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Professor Eleanor Shaw, OBE, Vice Principal, University of Strathclyde

State of Open: The UK in 2023

Phase One: “A Year in Review”

The concept of “Creative Destruction”, coined by economist Joseph Schumpeter in 1942, emphasises the transformative impact of innovation in free markets. This idea, debated but influential, is exemplified by the simultaneous positive and negative effects of innovations like online streaming and e-commerce. Prof Shaw underscores the potential of open technologies, citing examples like the Mojaloop payment platform and HUB Ocean, to address global challenges through collaborative efforts. Instances such as the Gender Index demonstrate how open data can shed light on societal issues. The importance of supportive legislation, regulations, and education is emphasised, and the University of Strathclyde’s collaboration with OpenUK in creating a MOOC on the business of open source reflects a commitment to understanding and promoting entrepreneurship in this evolving ecosystem.

A combination that drives innovation for good
Professor Eleanor Shaw OBE, Vice Principal, University of Strathclyde

The Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter coined the phrase ‘Creative Destruction’ in 1942 to describe the impact of innovations in capitalist economies. While his views have been much debated, they have been hugely influential on free-market economists and economies globally.

Creative destruction is a provocative term for the idea that in free markets, creativity
and innovation lead to new products, services, business models, processes, even views and opinions that ‘destroy’ existing ways of doing things, replacing them with new, improved and often very different alternatives. Schumpeter rightly identified entrepreneurs as drivers of innovation – individuals who spot market opportunities and go on to exploit these through technical, organisational, and other innovations.

Since 1942 our world has changed in unimaginable ways, often driven by innovations that have simultaneous positive and negative impacts. The birth of online streaming services, led by Netflix have, on the one hand expanded the range of onscreen entertainment for billions while, on the other, contributed to the demise of video rental stores and challenged the programming structure of publicly funded providers including the BBC. Likewise, e-commerce giants Amazon have expanded consumer choice and convenience while also being responsible for the closure of local independent shops, making many UK highstreets into ‘ghost towns’.

Away from these well documented examples of the mixed effects of creative destruction, there are multiple instances of innovations delivering numerous benefits for individuals, communities, and societies by improving their health, education, and wellbeing; ultimately enhancing their standard of living. The potential for innovations to be a force for good – to address climate challenges, improve food security, reverse the loss of biodiversity, and many more complex, difficult but very real problems, is enormous.

With the improvements that technological and digital innovations have made to the opening of data, software, and coding, this potential is a real and present opportunity in which entrepreneurs globally are fully engaging to address inequalities, exclusion, poverty, and problems and challenges that have endured for decades, if not centuries.

What distinguishes the innovations created through access to open technology is that they are driven by and achieved through collaborations at all levels: regional, national, and global.

The combination of an abundance of pressing problems, open technologies, and individuals, communities and organisations with an entrepreneurial mindset focused on discovering innovative solutions through collaboration, through the building of innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystems and clusters, and the open sharing of knowledge, data, expertise, contacts, R & D, and other resources essential for innovation for good, has the very real potential to drive transformational, life changing, lifesaving changes.

A superb example of this is the Mojaloop payment platform, spun out of the Gates Foundation allow payment infrastructure to be created in emerging markets whilst the local communities engage in learning how to contribute. Not simply providing a resource but providing skills for the future.

On the open data front, HUB Ocean, an independent, non-profit, non-compete foundation that provides a partner community by developing a ground-breaking data platform, applications, and tools to pilot new approaches to ocean governance. Their mission is, ‘To change the fate of the ocean by unleashing the power of data, technology and collaboration’. HUB Ocean has joined the World Economic Forum’s C4IR Network (Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution) and their vision is to become the world’s data collaboration hub. They seek to unlock the power of data, collaboration, and technology by facilitating collaborations between scientists, governments and industries and catalysing innovation through open access to combined data across all sectors made available on their Ocean Data Platform which makes it possible (and easy) to share, collect, store and work with ocean data. Another example is provided by the recently launched Gender Index – a live, interactive tool that maps every single active UK company (totalling 4.4 million) in every county, region, Local Economic Partnership, and local authority in real-time. Providing free, open access to data on gender, regions, sectors and investment, it is a ground breaking, first-of-its-kind platform which provides data (concrete evidence) that highlights women’s’ under representation in entrepreneurship and is providing practitioners, policy makers and academics with access to evidence to help them better understand the composition of the UK’s business base and inform policies, interventions and actions that can growth women’s’ participation in business

Like OpenUK, these and other examples of open source software and open data platforms and the sharing of and free access to open source software, open data, and open hardware, are reliant on collaboration and community and are case studies of the innovations made possible when we collaborate together within and across entrepreneurial ecosystems.

By putting in place the necessary legislation and regulations to support these types of innovative collaborations, and by educating governments, markets, organisations, scientists and communities about the multiplier and synergistic benefits of open technologies, creative destruction as a force for good can grow and prosper.

Understanding the nuances of entrepreneurship and business growth in this ecosystem is a dark art, and one which is not yet well documented or built into the curriculum despite the increasing growth of open source software to a point of normalisation and the use of open data becoming increasingly prevalent across our services today.
With this in mind The University of Strathclyde has supported OpenUK’s State of Open Con 23 in hosting an Entrepreneurship room engaging with founders of open source software businesses and will be building a MOOC, “The Business of Open Source” by OpenUK in association with The University of Strathclyde.

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