Much like the Apache web server is invaluable to the internet, scientific open-source software, from aligners to genome browsers, are invaluable to bioinformatics. However, whilst some open-source software has proved valuable financially (e.g. the MySQL database), commercialisation of similarly-licensed academic projects has been almost non-existent. Here are three reasons why;
- Providing commercial support is way outside the scope of the academic groups writing the software.
- University tech transfer departments find open-source unfamiliar, and can see no way of monitising it, and
- Venture capitalists find the thought of investing in "open-source" companies somewhat alarming (for fairly obvious reasons).
In my view, academic groups who want to commercialise their software should think seriously about entering into a collaboration agreement with an appropriate company, thus helping to;
- Increase their user base beyond the academic world,
- Demonstrate direct translation of research into industrial application (an important consideration for funding bodies),
- Increase software quality through collaborative development (i.e. external contributions of bug fixes and documentation) and,
- Support the group financially through revenue sharing.