The Royal Society yesterday hosted a Department for Transport meeting to look at the value (or otherwise) or a cross-government data mashing lab. This would explore ways in which to encourage the opening up of government data resources (like public transport schedules, maps and a vast range of other information) and support innovation around them.
Rufus Pollock made some extensive notes. My own feeling was that it would be valuable to have a cross-governmental body which facilitated access to government data and issued Calls For Proposals for prototype tools and systems that demonstrated the value of access to that data. A government/industry/R&D forum would also be useful. I think though the Lab would constrain thinking too heavily if it restricted the field of work to systems it thought were useful, or if it tried to build production systems that crowded out private sector innovation.