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Richard Jefferson's Keynote presentation at ABIC 2008

Open source has revolutionized and energized information and communications technology.  It has created billions in new wealth and new opportunities.  It has forged a vigorous, competitive industry with great public support.  It has gone well past the rhetoric of 'giving away' and moved into the logic of 'creating a shared and robust platform on which to innovate'.

This is just what agriculture and indeed other life-sciences enabled innovation sectors needs.  We cannot take the approaches from software and shoehorn them into the altogether different sectors that are powered by life sciences. But we can learn from the successes and failures, and look to create similar efficiencies and to leverage similar community creativity.

I will describe the experiences of CAMBIA in the first years of the BiOS initiative (Biological 'Open Source'), and outline where the similarities in approach are useful and where the divergences are instructive.   We have explored inventing new gene transfer technologies to bypass patent restrictions and broaden the user base of these technologies, and we have experimented with new licensing mechanisms for the sharing of the tools.    This experience, including licensing over 200 companies and institutions with our toolkit has been greatly instructive.     I will outline a way forward for creating a new public commons of capability around technologies that can be used by any entity, any where, and how this could stimulate an inclusive and transparent sector, where competition is at the level of product and service, not at the level of 'getting to the starting gate'.

The public deserves and the world requires new approaches to using science in agriculture. We need to explore new ecologies of innovation where the tools and platforms are dynamic and shared, but the outcomes of their use can be as varied as the imagination and business models of their users.