Innovation Centers are popping up around the world. These facilities bring together experts in different fields around a common goal: new product ideation and experimentation. Some of these centers have become enormously successful breeding grounds for new product ideas. These successes, along with the growing awareness of the need to innovate to stay relevant, are driving many organizations to invest tens of millions into these centers. Examples of innovation centers can be found in many different fields.
MIT’s Media Lab, a department within the schools Architecture and Planning division, has been actively pumping out new product ideas since 1985. The Lab is home to product designers, nanotechnologists, data-visualization experts, industry researchers, and pioneers of computer interface. These future minded individuals work side by side to create technology that will enhance the human experience. The Lab produces approximately 20 new patents per year, and is responsible for many commonly known products including computerized prosthetics, Guitar Hero, and the Amazon Kindle eBook reader screen display.
Cargill, the country’s largest privately held corporation and international producer of food, agricultural, financial, and industrial products and services, is no stranger to innovation centers. The company owns eight centers around the world, from Sao Paulo to Shanghai, and has begun work on a new $14.7 million research and development facility in downtown Wichita. The new facility will give operational and technical teams the opportunity to develop new products and evaluate new meat producing technologies to improve food safety and create new products. Cargill hopes to facilitate close interdisciplinary interaction between its various centers to develop more innovative solutions for its customers.
In the medical field, Philips Healthcare, a global leader in imaging technology, has recently invested $33.4 million in a Global Advanced Imaging Center housed at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland. The new center will offer the opportunity for doctors, students, and scientists to collaborate on emerging imaging technologies and help create new breakthroughs in the field. Philips hopes that developing a center bringing together doctors, scientists, and patients to evaluate new imaging technologies will help bolster the company’s innovation strategy.
Organizations can benefit from innovation centers because employees that work within the facilities are given a distinct goal, access to resources, and permission to experiment with new ideas. However, it’s possible that by designating a special place for innovation, employees within other sectors of the business may perceive themselves as incapable of, or not in need of, innovation. Share your thoughts on the benefits and potential detriments of these innovation centers with us here.