France begins IT research centre on innovation and free software

France’s national computer science institute, Inria, says free software is essential to develop digital society. The institute is launching a research centre to focus on this type of software, Cirill (IT Innovation and Research Centre for Free Software).

The foundation of Cirill was announced at the Open World Forum in Paris earlier this month. Cirill is to become a reference centre for the research and development of stable and reliable free software.

Inria (National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control) says that free software requires a combination of approaches and skills. The research organisation is convinced that the way to develop this type of software is to bring together all those involved in research, training, knowledge transfer and innovation. It’s new institute, Cirill, will act as a single point of contact for the scientific, technological and industrial expertise required to meet the challenges generated by the rapid growth of free software. First collaborations at Cirill will start before mid 2010, according to a press release.

The project will be directed by Roberto di Cosmo, a professor at the University Paris 7.

“We are convinced that France is fertile ground for free software. We and our public-research partners want to use Cirill to create a centre of research and innovation in free software, open to all those involved in the innovation chain”, Michel Cosnard, Inria Chairman and CEO said in a statement.

Inria identifies three major challenges linked to the growth of free software they will need to face. First, free software is becoming a main research topic, looking into issues such as rescaling code bases, code bases with multiple components, or enhancing collaborative development. Second, future engineers need training on new expertise linked to the use of free software. Third, free software can be a powerful vector in technology transfer.

The French IT research institute is very active in the field of open source; an example is the development of the web browser Amaya with W3C, the World Wide Web Consortium, the standardisation organisation for the World Wide Web. Inria co-founded the OW2 Consortium, OW2 developing open source components for distributed applications. Inria also develops and maintains Scilab, a numerical computation software package, distributed under an open source license.

Original publication at Open Source Observatory & Repository Europe

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