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Telecom Italia’s novel approach to industry collaboration features Joint Open Labs

By David Schwartz
Published: April 10th, 2018

A blog post from the University Industry Innovation Network outlines the interesting collaboration model being employed by Telecom Italia (TIM) with Italian universities. The collaborations occur primarily through what are called Joint Open Labs (JOLs), described as “private company sites that are established [in] the heart of the collaborating university campuses.

TIM has branded the effort as “co-location for co-creation,” and the company works with its university partners from idea generation to commercialization.

The driving force behind the effort has been the rapid rate of technological change in the telecom industry, which have force “TIM and other technology-based companies to rethink their approach to research and innovation. This shift has generally been from a traditional approach in which research and development activities are restricted to one department, to a more agile and inclusive approach that is open to customers, universities, regional governments and other companies. It is in this context that the collaboration of TIM with several Italian universities emerged.”

The company’s goal is to slash the lead time of new products and services by tapping into the innovation capacity of university students and faculty. The campus-based JOLs bring TIM scientist together with those researchers and students, giving them a real-world venue to apply their ideas while also helping TIM to be more competitive and innovative.

One characteristic of the JOLs is very rapid prototyping and field testing. “Rather than spending a lot of time and effort to produce a close to final version of new products and services, at JOLs the innovative ideas of students and researchers can be quickly transformed into prototypes which are then tested and evaluated by customers. Based on this real-time customer interaction and feedback the new idea will be refined iteratively,” the article states.

The results of the effort, as of September 2016, include JOLs established in five Italian universities and polytechnics, producing “10+ commercial ideas that have been fully developed” as well as nearly 30 patent applications.

The company also relies on the program as a means of recruiting recruit young talent, and it has hire 50 individuals as a result of their work in JOLs.

Source: UIIN Blog

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