What's the Deal with Innovation Centers?

Innovation Centers have been rising in popularity in enterprise business and commercial real estate over the last few years with two opening in Arlington including Accenture and Capital One. A 2015 study by Capgemini Consulting, titled, The Innovation Game, looked at the top 200 companies in the world by revenue and found that almost 40% of them already have innovation centers. So this begs the questions, what are innovation centers and why are corporations opening them?

Innovate or get left behind.  You may hear that a lot and its for good reason. Remember Nokia? They didn’t innovate. Compaq? Tower Records? Blockbuster? Didn’t Innovate.

Sometimes synonymous with Innovation Labs, Innovation Centers generally consist of open work environments where the goal is to foster collaboration in order to stay abreast of the latest developments within a market or industry and up and coming technologies within it. For most consumer-driven business the goal is to also better understand the needs of a customer through, testing, iterating, and testing again.  They are usually separate from the corporation’s traditional office to allow employees to switch up their environment to improve creativity.  For companies to be able to product and consumer test, work with startups, experts, and innovate in a way that allows for the transformation of a business or business unit is invaluable in today’s fast-paced environment.

In January of this year, Chick-fil-A opened it’s first innovation center where they will collaborate with local GeorgiaTech computer science students, who are working on testing new technologies that can be used in restaurants. In March, one of the largest IT firms, Fujitsu, opened up an international blockchain innovation center in Brussels, Belgium.  Later this year, Mercedes-Benz, will open it’s global Innovation Center in Atlanta. Starbucks recently unveiled its plans for an Innovation in Seattle figuring out how to make its cups more eco-friendly, which was announced a month after Kroger opened its own innovation in Cincinnati, and two years after Walmart opened its own.  All of these companies believe that this transformation is coming and they want to be ahead of it.  

The DC-metro area is certainly an attractive market when it comes to this new trend.  3M recently opened Innovation center in DC. Accenture has opened several Innovation Centers or what they call “Labs”, including one in Arlington that focuses on Cyber R&D. Another Arlington-based company, Deloitte, also has several Innovation Centers around the world; from energy, financial services, government, to healthcare and higher education, they want to be at the forefront of the industries they serve. Clarendon is home to one of three Capital One Innovation Centers, called Capital One Labs. They are part of the organization's product and technology team working on what the future of the fintech space will look like.

Arlington is home to what some consider the original “innovation center”, DARPA, which, although part of the Federal Government, it serves a similar purpose as a private company center, instead of looking for ways to gain market share in say, the fast casual restaurant space, they are working on innovative and new ways to protect national security through technological advancement. Now that the private sector has caught on, being situated in an area that is a nice mix of federal agencies and large enterprise employers,  Arlington and the D.C. metro area should benefit from this trend.

Topic: BIG Update
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