European public services should focus not only on innovative new projects, but also on funding maintenance of vulnerable small open source projects they rely on, a study for the European Commission’s Open Source Programme Office (EC-OSPO) concludes. The report, made public today, shows that most funding is for new projects favouring break-through and scientific innovation. Hardly anything is awarded for long-term maintenance projects.
The European funding mechanism study (funded by ISA² 2020 Sharing and Re-Use Action (2016.31)) examined funding mechanisms for two specific groups of open source developers - individual developers and small vulnerable projects.
There is, first, an assessment of the sustainability needs of the pipeline producing innovative open source software for European public services, especially those produced by small groups of developers. The report shows these groups have trouble attracting new developers to their project and are short of money. Small financial contributions of between EUR 50 a week or a one-off payment of EUR 5,000 would already help individual developers and small groups of developers.
In the second part, the study looks at 32 European, US and international funding mechanisms that support open source software projects. In addition to a lack of funding for maintenance of critical open source projects, the report also notes that funds almost never fund “little-known projects and developers not yet considered by wider communities”, and there is no fund that concentrates on government technology (GovTech). “Additionally, most of the funding institutions are US-based and do not always align with European social needs and challenges.”
The study says there is a need for a European funding mechanism to help sustain critical open source software communities, and to support grass roots innovation for GovTech projects. The report includes a proposal for such a fund. This fund should target individual developers or small groups of developers working on nascent open source projects of their own. These projects will already be helped with small amounts of between EUR 5,000 and EUR 10,000.
The outcome of the study was validated by a group of 20 open source experts representing funding mechanisms, public services and open source associations.
For more information see:
Development of a Funding Mechanism for Sustaining Open Source Software for European Public Services
Annex A - Existing Top Down Funding Mechanisms
Annex B - Existing Bottom Up Funding Mechanisms
Annex C - Non Financial Sustainability Issues and Solutions
Funding Mechanism Study - Docx Files
Funding Mechanism Study - ODT Files