Technology Hubs Are Setting the pace for Nurturing Innovations

The technology labs - or hubs, or incubators, or accelerators, are setting the pace when it comes to nurturing innovations globally

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The way of doing Research & Development (R&D) is changing. There is increasing competition, and everybody is looking to create their mark. Corporate Innovation Labs are booming, as more and more companies are using them to regain, maintain, or expand market dominance. Their numbers and roles have expanded rapidly in tandem with the growth of the digital economy where innovation is a crucial differentiator. In 2019, global spend on R&D reached a whopping US$1.7 trillion, with tech companies leading the way.


The technology labs - or hubs, or incubators, or accelerators, are setting the pace when it comes to nurturing innovations globally. While most large corporations have their own in-house innovation labs, the smaller companies and start-ups are gravitating to hubs, which provide a strong ecosystem for specific domains or activities. Globally, such hubs usually have a large start-up community, established corporations, easy access to active investors, top universities or research institutions, and a supportive local government.

In Europe and America innovation labs are coming up in mixed-use hubs, which can house corporate offices, labs, cafe's, studios, accelerators, co-working - all intermingled in the same space. However, in India, because of the very strict land use policies, an innovation hub cannot be created in a residential, commercial or manufacturing area; while institutional areas are specifically designated for R&D and innovation activities.

The Indian corporates, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups are feeling the need to step up on the innovation ladder to stay competitive in the global environment.To fulfil the need, stand-alone innovation hubs in institutional areas, catering to the needs of independent corporate labs, smaller companies and start-ups is the answer for an ever-increasing requirement for R&D, innovation and training. These hubs could help create a motivating work environment, where businesses can learn from each other, create synergies, make connections, develop new skills, and get inspired to reach the next level.

When an R&D centre or innovation lab is part of a bigger setup, integrated with the parent HQ, the companies may prefer to be housed in commercial areas; but as standalone entities, they cannot be established in commercial areas or in the Software Technology Parks (STP's). Commercial spaces in cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad may be preferred destinations for bigger setups with corporate office cum-R&D operations, but the smaller, stand-alone entities and start-ups are looking at establishing themselves in innovation hubs.

Gurgaon is already touted as the retail innovation hub of India and is now gearing up to be the technology innovation hub as well. There are over 2,156 start-ups based in the city of which 18% are in retail. Overall investment in retail start-ups is pegged at about US$961 million.

Creative hubs, whatever the form, from planned neighbourhoods to contained communities, are stimulating environments to work in, for both large corporations and start-ups. Many of the best inventions have resulted from cross-pollination of ideas from one industry to another. Learning from what others are doing can spark the kind of random associations on which new ideas and better processes are built upon.

If you're a large corporation and have not already launched a creative office away from the day-to-day of your own business, you might want to consider doing it. If you're a start-up looking for an uplifting, positive and supportive, cross-sector work environment that can provide the mental nutrition to spur you on as well as give access to valuable connections, you should investigate innovation hubs - established ones and those in the making.