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OPEN!NEXT enables SMEs to engage in company-community collaboration (C3) for means of co-development and market exploitation of Open Source Hardware (OSH) products and related services. OSH is an increasingly viable approach to intellectual property management extending the principles of Open Source Software (OSS) to the domain of physical products. These principles support the development of products in transparent processes allowing the participation of non-institutional contributors such as consumers, makers and citizens, and enable the emergence of innovation ecosystems around the co-development of user-centric products. This alternative organization of product development in OSS has been the template for the creation of a billion-euro economy that fuelled the fourth industrial revolution. Although OSH has now the potential to follow the same successful path, it has not found its way to mainstream business application yet.
OPEN!NEXT builds upon the vision that SMEs are the best placed to release the formidable potential of OSH in terms of product innovation and business incubation. The project aims at fostering the emergence of company-community ecosystems facilitating the engagement of SMEs in efficient collaboration with OSH communities and opening up new avenues for value creation. This is achieved through the realisation of four objectives: 1) demonstrate the potential of C3 through cases studies with business partners, 2) deliver the necessary ICT infrastructure, standards and methods to enable seamless collaborative engineering in C3, 3) synthesize adapted business models for SMEs, and 4) establish a network of consulting actors to support SMEs in adopting these business models. Doing so, OPEN!NEXT fosters SMEs’ abilities to gather contributions from communities of volunteers and to reuse existing open source designs, leading to a reduction of 15% in time-to-market and 20% in development costs as well as the further expansion of a phenomenon of societal relevance.