19 May 2010
idSpace is an EU FP7 project that started April 1st, 2008, ran for two years and just got its (informal) final ok from the EU reviewers. This is both something cheerful and something sad. Cheerful because we got the official recognition for a job well done. Sad because there's no denying now anymore that the project really is over and that we're really out of funds to continue our R&D and software development work. What was the project about? To quote from its website, The ultimate goal of the idSpace project was to build ... the idSpace environment that should come to the aid of distributed teams of innovators who want to collaborate on product design, thereby making use of earlier results achieved by themselves or even others. So what it tries to do is not so much to make people more creative per se, but to provide them with a software platform in which they can achieve their creative potentials to the full. The environment does so by offering the innovators a choice of (as yet only a few) scenarios for sharing ideas and related knowledge, a module for entering ideas and connecting them in graphs, a variety of context-sensitive recommendations on for instance relevant new group members and helpful resources. Admittedly, this all sounds a bit complicated and you do indeed need a knowledgeable moderator to steer the whole collaborative innovation process, but we are convinced there's a lot of potential here. The platform really still is a prototype, so it needs improvement in many respects. But even in its present state it is quite useable. To help users and to satisfy the curiosity of prospective users, an extensive online user guide and a series of tutorials have been created. So far so good. But how can the potential we believe the platform has be unleashed? How can its further development be financed and how can further R&D work, that provides the input for future improvements, be guaranteed? So far we've been able to come up with a rather predictable answer: new project applications. However, even though this may in principle finance R&D work, new proposals require novel lines of enquiry, while we really only want to continue along the already familiar lines. Also, the platform itself needs to prove its usefulness in actual practice, for which its useability needs to be maximised first, something for which R&D proposals typically do not pay. We need to be more imaginative, more creative, if you like. How about turning this into an open source project so that others can contribute to the platform development too? How about tapping into regional innovation funds? How about even obtaining private funding? Or, to add a wild suggestion, how about asking for funds at such sites as Kickstarter (see the Diaspora project, an attempt to build an open Facebook version, for how easily funds can be raised if the cause is right). Many options, no firm answers, but certainly exciting opportunities. And of course, all suggestions are welcome!