Impact of Open Source Software and Hardware in the EU Economy

A recent European Commission study investigating the economic impact of open source software (OSS) and hardware on the EU economy estimates that companies in the EU invested around €1 billion in OSS in 2018, resulting in an impact on the European economy of between €65 and €95 billion.

The study further “assesses the potential for the EU to achieve its policy goals (including economic growth, greater competitiveness, innovation, and job creation) through the use, promotion and support of OSS and open source hardware (OSH).”     

Benefits of Open Source

“Overall, the benefits of open source greatly outweigh the costs associated with it. These benefits relate mainly to openness (including standards and independence) and labour cost savings rather than to additional revenue generation,” the report states.

Among the companies and developers surveyed, the motivations to participate in OSS are: 

  • Finding technical solutions 
  • Avoiding vendor lock-in 
  • Carrying forward the state of the art of technology 
  • Developing high-quality code
  • Knowledge seeking 
  • Knowledge creation

Other “above-average” motivations include: 

  • Cost-savings
  • Establishment of networks 
  • Enhancement of reputation


The report also outlines extensive recommendations for enabling future EU growth of open source hardware and software, including: 

  • Providing more R&D funding related to OSS and OSH projects
  • Providing strong incentives for uploading code in publicly accessible EU-based OSSH repositories 
  • Supporting the development and maintenance of platforms and depositories, as well as networks hosted in the EU 

Open source software has become mainstream across all sectors of the software industry, the report notes; however, “the level of maturity of open source hardware currently appears far lower. … If OSH is to follow the same development as OSS, it could constitute a cornerstone of the future Internet of Things (IoT), the future of computing, and the digital transformation of the European industry at the end of the digital decade.”