Students in the University Innovation Fellows program share their thoughts on Elon Musk’s release of Tesla Motors patents, and how the open source movement can impact innovation. 

Tesla patent image from

August 11, 2014

In June 2014, Elon Musk released Tesla Motors’ patents “in the spirit of the open source movement, for the advancement of electric vehicle technology,” as he wrote in a blog post on Tesla’s website. Musk wrote that he felt it was impossible for his company to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis, and that the world would benefit from more companies adopting his technology. 

Our University Innovation Fellows were thrilled by this release of patents and on Musk’s contribution to the open source movement. We asked them: How can the open source movement impact innovation? Here’s what they had to say: 


“By opening up Tesla’s patents and embracing the open source movement, I believe Elon Musk only confirms his amazing ability of foresight. By making an initial investment of technology he realizes farther down the line that his investment will pay off exponentially with innovation happening across multiple sectors. The payoffs will be seen the most in education, kickstarting ideas that may not have happened for another decade or more without this initial push. It also lays a base and infrastructure that will spur ideas and enable creative thinkers. Lastly, it sets a standard not only for other companies but for the next round of young entrepreneurs to whom long-term innovation is more important than short-term profits.” 

Ellery Addington-White, University Innovation Fellow
Computer Science major, Beloit College 


“Open source can provide the toolbox needed to bypass ‘reinventing the wheel’ in order to enhance current technologies. It also rapidly progresses the development of complex solutions to dynamic problems by creating innovation communities.” 

Jaime Arribas Starkey-El, University Innovation Fellow
Engineering Physics major, Morgan State University 


“The open source movement is steadily becoming a reality. While it’s often said that the sky's the limit, the world is still largely aiming towards things already achieved. Having access to past discoveries allows others to reinvent their own solutions. This process of reinvention is not only thought stimulating, it inspires and propels pursuit of the unknown. By utilizing and relying on the existent, the innovative can emerge. This movement can empower and launch generation Y in the pursuit of modern technological tasks and trending societal demand.” 

Hristina Milojevic, University Innovation Fellow
Mechanical Engineering major, Union College 


“Elon Musk's Zero Wing reference in his release of Tesla patents shows how understanding he is of cultural trends as well as the open source movement as a whole. In the dawn of personal manufacturing, with 3D printing and the online community on the web, it is becoming more and more important for innovators to democratize their designs or crowdsource their company missions. Students are generally still left waiting on universities to follow suit. The open source movement has already had a widespread impact on company funding, marketing, and technology. The real impact will come when we turn open source ideas toward great challenges much like the X PRIZE. Now it's up to the new generation of innovators to utilize the open source movement to solve world problems within our lifetime.” 

Elliot Roth, University Innovation Fellow
Biomedical and Chemical Engineering major, Virginia Commonwealth University 


“Humans evolved to be dependent on one another, and we have survived as a species through social observation, collaboration, and the passing on of knowledge. The open source movement is the evolution of this survival function in response to the digital age and should be applied to solve humanity's pressing issues.” 

Jorge Sanchez III, University Innovation Fellow
Technology Entrepreneurship and Management major, Arizona State University 


"What Elon Musk did was quite genius — as genius as Apple incentivizing millions of innovators to develop iPhone apps that bring in 99 cents per download. By releasing Tesla’s patents, he has created opportunities for thousands of existing and new innovators to rally around the company’s EV product platform. This could lead to wholly new market entrants, but that takes the risk out of electric vehicles amongst the masses who are still holding out, the importance of which cannot be understated. What it's more likely to do is create a lot of supplier evangelists. More evangelists mean more champions advocating for Teslas across America. Imagine if all corporations were as enlightened. Imagine if they spent as much on growing their top-line with new platform innovations as they did on patent litigation. Imagine if all companies open sourced their designs to the growing maker movement. Maybe then we might reinvigorate our nation’s entrepreneurial spirit and restore the American Dream."

Humera Fasihuddin, Leader, University Innovation Fellows Program

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