Funding new development with EU grants, deadlines soon

tl;dr

Some EU grant openings that have funded similar projects, e.g. postmarketOS, are closing this Fall. I suggest to coordinate several community applications as it is an opportunity for SFOS to gain more resources and momentum.

What’s the idea?

I think many enthusiasts here are convinced that SailfishOS (SFOS) and Mer, which is now merged back into SFOS, are key for privacy, security and technological independence from big corporations. SFOS is IMHO the most usable non-Android OS. As conveyed by the SFOS description in sailfishos.org:

“Sailfish OS is a European alternative to dominating mobile operating systems”

Jolla seems to be doing relatively well. It reached profitability last year and SFOS is well maintained. However, it is hard for a small company to compete with tech giants and deliver a device that is viable for daily use, outside of a group of enthusiasts willing to make significant compromises.

To this end, I think it is important to fund further community and core development so that the platform reaches a critical feature mass that allows wider adoption and ensures continuous growth. With a bit of funding, development of some key features can make SFOS and its ecosystem more appealing to privacy-aware consumers and to big organizations that aim to secure their IT stack.

How to do it?

I suggest to start small with a pragmatic approach. NLnet has an open call for funding software projects using EU-derived funding. The scope fits lots of potential SFOS-related things really well. Currently funded projects include, just to name a few, postmarketOS, mobile-nixos and Conversations.

Projects can receive up to €50,000 per call and this funding can be renewed periodically. It is not a big amount of cash, but it might be sufficient to support a developer working on some important feature, perhaps part-time. The community can put together multiple applications for different SFOS-related projects so that several things move forward.

Applying is quite simple. Deadline is October 1st.

Potential grant areas

I think core mobile features (browser, chat/VoIP and maps) could use some funding to implement or improve key functionality. It would be ideal to define the minimum viable phone (MVP) for a common user in those three areas and try to implement or improve what is missing.

A second area of interest might be testing and hardening core components. This can range from extending unit testing of key components to verification approaches such as property-based testing, static analysis or theorem-proving for hardening fundamental elements in the ecosystem. Even simple unit testing can reduce the number of bugs that arise in every SFOS pre-release, and therefore streamline development.

A third area could be mobile-related improvements to Linux. In this regard, I am personally interested in implementing a eBPF application to audit system usage and warn the user about unusual activity with outlier-recognition techniques. There are other quite interesting possibilities in this area, which I think are important to implement to make Linux more robust against threats from big adversaries.

Other areas might be worth considering. The list above is by no means exhaustive.

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Related threads

I found some sporadic mentions to funding and grants in some threads, but no dedicated topic. I apologize if this has been discussed before elsewhere.

@pherjung, @poetaster and others discussed creating a cooperative or an alternative legal structure to manage some aspects of development. I think this is a good idea also worth keeping in mind. No legal structure is required for these grants, but bigger EU programs definitely require some established structure.

@SaimenSays "Fund your app", @enrish The big Thank You & Coffee thread, @rinigus Paying for mapping services and @buckie Are you feeling what I'm feeling? are also related reading.

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Internships can be much cheaper and sometimes yield interesting results (in particular if it’s master 2 level).

If we have funding or given such funding, I can host an internship in our research lab. The topic need to be tweaked to be research-aware a bit.

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Glad that you came forward with this. Before, I suggested the EU Horizon project, but the procedure for this funding project takes a long time so your suggestion makes more sense now. A flashing service seems a necessary improvement to me. And ties with Russian companies should be cut off in order to get EU-funding.

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Depending on your lab interests it could be relatively easy to fit the topic into a research agenda.

There are a ton of components in the stack that could be secured for example. Some funded projects went this route, although they were not necessarily from the mobile stack.

EU Horizon is a great idea. The grant call I linked is actually a EU Horizon project which is managed by https://nlnet.nl, who in turn allocates the grants I think.

Since the grants are relatively small, applying is simple. Bigger Horizon projects are a lot of paperwork, but perhaps one could be submitted in the future if the community gains some momentum.

And ties with Russian companies should be cut off in order to get EU-funding.

I think if the scope of the projects is kept within the open components of the Mer stack, this should not be necessary as this is independent from Jolla and benefits lots of other open projects. But of course, in the long run, it is desirable for Jolla to severe those ties to be able to attract funding on their own.

I would suggest porting to a Gigaset phone (e.g GS5) would be great.

A soon to be EU OS with an EU built phone sounds like a winning offering, and squarely in the " TRUSTWORTHINESS AND DATA SOVEREIGNTY" realm.

This would be a particularly credible project with a high chance of a successful outcome, given that @piggz has form.

Just needs some EU entity to front it, and some degree of buy in from Gigaset and Jolla.

(From my perspective the biggest single SFOS issue is that for the last N years, by the time a stable version is available, the Sony phone is discontinued, and they have sold so few that there is no significant 2nd hand supply. In a few months Jolla (& Sony) will move on to porting to the next phone, and leave this one with unresolvable issues. There has not been a commercially available, working, SFOS phone for years AFAIK)

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The GS5 port is already work-in-progress … would be cool to also have EU funding though :smiley:

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Don’t know how much we have to write up in the application. But sounds interesting, even if we miss this deadline. Not sure that they would be interested in supporting closed source SFOS. In this respect, SFOS wouldn’t be attractive alternative. So, would be great to have some more general goal that would be of interest for many. But that discussion looks to be under another thread :slight_smile:

Great that you found this opportunity and raised it over here!

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My strategy here is to highlight the opensource ‘aspects’. Small steps are better than standing still. Let’s begin with Interest to create a cooperative - #53 by dcaliste

Here, we have a mix, but SFOS pushes to upstream, aka KDE and co.

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Let’s list some of the ‘funding worthy’ aspects (just riffing):

  • ah, the sustainability angle
  • ah, the made in europe angle
  • middle class phone, relatively affordable (accessible)
  • multiple re-branders can offer an alternative OS (market synergies? anyone)
  • incentives for jolla (the private capital) to extend relations to other manufacturers.
  • the ubports / volla ‘building an ecosystem’ ‘vision’
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Thanks. I think the easy way to work around the closeness issue is to only attempt funding open components in the stack. Even components that are pretty close to the UI can be reused by other projects and benefit the whole Linux on mobile use case.

For example, postmarketOS uses the open Mer stack (postmarketOS + Glacier is IMHO the most usable alternative to SFOS right now).

My goal is also to have a completely free stack, from CPU to apps. In practice, I think most SFOS code is currently either free or de facto open source. There is of course room for improvement.

I was wondering if something like the work of making jails (fire/sailjail) safely use dbus would be a good internship project?:

Perhaps you can give us some more concrete examples that would fit? I tossed of a list: Interest to create a cooperative - #47 by poetaster

It just occured to me to ask @cypherpunks if he’d consider Music Explorer ‘fundable’. My take is that a few apps/platforms tend to dominate the exploration of music (spotify, youtube). Music Explorer goes some way to move the goal posts.

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Another grant, only for teams based in Germany: Prototypefund - We fund open source projects

They are funding GNOME shell on mobile: GNOME Shell on mobile: An update – GNOME Shell & Mutter

Another grant in Germany: https://sovereigntechfund.de/

About digital infrastructure and software in the public interest.

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Ah, this might be a good fund for a project like map-tiling-service license delegate (for lack of a better description). EDIT: looks like next year …

The pilot round will be announced in October 2022. Regular funding and further activities of the Sovereign Tech Fund will start in 2023.

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Accessibility improvements to existing apps would certainly qualify. A recent ticket: Important for mobility impaired people. Option for user to set the changeover time. · Issue #23 · poetaster/fahrplan · GitHub leads me to think I need to invest more time in these fundamental questions. What existing industrial processes encourage/facilitate designing for accessibility?