4. Verticals of the future
    • ​​BIS (Department for Business, Innovation & Skills) and Defra (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) should closely monitor the development of innovative and developing sharing business models, to both to ensure regulations keep pace with new ways of doing things, and to ensure that the UK is at the forefront of the development of new, more sustainable business models.

Sharing Cities in the Spotlight

It's encouraging to see the review note the growing interest in Sharing Cities: 

On an international level, there are also some great examples of cities and communities embracing sharing at the core of how they operate. Seoul and Amsterdam are good examples – and great work is being done in parts of Australia, such as Victoria.

The idea of a ‘sharing city’ is a new concept, and the possibilities are only just becoming real. They can include: sharing the local council’s buildings with community groups; building new housing developments with car club bays incorporated and integrated into the local transport network and creating local online hubs where residents and businesses can share their skills and possessions with each other.

This ‘sharing city’ concept is full of exciting possibilities – and I hope the UK can be a pioneer in building the sharing cities of the future.

The government should pilot a UK ‘sharing city’ – where transport, shared office space, accommodation and skills networks are joined together and residents are encouraged to share as part of their daily lives.

The UK Sharing Economy review can be downloaded here or viewed online.

The Sharing Cities Network is expanding all the time. Is your city represented? To find out more contact