Why it makes sense to sustain your project beyond its initial funding

Scott Wilson from CETIS, University of Bolton showed in a very compelling way at TransferSummit/UK 2010 how it can be strategically important to sustain your publicly funded software project beyond its initial funding period. The figures in Scott’s slides say it all: by investing a tiny survival budget to sustain their Wookie project after the funding would run out they managed to secure about £700k of new funding from two European (FP7) projects.

How they achieved this? Their overall project, although being a bit specific, implemented the emerging W3C widget standard which is relevant to a wider community. They managed to attract some interest from outside the initial project group. OSS Watch helped them with community development and identifying potential sources of value and funding. A good home for the project was found at the Incubator of the Apache Software Foundation, thereby attracting much more interest and contributions from parties inside and outside the academic sector.

Currently, Apache Wookie (Incubating) is a thriving project and has seen many bugfixes and new features contributed by the community. It resulted in a lot of visibility for the University of Bolton outside the regular channels, leading to new partnerships with the commercial sector and universities inside and outside of the UK. Last but not least they managed to secure a lot of new project funding from European sources.

Sustaining your software project beyond funding is not just morally right or something that should be done so your money is not spent wastefully. Scott’s example shows that it is very much in the interest of the institutions and the project team to sustain the project. So think about how your software development project can be sustained after the funding has run out or which part of it is most potential to generate a viable community. And get in touch with OSS Watch; we are here to help.

2 thoughts on “Why it makes sense to sustain your project beyond its initial funding

  1. Mike TV

    Sure, if that project’s framework is of any real use in the real world…and if that project has real merit and value rather than just friends in high places.

  2. Ross Gardler

    Mike, I agree that if a project has no real merit it should not be sustained and it is certainly a worry when funding is provided for projects that are doing little of value.

    However, in my experience it’s pretty hard to build a community from “friends in high places”, whatever that means. More realistically I think it’s an ability to “play the funding game.”

    In the long run, without the kinds of community contributions that projects like Wookie see it is hard to imagine long term sustainability from academic funding sources, no matter how good you are at writing bids. At some point someone has to save money or make money from the software.

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