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Business models for open source hardware

Abstract : To preserve their business model, companies have long protected their innovation processes with patents. « Open source hardware » (OSH) is, on the contrary, a collaborative product development process, where design plans and manufacturing "secrets" are accessible to all. The lines between creators and consumers blur more and more, especially when, for example, digital fabrication tools such as 3D printers or laser cutters accessible via Fab Labs or Maker Spaces, enable citizens to create and test products much more easily. Starting from an isolated phenomenon, there are now 1200 Fab Labs in 100 different countries organized in a "Fab City Network", to help cities produce within forty years 50% of the resources they consume.In this context, building a drone to depollute oceans, connected beehives, or a water filter in « Open Source Hardware » (OSH) aims at creating solutions in a more rapid, efficient and inexpensive manner. Furthermore, these innovations are voluntarily kept free by law. They represent a knowledge base, a "digital common good", meaning a reserve of ideas and solutions available on the internet via numerical platforms. According to Elinor Ostrom, who received the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009, "the challenge of the current generation is to keep the pathways to discovery open" (Hess & Ostrom, 2011). Without attaining the success of open source software initiatives, in practice, these OSH initiatives have continued to spread.But how can a sustainable economic model be developed when co-constructed innovations can be shared by all? Thus, our research questions are the following: 1) How to monetize value created through OSH? 2) How can the business model framework be extended to include value creation and sharing for all stakeholders? 3) In the context of OSH, how does a business model hold together?The OSH phenomenon is not specific to a single sector, company or territory, but is indicative of much more global transformation. To understand the conditions necessary for the survival and growth of OSH, we conducted a qualitative study on the “OSH ecosystem” that allowed us to study the community, firm and territorial ecosystems levels together.Data was collected in three successive phases. First, qualitative interviews were conducted with twenty-three initiatives from the "Open Source Hardware Observatory". These, of course, corresponded to our research criteria, that is the development of complex mechatronic or textile products labeled opened by their surrounding community. Then we conducted a case study on four actors in the automotive sector to study their reaction to OSH developed by innovation communities. The final phase consisted of running an empirical study of the actors in the OSH innovation ecosystem of the city of Barcelona, chosen for its pivotal role in the "Fab Cities" network.Our results show that these initiatives are strongly focused on democratic values aimed at putting technology at the service of humanity. While these values are a powerful vector for federating actors, success is stalled in companies that do not adhere to them. These will primarily focus on the associated risks. Finally, we identified a diversity of possible and configurable revenues to be shaped according to an organization's strategic needs: 1) external financing; 2) a combination of products and services; 3) strategic competence; 4) the model platform, and 5) the distributed enterprise. Together, they enable an OSH initiative to progressively refine its business model, grow in value, and increase its impact.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, March 11, 2020 - 9:11:07 AM
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Laetitia Thomas. Business models for open source hardware. Business administration. Université Grenoble Alpes, 2019. English. ⟨NNT : 2019GREAG006⟩. ⟨tel-02504769⟩



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