The 2020-2022 roadmap for France’s Nouvelle-Aquitaine Open Source (NAOS) business cluster emphasises resilience, agility and subsidiarity. The cluster encourages companies to cooperate within a federal structure, helping them to pool development resources and respond more effectively to calls for tenders.
NAOS, renamed from Aquinetic at the end of last year, is supported by France’s largest administrative region, Nouvelle-Aquitaine. Started in 2009, it is now a cluster of nearly 120 small and medium-sized ICT companies. Examples include Ekylibre, an agritech company offering (open source) online management software for farms, Ullo, offering digital mindfulness therapies, and Mellisphera, which brings artificial intelligence and data visualisation to beekeepers. All the companies have based their work and products on free and open source components.
In an interview with the French weekly La Tribune, François Pellegrini, NAOS co-president and computer science professor at the University of Bordeaux, explains that in the digital world, resources, costs, and interests must be pooled to increase the added value for all.
“The main condition for success,” Mr Pellegrini tells La Tribune, “is to be able to federate a coalition of interest between people and companies having the same need and being ready to pay for it. The initial investment in open source software must be supported by a community to make and keep it alive.”
Next on the NAOS roadmap is the creation of a local information system - a sort of index to make it easier for local companies and others to discover NAOS companies’ products, services, software and hardware. The system will include software hosting services, and will include the local network of fab labs and 3D printers. To raise awareness among businesses in the region, NAOS plans to create a network of NAOS ambassadors. “We want to make free software an element that attracts new companies and start-ups, to grow the already dynamic ecosystem,” the NAOS president told La Tribune.
The “La Banquiz” open source start-up accelerator programme, co-operated by NAOS and local incubators in several cities of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, has also been redesigned with an emphasis on the pooling of efforts. It now pools experts from all these organisations, leading to the creation of a region-wide network of trainers at the service of hosted open source companies.
This year’s edition of the region’s annual open source trade fair, B-Boost, has been postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The next edition, planned in 2021, will take place in La Rochelle, he says, illustrating that economic activity through open source technologies concerns the entire region.