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Thought Leaders in Big Data: Naveen Sharma, Chief Innovation Officer, Retail, Xerox (Part 5)

Posted on Wednesday, Jan 29th 2014

Sramana Mitra: I’m going to switch gears a bit and ask you to put on your Chief Innovation Officer hat on. Let me give you a bit of context about why I want to go in this direction. In our incubator program, one of the areas we’re doing a lot of work on right now is corporate incubation, in partnership with some of the largest companies in the technology domain. We are seeing interest as well as projects. Actually, some of these projects are already in full swing where we are doing incubation of entrepreneurs. In the same way, we invite entrepreneurs to come in to the One Million by One Million program to learn how to build a business, some of our corporate partners are sponsoring intrapreneurs to come in to One Million by One Million and get their projects incubated.

The idea is that the corporations are going to take those projects and do something with it. It’s unclear what they’re going to do with it but to be able to decide what they want to do with it, they need to see a full-scale analysis of what the potential of that project is and flesh it out before going to market. It could take many different directions from the company investing in the project and spinning it out. It could be the company investing in building the product and developing within the organization, plugging it into an existing business unit where there is activity along the same lines or in related areas where the said channel exists. This is something that I’d like to learn. What is going on inside of Xerox in terms of corporate incubation as it pertains to intrapreneurship?

Naveen Sharma:  When you say intrapreneurship, basically, it’s the technology incubation that’s applied to a company’s product internally, right?

Sramana Mitra: Yes, that’s right. Employers taking a leadership role in developing new ideas. Large organizations, like Xerox, have a very large talent pool inside of the company and many of these employees are close to discern business problems and see opportunities. There is a fair bit of interest and activity right now in corporate America, especially in the technology companies, to harness this talent pool of their ideas and ability to come up with new business ideas and create structure and programming throughout the company so these ideas can be harnessed. That’s my question to you. What is Xerox doing in this domain?

Naveen Sharma:  Let me try to address it. As you might be aware, Sophie Vandebroek, our CTO and president of Xerox Innovation Group runs Xerox’s research. If you happen to talk to her, she will have a much broader view of it. Let me try to address that from my perspective.

Xerox has a rich history in innovation. Xerox has always valued its research and technology. The company was founded 75 years ago based on the invention of xerography, and innovation has continued to play a key role in transforming the company. We still have five research centers across the globe, Xerox Research Center Webster, where I work,  being one of them.

Having said that, we continue to follow a fairly fleshed-out process of how new ideas and concepts get generated and how they go through the innovation pipeline to become commercial products. For example, our research content is divided into projects that are Explore, Incubate, or Partner projects. We also work closely with our customers and partners as well as looking at industry trends and what is happening out in the competition.  All these factors determine where a project is placed in the pipeline.

Our Explore projects are where innovations are developed for long-range products and projects. Those ideas get generated by researchers’ interest, looking at market and competitive trends, and determining what the real problems that need to be solved are. Some of these projects may result in disruptive innovations and can be directly funded by corporate or through a peer-review process we have called XTIN (Xerox Technology Incubator Network). This is a program where scientists and researchers that have a great idea they want to explore, but doesn’t fit into current funded areas of research, can apply for funding through the XTIN.  XTIN enables Explore ideas to be reviewed and awarded funds that may otherwise have not been funded.  Many of our current service offerings started off as XTIN projects.

This segment is part 5 in the series : Thought Leaders in Big Data: Naveen Sharma, Chief Innovation Officer, Retail, Xerox
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