Experts from OpenAdvantage in Birmingham have forged links with a major Midland IT firm which will enable it to challenge the stranglehold of computer software produced by giant US corporations.
Company heads at Premier IT Business Solutions predict that the move will save their customers hundreds of thousands of pounds, as they won't have to pay for licences for individual software packages.
A team from OpenAdvantage, based at the University of Central England in Birmingham, are leading a ten week training programme in ' open source' software at the Stoke-based firm.
David Chilten, managing director at Premier, explained that by investing in the training the company was reaping the benefit of technology which has so far been embraced by academic computer buffs across the world - but remained largely ignored by industry.
The development of open source software has been likened by IT enthusiasts to the evolution of the internet. They say that while it is relatively limited for the time being, an ' explosion' in its use in coming years is predicted.
OpenAdvantage is a recognised centre of excellence in open source software, which is developed collaboratively by enthusiasts and professionals under a licence.
Open source software is developed by programmers who offer the source code --the origins of the program --for free and allow others to adapt or improve the software.
Users have the right to modify and redistribute the software, as well as the right to package and sell the software - a huge contrast to the packages produced by US-based Microsoft, which currently dominate the market.
Once the training is complete, Premier's engineers and software developers will be able to contribute to the development of further revolutionary open source software.
Mr Chilten said: " Everyone thinks that if you buy a software package, you must pay a significant amount for the licence that comes with it. Reputable companies pay for the licence and then put it in a draw and forget about it.
"With open source software there are no high licence costs. This has been seen as a threat by the larger US software developers and by some UK producers.
"This is a revolutionary development that has been embraced by programmers in America.
"But this is not only cutting edge technology but also a means of saving clients' money and we felt we owed it to our established and prospective customers to find out more about open source.
"We are delighted that we have been able to tap into the expertise that is on hand here in the Midlands. As far as we know we are the first company from North Staffordshire to work with Open Advantage."
An OpenAdvantage spokesman said: " By encouraging the adoption and use of this software we aim to enhance the competitive position of businesses and the efficiency and effectiveness of public sector organisations.
"Premier IT Business Solutions will not only be able to pass on the savings to their customers but will also be joining a movement that is at the forefront of global IT development."
Premier's training programme was launched after computer giant IBM said 500 of its software patents would be released into the open development community. The move means developers will be able to use the technologies without paying for a licence from the company.
Open Source is also backed by United Nations support because of its potential for helping regenerate some of the world's poorest countries.
* More information is available from David Chilten on 01782 747192.