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The Inria consortia model for open source software takes pride of place at the first B-Boost convention

On 6 and 7 November 2018 in Bordeaux, the biggest actors in open source and free software will come together for a new and original event whose aim is to accelerate the development of the open source sector. Inria, who has long been convinced of the preponderant role of free software in digital development, sponsors and participates in the event. 

Organised by Aquinetic, the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region's skills cluster in free software and technologies, this convention will welcome a number of French digital technology stakeholders and speakers from more than 10 different countries.  Over two days, visitors will be able to learn and develop their activities thanks to over 70 conferences, around 30 innovative stakeholders, B-to-B meetings and events (hackathon, boost run, etc.). 

Among the renowned speakers Nicolas Roussel, director of the Inria Bordeaux - Sud-Ouest research centre, Algiane Froehly, head of development at the MMG consortium and Gaël Guennebaud, who developed Eigen software, will be representing Inria - the French national research institute dedicated to the digital sciences.

The design and development of free software lie at the heart of Inria's expertise.

For many years, the institute has been a major stakeholder in free software, with contributions taking various forms:

  • development of free software programs (some of which have achieved true recognition among the community: OCaml programming language, Coq proof assistant, Graphite, etc.);
  • involvement with other academic and industry partners in the creation of consortia (such as ObjectWeb in 2002 - which became OW2 in 2006 - and Scilab in 2003);
  • participation in the development of the CeCILL family of licences, which defines the principles for the use and dissemination of free software in accordance with French law, launched in 2004;
  • development of a methodology to analyse the legal position of a software program within QualiPSo;
  • creation of a guide on the analysis of free licences and a collection of free licence fact sheets.

Through its work, Inria has therefore developed a global expertise on free software - an object for scientific dissemination, technology transfer and industry.

Focus on two Inria Bordeaux - Sud-Ouest open source software programs


Gaël Guennebaud is the co-founder and main software maintainer of Eigen, a generic (template) C++ library for linear algebra aimed at developers. Since its creation in 2008, Eigen has been immensely successful in both the academic and start-up worlds, and with leading industrialists (EDF, CEA, CERM, Google, etc.). The website has more than 70,000 unique visitors per month. 

When Eigen was created, the decision was made to implement a very open development model: everyone can participate in Eigen's enrichment. The advantages were a strong commitment from the user community which led to a very rapid dissemination of the project. Today, in view of its success, the question arises of creating a consortium based on the MMG model in order to perpetuate a software program that currently relies on very few people. 

  • Find out more about Eigen

The MMG  platform

Developed jointly by Inria, the University of Bordeaux, engineering graduate school Bordeaux INP, Pierre and Marie Curie University and the CNRS, the MMG platform provides applications and libraries for mesh modifications. Since 2004, its user community has constantly increased, ultimately raising the question of the perpetuation of the software programs.

Algiane Froehly has worked on the industrialisation of MMG, then on the study of the potential economic models to support the platform engineers' needs. This work led to the MMG open source consortium managed, among others, by the consortium's members. Today, the support and involvement of the industry and academic members of the consortium are the driving forces in promoting the platform and reflect a new dimension - provided by the consortium - in the relationships between researchers, developers and users.

Drawing on its experiences, a year ago Inria created an InriaSoft.

Even though each consortium has to build its own economic model, many needs (legal, financial, engineering expertise, etc.) are shared. These resources can therefore be pooled. The InriaSoft initiative provides expertise and resources adapted to the software project leaders, whose user communities wish to invest financially via an open source consortium.

Today, a number of software projects created by our researchers are distributed under an open source licence and unite a community that is academic as well as industrial.

Inria and its free software - a look back at some highlights: 

  • 1996: Inria researchers begin to develop the AMAYA web browser and publisher, in conjunction with the W3C consortium.
  • 1997: Inria researchers develop Coq, a system enabling the development and verification of formal proofs (a decisive stage in demonstrating software reliability). Today, it is integrated within multiple high security applications, in particular air transport. 
  • 2002: Inria launches - together with Bull and France Télécom R&D - the Objectweb consortium, which is committed to building a standard and complete open source middleware platform, aimed at business infrastructure. 
  • 2003: Inria joins up with other industry and academic partners in order to launch the Scilab consortium around the eponymous scientific computation software, developed together with the engineering school École nationale des Ponts et Chaussées.  
  • 2004: Inria, the CEA and the CNRS launch CeCiLL, the first licence that defines the principles for the use and dissemination of free software in accordance with French law.
  • June 2009: the software Graphite, a platform for research in 3D modelling and computer-generated imagery, developed by a project team from the Inria Nancy - Grand Est research centre, receives the special jury prize for the most innovative project under development and third prize in the “sciences” category (applications or tools of use for research and the sciences) at the 5th edition of the free software awards “Les Trophées du Libre”.
  • 2009: more than 300 free software programs are disseminated by the Inria project teams.
  • 2016: the Software Heritage project is opened to the public. The objective of this project, on the initiative of Inria, is to collect, organise, preserve and make accessible to all the source code of all available software. 
  • 2017: creation of the InriaSoft initiative.