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OS:MBA Dissertation Questions About Taking Open Source Energy Technology to Market

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On August 19, 2009, Austin Brentley wrote:

Subject: Dual Licensing of Research in Renewable Energy


I am currently working on a MBA dissertation with a special focus on renewable energy. In writing my literature review, I focused on 3 different areas of research (open innovation, open source, and stakeholder theory). Here is a condensed break-down of the paper (you can also view the slide version here):

1. Green R&D is non-profit company whose sole purpose is to assist with innovation. In addition to keeping a stable of paid scientists and researchers, Green R&D also oversees financing, budgeting, patent applications, and litigation. It essentially pays for the more expensive aspects of Renewable Energy research that freelance scientists might not be able to afford if they worked in more open source-style collaboration. It also assists with long-term planning, suppliers, contracts, etc. All prototypes and research are placed under a GPL-style license.

2. Green R&D opens it findings to the public for contributions, thus benefiting from peer-to-peer production and input. Scientists, researchers, and laypeople around the world collaborate, adding to the growing pool of research. Whenever technically feasible, new improvements and discoveries are placed under the same GPL-style license.

3. Private firms may use this public information for its own purposes, but in doing so, it must pay a royalty. The royalty would have to be carefully determined to minimize cheating while maximizing payments.

4. A volunteer watch group ensures compliance between privatized products and royalty payments. I'm still working on the incentive structure for this watch group, although http://www.peertopatent.org/ offers some useful insights on how this might work. I'm also still working on a way to properly measure royalty payments.

5. Royalty payments go back to the Green R&D solely for the purpose of future research. There are no "profits" per se. Green R&D exists only to make renewable energy financing possible. The entire system is more of an innovation machine than it is a "business model." It helps brings Inventors and Entrepreneurs together if and when the former lacks sufficient capital to get started.

There are a few areas I have yet to resolve with the above model, and I was hoping you might be able to advise me on the best approach:

1. Financing....how do we finance the initial start-up capital necessary for this venture? Traditional investors would be hard to implement since open source and profit are often at odds. Would volunteer contributors get involved if they knew that their efforts would make someone else rich? I've considered crowdfunding as an option. And government assistance would be very helpful (although I prefer not to remain dependent on antyhing government related.

2. Governance....who would actually be in charge of Green R&D? In the absence of investors, to whom is Green R&D responsible? How do you sanction bad behavior or poor performance? Who decides on the allocation of funds?

3. Measuring IP.....in the programming world, it is "relatively" easy to enforce dual licensing since one need only compare the final code to the original to determine percentage overlap. Cheaters exist, but catching them and prosecuting them is fairly straightforward. In the research, science, and technology worlds, however, enforcing dual licensing seems much more difficult. If the OS community creates prototype A....and a private firm takes prototype A, makes changes, and sells it as its own, how do you detect this? I recommended a volunteer watchgroup, but I'm not sure how that would work exactly. And even if the watchgroup caught all cheaters, how do you measure what percentage of the original technology was used in the final product. What if a private firm makes many many changes to Prototype A while another firm only makes minor changes to Prototype A? How do you determine what royalties both firms should pay?

Does anyone have suggestions for the above areas (or other areas I need to explore more carefully.

Anyway, hope all is well. Thanks again for all the previous assistance you offered...and thanks in advance for any additional insights you might be able to provide.

-Austin

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Austin Brentley
email: <budaspam {at} gmail.com>

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