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Product Innovation

Top Enterprise Innovation Centers in Silicon Valley

Enterprises are kicking up their R&D capabilities several notches through strategic use of innovation labs, accelerators, and incubators

Silicon Valley isn’t just a hub for tech companies. It’s also a nerve center for enterprise innovation, as more and more non-tech companies take the innovation labs approach to jump-start digital R&D–and seek to place them where they can find the most talent.

Dozens of traditionally ‘non-tech’ enterprises have set up shop with internal tech research centers, incubators, and accelerators in the Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area to tap into the concentrated technology workforce the region has to offer. These centers are run by enterprises and their technology partners across many market verticals, including retail, manufacturing, financial services, insurance, pharmaceuticals, automotive, and aerospace.

The folks at Innovation Leader recently put together a very handy annotated map that details the top 50 of these innovation hubs in the region.

The list offers a great who’s who benchmark for digital leaders wondering what the maket leaders are doing in the innovation labs arena. There are some expected entries, with the Walmarts, Boeings and Fords of the world all present and accounted for. Similarly unsurprising, tech companies like Cisco are included for running innovation programming for enterprise partners like CitiBank, Intel, and GE to promote better partnership for cross-pollination of ideas. And then there are the surprises. For example:

  • Levi Strauss has it’s Eureka Innovation Lab there to test out the latest prototypes in wearable computing, sustainable fabrics, and manufacturing techniques.
  • French insurance giant AXA has an innovation space dedicated to scouting out startups relevant to the life insurance space.
  • JetBlue pushes the digital envelope with JetBlue Technology Ventures, a VC that it uses to advance technology in things like weather prediction, call center technology and other areas that would help the airline’s digital future.

While innovation hubs can be very beneficial to enterprises seeking new ideas and talent, they’re no guarantee for putting lightning in a bottle. Innovation experts warn enterprise leaders to think strategically about why and how they use research centers before sinking too much investment into them.

“Using innovation labs and accelerators as a form of R&D to learn about certain industries is a great idea, as long as leaders realize that R&D and innovation are not the same thing,” wrote Tendayi Viki, managing partner at innovation consultancy Benneli Jacobs. “Innovation is the combination of clever new ideas and technologies with sustainably profitable business models.”



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