Is the UK becoming the open source capital of Europe?

Open source could be worth up to £43 billion to the UK economy, according to a new report from OpenUK.

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Some 160,000 UK developers contribute to global open-source projects, according to OpenUK.

Image: iStock/ty cgi stock

Open source technology contributes an economic boost of up to £43 billion ($60.22bn) to the UK, according to a new report, which suggests the UK leads Europe in open source development.

The first part of a three-phase report by open source non-profit OpenUK was released this week, assessing the current state of open source in the UK and the country's position in the global open source landscape.

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It found that the UK continues to be a leader in open source technology, with an estimated 126,000 contributors involved in creating, developing and maintaining open source, "from those headquartered in the UK that are growing internationally around open source, through to individuals working for international enterprises that invest in open source software."

This makes up nearly half of an estimated 260,000 open source developers in the EU, the report found.

OpenUK based its estimates on the EU's Open Source Impact Study, which was presented at the 2021 EU Open Source Policy Summit in February.

The EU's report concluded that open source contributes between £60.9bn and £84.15bn to the European economy. Using the same model, OpenUK determined that open source delivers an economic boost of between £29.5 billion and £43.2 billion to the UK.

Part two of the State of Open Report for 2021 will include a survey of businesses to understand the place of open source in UK industry, while part three aims to provide the total value of open source to the UK's digital economy. 

OpenUK hopes that the report will allow business, industry and the public sector to better understand the scale and adoption of open source in the UK, and plan new digital initiatives around it.

Amanda Brock, CEO of OpenUK, said the report demonstrated the scale of the value of open source in the UK, calling it "a revelation as to how far ahead of most of Europe the UK is, and also its place as one of the top players globally."

Data provided to the report by GitHub indicated that use of open source software in the UK increased by 28.6% year-on-year, making it one of top five users outside of the US.

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Some 80.7 million open source files were changed on GitHub by UK-based contributors in 2020, an increase of just over a third (33.76%) year-on-year.

Francis Maude, former UK Minister of Trade, said the UK had "a significant leadership role to place in the future of open source."

Maude said: "By supporting companies involved in open source and helping them develop and support the UK public sector, we can achieve a strong circular economy and create world-leading projects that can be expanded globally." 

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