When the doors of the new CableLabs Innovation Office and Lab facility swing open on October 28 in the Silicon Valley, cable’s R&D consortium will embark on a new era of strategic thinking and boot up a venue tasked with sparking new ideas and the debut of a process aimed at bringing those ideas to fruition.
The 17,000-square-foot Innovation Office and Lab, located at 400 W. California in Sunnyvale, will report into CableLabs CEO Phil McKinney and represent the follow-on to a CableLabs office originally opened-up in San Francisco in November 2011.
The new facility, initially to support seven CableLabs employees, will focus on managing and developing the R&D organization’s innovation portfolio while also encouraging employees, CableLabs members, and potential development partners to identify and develop new technologies for the cable industry. It will also be used to host events and lay down firm roots in the tech-savvy area. In fact, it has already scheduled an open house on November 21 so vendors, members and Silicon Valley locals can poke around and schmooze.
The facility “will allow greater flexibility and collaborative efforts with bellwether, emerging technology firms,” McKinney said in an email exchange with Multichannel News.
A main goal of the Silicon Valley facility is to accelerate the process of developing new ideas and how to get them to market for efficiently, while also creating fresh investment opportunities.
“The intent of Innovation Office is to be a developer, catalyst and enabler of innovation and will reach out to contributors and thought leaders as well as innovative companies focused on emerging technologies,” McKinney added.
CableLabs vice president of innovation Christian Pape will head up the facility’s day-to-day operations. He’s also been charged with developing the office’s business model and establishing the vision of the new lab beyond its start-up period.
“We will look at innovations in three horizons; one, two and three years out,” Pape explained. The new facility will “make cable a relevant technology to developers in the Silicon Valley” and provide lab capabilities that are “on par” with the CableLabs facility in Colorado.
Setting The Innovation Process
CableLabs holds that the process of identifying and vetting ideas will be rigorous and disciplined, and will start with presentations made to “theme leaders” at the R&D organization.
“They [the theme leaders] are the execution arm, and pitch ideas just like a venture capital firm would. We have already generated a significant backlog of ideas and identified 20 worthy of further examination that could lead to investment,” Pape said.
Theme teams will assess ideas based on three key questions: Will it change the customer experience? Will it change the economics of the industry and its growth? Will it change the competitive business of industry and strategic alliances?
And, there’s a “wow” factor: Does it capture the imagination?
“It’s like a business case and the audience is the executive team,” Pape said. Once an idea is approved, it first enters a gated stage process before later heading to customer validation and proof-of-concept stages that look to deliver on the problem trying to be solved. “Data is then collected and presented to the executive committee,” Pape added.
The new facility aims to pursue new technologies and business models that extend beyond the traditional cable industry.
“That is the focal point. We recognize our members’ business is changing, so we’re serving their needs and strategies. We think it will lead us to new places beyond the cable space,” Pape said.
High on the Innovation Office’s radar screen are technologies such as IP, display technologies and Ultra HD/4K. Seven projects are already funded and being accelerated through the Silicon Valley facility, according to CableLabs.
“It’s not just about harnessing technology, it’s about building out to the future, so we’re looking for trends and opportunities,” Pape said.