A spin-off company helps to unlock the full potential of Invenio software

In recent years, the success of Invenio meant that the team of software developers based in the CERN IT Department were receiving more and more requests to assist organisations in creating new Invenio installations, as well as providing support for them. The large number of support requests required a new solution. CERN therefore decided to help a team of budding young entrepreneurs to set up a company to provide specialist Invenio support.


The TIND team visits the CERN Data Centre. Image: Martin Fürbach.

What do the CERN Document Server, the CERN Open Data Portal, EUDAT’s B2SHARE, INSPIRE and Zenodo all have in common? Easy, they all run using the open-source software Invenio. The Invenio software suite is designed to support online digital libraries and document repositories. On the CERN Document Server, for instance, it manages around 1.5 million bibliographic records.

Since its launch in 2002, a highly active open-source community has grown around Invenio, with more than 50 developers contributing new code each year. Today, besides CERN, Invenio is being co-developed by an international collaboration comprising institutes such as DESY, EPFL, Fermilab and SLAC. It is being used by these organisations — as well as many others — to underpin a wide range of tools. “The large demand for the Invenio technology comes from both research organisations and private companies,” says Jean-Yves Le Meur, head of digital library services in the CERN IT Department, who also had the initial idea of outsourcing Invenio support. “After a short while, we realised that we could no longer keep up in terms of providing support ourselves on a best-effort basis.”

The solution came in 2012 from master's students at the School of Entrepreneurship (NSE) at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), who came to CERN for their annual ‘technology screening’ event, organised by the Knowledge Transfer Group. Throughout this week-long educational visit, the students assess the market potential of a range of selected CERN technologies. Alexander Nietzold and Kenneth Hole were among the NTNU students who came to CERN as part of this programme. Invenio was one of the technologies they learnt about and they decided to explore the possibility of setting up a company to provide support services for this software.

By May 2013, they had formally registered TIND Technologies as a company in Norway; by the end of the year, they already had their first customers. In February 2014, TIND signed an agreement with CERN for the provision of technical support by the Organization’s Invenio development team and the Knowledge Transfer Group.

Nietzold, Hole and two other NTNU colleagues were associated with CERN for one year, during which they developed and launched a cloud-based hosting service for Invenio. Today, they have contracts to host Invenio for the UNESCO International Bureau of Education, the California Institute of Technology and the Max Planck institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, as well as for a range of companies and other high-profile organisations. They also soon intend to launch a new Invenio application for managing and hosting research data.

Nietzold is the CEO of the company, which today is based in Trondheim, Norway. “Invenio is really flexible,” he explains. “It has a lot of application areas, so there’s a lot of potential for growth.”

“We’re pleased that the company has already grown to include eight members of staff,” says Hole. “We simply wouldn’t be where we are today without the fantastic support we’ve received from CERN, as well as from NTNU Discovery and Innovation Norway.”

by Andrew Purcell