Aquinetic, an open source incubator in France’s Aquitaine region, has become an established business accelerator. It now acts as a resource for investors keen to mix free software and conventional business models, reports chair of the incubator, François Pellegrini. “Working with investors creates new ways and models to get firms financed”, said Pellegrini, computer science professor at the University of Bordeaux.
The incubator was started in 2009. It works with public administrations in the region to set up technology zones.
The most recent business centre for free software start-ups was opened just a few weeks ago in Pessac, a suburb of the city of Bordeaux. The centre is called ‘La Banquiz’ (a play on the French word Banquise, meaning ice floe or fast ice (ambiguous)) - “since that’s where penguins multiply”, joked professor Pellegrini. A second centre - “not exclusively focused on open technology players” ‘La Fabrik’, was opened earlier this year in the town of Mont de Marsan.
The computer scientist presented Aquinetic at Open World Forum, a conference in Paris in October.
Last year, France’s Research Ministry and BPI France, an investor group, listed one of Aquinetic’s free software start-ups - Shinken Solutions - among the country’s most innovative technology companies. Shinken develops a computer and IT infrastructure monitoring solution, having rewritten Nagios, a well-known open source product. The Shinken rewrite is also available as open source.
Aquinetic now assists 20 early-stage companies, working on a diverse range of products. Examples include brain-computer interaction, educational software and safety for the elderly. One of the projects is trialling the use of drones to destroy the nests of Asian giant hornets, an invasive pest.
Aquinetic links free software firms, user groups, schools, research centres and public administrations, explains professor Pellegrini. These interact too loosely to create synergies, he says. Aquinetic’s many links to the free software community helps it to find viable projects early. The incubator provides resources, including server hosts, and helps projects apply for local, national and European grants.
The incubator also participates in network events to promote the free software initiatives. “A handful of our projects took part in the US’ Open Source Convention (OSCON) last year, and with others we’ve visited Italy. We’re actively trying to export our companies”, said the Aquinetic president.
Selection of the free software projects is done by the incubator’s scientific and strategic council. Projects are encouraged to stay where they began, Pellegrini says. “Conventionally, inventors aggregate in cities such as San Francisco. We believe local enterprises already have good networks, and use those to create value.”