Getting more value out of our research investments is an important focus for the UK government. This became clear at the Science & Innovation conference last week, where several people from the UK department BIS and the Technology Strategy Board explained how new initiatives are being rolled out to increase uptake of research outputs by SMEs and other UK companies. We are watching this closely at OSS Watch, as this may provide additional opportunities for the software projects run at UK institutions for longer-term sustainability.
Kicking off the conference, Anne Glover (Chief Scientific Advisor for the EU Commission) talked about the focus areas of the EU’s major new investment programme, Horizon 2020. As much as 79.3 bn euro will be invested over the period 2014-2020, of which 24.4bn euro for Excellence Science and 17.9 for Industrial Leadership. But it will be crucial to help establish a good connection between these two areas, to make sure businesses benefit from research outputs, and there will be more focus on pushing the knowledge out of the universities, and involve industry more with the scientific projects.
The Rt Hon David Willetts MP, Minister for Universities and Science, reinforced this message in his talk, but on the UK level. He reminded the audience about the relative large share of SMEs in the British economy, compared with for example Germany, and indicated that more will be done help SMEs and universities connecting more easily. This is needed, because SMEs are finding it difficult to keep up-to-date with what is happening in universities and do not find their way easily to the right inventions. The HE Innovation Fund is intended help in this respect. Another example that David Willets mentioned is the Biomedical Catalyst Fund. This is a joined fund of £90m from both the Medical Research Council and the Technology Strategy Board, to help businesses take outputs of life sciences research and build innovations on top of those.
When looking at open source software, there is a great potential for institutions for those projects that are worthwhile preserving longer term, to allow external interested parties to contribute, including those from the commercial sector. It is important that the legal matters such as Intellectual Property ownership are sorted out properly, and that processes are in place to help businesses understand how they can invest and what they get in return, but once those ground rules are dealt with there are great opportunities for open innovation to thrive in these projects.
OSS Watch is here to help institutions make their projects ready for external involvement and make them more attractive for other partners. But we are also working to make it easier to find out which projects exist and may be of interest. For example, we are involved with a working group of the EU to help develop a metadata schema to make it easier for software forges to link out the meta data of their projects for consumption by other systems, such as our own software catalogue software Simal.
Improving the visibility and widening the opportunities for engagement with open source projects will be valuable for all. Open development has proven itself as a model for quite some years now, and now is a right time for projects to explore the potential for reaping the rewards of the opportunities open development brings. OSS Watch is here to help!