It’s an obvious fact, one worth repeating, that human innovation has reached formerly unprecedented heights. New technological innovations from Silicon Valley to the bedrooms of young teenagers have completely transformed the way we live and work. Traditional industries, no matter how conservative, are one-by-one understanding the importance of innovation in order to maintain dominance and excellence in their respective spheres.
Whether by acquiring disruptive companies, creating their own technologies, or starting innovation labs, companies in industries from finance to consultancy and property – Deutsche Bank, Accenture, and JLL immediately come to mind – are transforming the way their sectors work.
What is an innovation lab?
An innovation lab is an environment designed to reimagine existing processes in the way traditional methods of work are approached. Innovation labs are often formed within large corporations that have operated in and dominated a traditional industry sector for a long period of time. The purpose of innovation labs is to redefine and redesign processes and methods of approach so companies that have been in operation for long periods of time are able to keep up with rapid advancements in the modern workplace.
How do innovation labs work?
Every innovation lab works differently. Some are strategic and goal-focused, others aim to find new ways of utilising technology, still, others look to develop new technologies, products, services, or business models. Some innovation labs are located in the same space that houses their parent company. Others are located offsite so the team working at the lab are less influenced or distracted by the same processes they aim to disrupt.
Another approach that companies sometimes take is by offering accelerator programmes. These programmes invite startups to apply and pitch their ideas. Successful applicants are then provided with mentorship and the opportunity to trial their products with the support of a company that is interested in incorporating their ideas. Companies such as BMW, Morgan Stanley, and even Harvard are approaching innovation in such ways.
What are some challenges to setting up an innovation lab?
Considering that the purpose of innovation labs is to disrupt the existing processes of the company that created it, it’s logical that there are a myriad of challenges when it comes to strategically deciding how to move forward with the idea.
There are some important things to consider when setting up an innovation lab.
- How is success defined? What sort of KPIs are to be achieved to consider the venture a successful one?
- How will ROI be measured?
- What type of people should be employed? Should it be the young and digitally-minded or people with more experience but whom may be more set in existing ways?
- Who will lead the teams? Should it be someone already working in the company or would a fresh perspective be better?
- How can the new processes created by the innovation lab be integrated back into the company?
What types of workspaces are suitable for innovation labs in London?
While it’s always possible for a company to set aside space in their office, or find another private office space elsewhere, given the nature of innovation labs, it would be most beneficial for companies to set up innovation labs in coworking spaces that have a tech focus. Essentially all coworking spaces offer private offices in their space, which also gives employees the opportunity to be surrounded by inspiring, like-minded people.
Here are some of the best tech coworking spaces in London: