I was honored to lead a breakout session for the Maker to Manufacturer event hosted by the White House’s Office of Science and Technology. As the Executive Director of OSHWA, my break out session was on Open Source Hardware innovation. This is my take away from the individual viewpoints expressed by the group, highlighting what we can do as a community, as an industry, and from government and university perspectives. Below are the unedited notes from this breakout session. These ideas came from the collective participants in the breakout session and the views and ideas do not reflect those of the White House.
Our group discussed innovation through open source hardware through cross pollination in the open hardware community, industries, granting organizations, universities, and other institutions. In this way we can change what innovation looks like.
As a community, open source hardware needs to better explain the value proposition to the above listed institutions. We need to clarify the licensing around open source hardware, which OSHWA hopes to take a step toward with our certification process launching in Oct. With help, there could also be a database that grows out of the certification process with a space for contributing back and tracking changes. We need to offer educational experiences for policy makers and illustrate the social change and rapid innovation happening around open source hardware.
Within the government, the open source hardware community would like to be part of any process that might create limits though broad regulation around IP and hardware. We would like to see rethinking the standards and create scalable standards and taxonomies for open source hardware. We think it’s best for conversations in this space to strategically chose particular hardware fields to introduce, educate and change with open source hardware. Tax incentives for people to share their source publicly for the good of rapid innovation, foregoing a monopoly, would be well received in the community. Finally, we need the attention of the USPTO to alter the landscape of IP and be aware of open source prior art.
From a university perspective, a change must happen in the tech transfer offices for innovation to move forward at a university. Too often universities have IP constraints stemming from the Bayh-Dole Act which prohibits other inventions coming out of tax payer funded research and can even prohibit the inventor from continuing to innovate.
From an industry perspective, having a standard business case, such as royalties for creating a copy or derivative, would create a mutual respect. An understanding that risk adverse IP practices such as patents has a trickle down effect on innovation. In particular, open chipsets would be more useable. Industries could benefit from an open toolbox of the first 1,000 common pieces needed for any project, or a ‘simple things’ database containing source for the building blocks would be useful. In some industries also sharing test results with the source would be helpful.
At OSHWA we are reaching out to these four areas, community, government, university, and industry to assist in the changes reflected at this meeting.
Notes from the day, taken by Stephanie Santoso:
How do you innovate with open source hardware?
Moderated By Alicia Gibb, OSHWA
October is open source hardware month
We’re primed to create value with the public- we have lots of things that we can do.
Open source hardware is more of an IP concept. What policies currently stand in the
way of open innovation?
University ownership of IP is a big one.
Open source software- you know what the license is, you understand what it takes; but
with Creative Commons- you don’t even know what that means. It’s not clear what it is.
Hardware is weird because you can’t license it unless you have a patent. In October,
OSHWA will announce a certification (a trademark) to help Makers and entrepreneurs
understand the steps that they need to take to make sure their products are open
source based on OSHWA’s specific definitions.
Matt: What does this do for the feedback loop for users? Ex. Bizzy box (sp?)- users
weren’t contributing content back to the community. What is the feedback loop which
incentivizes people to contribute the modifications back to the community?
It would be great to have a clearly defined record system where you can track changes-
like a Github for hardware. When we look at open source hardware- we should look at
components- and what components you can open source too. Would be great to have
representatives from the semiconductor industry present at future conversations around
Maker to manufacturer. If they were repurposed to be reusable, this would be great.
Schematics for semiconductors are already available. Autodesk is creating a platform
where you can take modular components of your hardware design using an Autodesk
software platform and make them more openly accessible.
Venkat: Would be great to have a database of open source hardware that makers in
makerspaces can use, so people know what’s already out there and available.
Think about Texas Instruments- what’s the business case for a company to do open
source hardware? Why would TI or Intel care? You’d need to shift their mindset of how
they measure value- often its patents, but what about getting institutions to value
people who either develop open source hardware or contribute to open source hardware
projects in a similar manner?
Frank Gayle: Should talk to NIST about how we think about standards. Michelle: we
should talk about taxonomy and how open source hardware fits.
Fernando: I come from the pharma sector, which is different because it’s harder to
make a product mature. What’s the conceptual framework that moves us in this
direction? We don’t even have material property databases.
What about procedural processes? It’s hard to divide these processes into specific
pieces. There may be interest in small scale manufacturing, but for large scale
manufacturing, we need to rethink this.
Open source community- benefits will come for makers who are producing smaller scale
products. We are seeing that individuals are contributing to the open source hardware
community as a way to create a personal brand in some sense- open source represents
a certain set of values. Ex. We are seeing this on Hackaday’s open source project
How might we screw this up?
1) Not explaining the value proposition well
2) Speed to market trumps the IP value proposition- we should remember this. Sometimes
patenting isn’t the best use of your time because things are happening so fast and you
want to make it to market.
3) Regulations- be careful of this- regulations aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but we should
have an active role in providing input and engage with regulators very early on.
4) Not being about to create an effective cost model. If there’s an acknowledgement that
there is a publicly available use of technology for the process, then you can better justify
this to the organization.
5) Failing to recognize that huge social change may be required in order for organizations
to embrace open source hardware. Ex. Navy can be generally hesistant and risk averse.
If you want create something new, it can be an incredibly long approval process. In
some cases, it makes sense to acquire something from outside of the organization than
try to create something in-house.