Innovations are what the future is built on. The ability to develop an idea from opportunity into a thriving commercial offering is vital for technology companies if they want to stay competitive. Ericsson Research has created the Ericsson Garage to improve our capability to develop innovative ideas.
The Garage is expected to act as an incubator for innovations in areas adjacent to current research and business. The objective for Garage projects is mainly to develop minimal viable products that could be the foundation for future commercial objects, products or services.
Garage Ways of Working
The Garage projects are encouraged to work as a startup company, using the “lean startup” methodology. The project members leave their normal work responsibilities and are allowed to move into the Garage facility so they can focus solely on the Garage project.
Ideas are typically initiated bottom-up, by individual researchers or managers, on different levels; it could be a twist to a research project or program or even totally separate from ongoing activities. First phase of the innovation lifecycle is the opportunity discovery, where it is distilled to its core and a minimal viable product is defined. In this phase, Ericsson internal and external partners need to be identified. The work on the opportunity can also be supported by external partners like Entrepreneurship Lab, which can help by using their nine-step process to shape the idea and the arguments to decision makers. The innovation idea is then pitched to the Garage Entry Selection board. Approved projects will get the possibility to develop the minimal viable product. Finally, the outcome of the incubation is presented and demonstrated to a senior management board that will advise on the next step for the innovation: hand over to a business unit or another Ericsson organization, create a spin out, license the technology, terminate, or some other option.
Facilities and Virtual Garage
When an incubation project is approved, the project members are invited to move to the Ericsson Garage located in Kista. The facility is a flexible work space with a lot of possibilities for project members to organize their work efficiently for the lifetime of the project, usually 3–9 months.
Project members not working in Kista can be part of the project by using the Virtual Garage tool. This tool builds closeness between members of distributed teams, by providing a permanent video conference link, persistent chats, screen sharing and other collaborative tools.
In addition to the Ericsson Garage in Kista Sweden, we are building one in Silicon Valley and one in Budapest Hungary. The expansion, in combination with the Virtual Garage tool, is very important since we are a global company and innovations should be able to flourish everywhere.
The first Garage project – “Streamr” – started in the summer of 2014, and addressed a need from Universal Music to offer concert visitors the ability to share their experience of an event. Concert visitors can stream video, that can be viewed by friends somewhere else on the venue, and the organizers may display it on a big screen. In addition, more information on e.g. the tunes that are played, merchandise and other events can be shared. The outcome of this project was handed over to one of Ericsson’s business units, now responsible for making the commercial offering for the solution.
Currently, we are running a web communication project called “OpenSpace” in the Garage. This project builds on the idea of contextual communication – Communication integrated in an existing context – described in this TechTalk. In our Garage project, the context being explored is a remote advisory service for banking.