par Gabriel Plassat • Innovation


While Europe is today highly questioned on its economic, solidarity and ecological aspects, a component is not very present in the debate: innovation. Yet, it is a key issue of the European challenges for the next few years.

Edgar Morin defines our modern challenges as climate change by their complexity, that is to say by this “inter-connexion” between the fields of knowledge whose context, interactions and in particular feedbacks must be restored.

Our main enemy: time

The speed of evolution of new economic powers like China, but also of our climate and environment are constantly growing while the time of cultural evolution of our organizations is stalling. Europe seems to be at a standstill and is struggling to find a collective model.

All public and private organizations are becoming more and more interdependent on each other to design, experiment and try to meet our main challenges. Unfortunately, they struggle to evolve at the right speed and to coordinate effectively.

The more interdependencies between stakeholders in a domain or problem, the more difficult it becomes for each actor to coordinate with a multitude of other stakeholders when resources are closed and patented. Conversely, the use of open resources demonstrates their superiority because they allow a group that uses them to use them more quickly, to adjust and reconfigure permanently. There are fewer barriers, more links and more innovations. For each resource, the access conditions must be defined so that it can be used, manipulated by a maximum of actors.

It is about managing a compromise. On the one hand, a closed resource protects its value and therefore reduces potential connections with other actors and forces the owner to fully finance its development. On the other hand, the value of an open resource can expand to beyond its creator and find a community that will grow it and increase connections. To manage this openness, a community of interest defines licensing rules and governance. The open resource is then called “a common”.

Discover new allies

When a resource is open, all stakeholders can learn about the plans and content of the resource for inspiration, use or connect to it or even propose new versions adapted to their needs by respecting the rules indicated in the license. In all public and private organizations (association, cooperative, company, agency, school or laboratory), it becomes essential to integrate the commons and learn how to leverage them. It is no longer an option, it is a new means of action in a complex world, in the sense of Edgar Morin.

An open resource also facilitates training and education by providing access to all hardware and software components. For example, the University of Rennes is finalizing the documentation of an open source electric vehicle. This vehicle becomes an educational support and a pre-industrial technical development base for entrepreneurs, teachers and researchers. Several schools and laboratories now wish to use this common to constitute a community of national interest and, hopefully, soon European.

On the business side, Baidu, the Google Chinese, is engaged in the race for autonomous vehicles by launching with many open source software but also hardware bricks. Google exploits the potential of open source with the sharing of development tools like TensorFlow and other software projects. It is an option to rally a large number of potentially competing players, get them to collaborate on a large scale and produce useful resources in a few months. Value is no longer only in the resource itself but in the community that can develop it and grow it quickly.

The superpowers of the commons

The commons make it possible to pool expenses, build standards, rally international communities, build new business models, focus on its real added value and accelerate the diffusion of technological solutions. Commons can be used by both industrialists but also startups, laboratories or schools. As a result, we are also proposing that national and European public funding structures evolve to better support them.

In a world of closed resources, it is the slowest part of each ecosystem “Industrial Cluster – Territory – Public Actors – Research” that defines the speed of innovation of the whole. In a world with open resources, it is the possibility of a plural, parallel, shared innovation that guarantees a high speed and the propagation of a variety of solutions. It is therefore a race of a new kind that mixes skills, interests, types of actors, forced to coordinate in the movement with new technological opportunities that open up over time. The synchronization and alignment of human and financial resources becomes just as important as the technical skills of each actor and this alignment is fostered by open resources.

In France, several generally associative structures act concretely today to develop common law (Open Law), mobility (FabMob in France, Open Source Lab in Germany), entrepreneurship in Africa launched by the Presidential Council for Africa (Digital Africa) , the development of democracy (Code for France). Initiatives such as Public Money, Public Code or Sharing & Reuse also bring this desire to strengthen the use and financing of FOSS. Since the resources are open, there are no more geographical borders, it is large ecosystems that become able to coordinate themselves as shown by Digital Transport 4 Africa launched by the French Development Agency with the World Resources Institute. It also enables direct citizen engagement with the Open Space Makers Federation initiative initiated by CNES in space. At the international level, non-profit organizations such as the Document Foundation, OW2, foundations such as the Linux Foundation, Eclipse bring together industry players in several sectors, and Decidim in Spain, which is developing an open source participatory democracy platform.

To change the results, change the funding

Public support for innovation must therefore evolve to better fund open resources by encouraging joint production in all calls for projects or by launching open challenges and thus help create jobs. By specifying the objectives to be achieved, for example, carbon-free mobility and pollution, it will be possible to produce open resources that are useful to the ecosystem and that can develop whatever the fate of each project. Each common also improves the coordination capacities of the actors between them. More importantly, the active presence of the public sector in these projects of commons is a prerequisite for integrating the concerns of general interest of which the public actors are the depositories.

We call on elected officials and public decision-makers to integrate as quickly as possible the great potential of the commons in all public support systems for innovation at European, national and regional levels.

Our time is running out to strengthen ecosystems through the commons and to invent a European, citizen and sustainable path.


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Signatories : Gilles BABINET (entrepreneur, VP National Advice for Digital) Karima DELLI (European Deputy in charge of transportation), La Médiation Numérique, Karim SY (Digital Africa, CPA member), Michel BAUWENS (P2P foundation), Hervé PILLAUD (Member of National Advice for Digital), Jérôme GIUSTI (Avocat), Paul-olivier DEHAYE (, Josephine GOUBE (Techjugees), Amandine CRAMBES, Thanh NGHIEM (Crapauds fous), Vincent KAUFMANN (EPFL), Jaime ARRENDONDO (Entrepreneur Bold & Open), Marina RACHLINE (The Camp), Erik GRAB (Michelin), Gaël BLONDELLE (Eclipse Foundation Europe), Cédric THOMAS (OW2), Damien HARTMANN (Fédération – Open Space Makers), Benjamin JEAN (Open Law, Inno³), Léthicia RANCUREL (TUBA), Thomas COTTINET (Liberté Living-Lab), Jacques-françois MARCHANDISE (FING), Bertil de FOS & Bruno MARZLOFF (Chronos) , Olivier DUQUESNE (Club Linux-Nord-Pas de Calais), Hélène BEJUI (Groupe SOS), Simon SARAZIN (Optéos), Brigitte TROUSSE (France Living Labs), Thierry BARBAUT, Mehdi OMAROUAYACHE (COOFA), Olivier CLOTEAUX (Anayet), Olivier JASPART, Julien LECAILLE, Silvère MERCIER, Ricard ESPELT (UOC), Gabriel PLASSAT (La Fabrique des Mobilités)

Picture : Roumics 2014, Simon Sarazin