Innovation is critical for established companies to stay relevant in the face of disruption. Here's our list of corporate innovation labs.
Corporate innovation is critical for established companies looking to stay relevant in the face of disruption from up-and-coming startups. With industries being unbundled left and right (supermarkets, banking, cars — just to name a few) more companies are opening up in-house innovation labs every day.
Sometimes corporate innovation goes wrong, and we’ve written about corporate innovation theater before. Now here’s our list of innovation labs, both newly formed and well established, working to turn new ideas into new opportunities at long-lived companies.
If you don’t see a significant innovation lab on this list, please leave a link to it in the comments and we’ll take a look.
This post is broken up into sections. Click on a vertical to jump to it.
- Retail/Consumer Goods
Innovation Lab Name: HP Labs
HP Labs is an award-winning research facility focusing on technologies like natural language detection, audio/video analytics, immersive experiences, 3D printing, and more.
Innovation Lab Name: X
Google’s X research center is where some of their biggest projects happen. These teams work on research that’s not directly tied to a product and encompasses challenging fields like speech processing, machine intelligence, quantum AI, and more.
Innovation Lab Name: Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC)
The PARC’s professed philosophy is “open innovation.” Founded in 1970, PARC has worked on world-changing innovations like Ethernet, laser printing, and GUIs.
Innovation Lab Name: Microsoft Research Lab
Microsoft has numerous labs, each with its own flavor, aimed at applying research independent of product development cycles. Projects include Skype translation, talk-to-text transcription, real-time hand tracking for single-depth cameras, and more.
Innovation Lab Name: The Garage
While X may be more well known, there’s a lot of work and play happening at The Garage. Originally opened in 2008 by a group of Googlers who wanted someplace a bit more free-form to do their “20% work.” (“20% work” itself is a form of constant innovation: it’s the 20% of the workweek during which Google employees get to work on projects not directly connected to their core tasks.) It’s open to all Googlers and boasts 3D printers, tons of tools, a CNC machine, and plenty of collaborative workspace to encourage out-of-the-box thinking.
Innovation Lab Name: TCS Innovation Labs
TCS’s world-spanning network of Technology, Domain, and Academic Alliance Labs let IT experts of all stripes create new systems. Products from these labs include HeartSense and AkTrac (“wellness apps for activity detection and physiological sensing using mobile phones and wearables”), a mobile phone digital stethoscope, and RehabBox, a “Kinect-based telerehab system for post stroke patients.”
Innovation Lab Name: Oracle Labs
Originally founded as Sun Microsystems Laboratories, it was rebranded Oracle Labs after their acquisition in 2010. Their research philosophies are exploratory research, directed research, consulting, and product incubation. Past projects that have grown out of Oracle Labs research include chip multithreading and the Java programming language.
Innovation Lab Name: IBM Mobile Innovation Lab
The Mobile Innovation Lab brings together cloud and mobile experts to try to develop new technologies and applications for the IBM Cloud, their clients, and more.
Innovation Lab Name: Avaya Labs Research
Avaya Labs Research center focuses on WebRTC, mobility, cloud, and video solutions. Innovations include an ecommerce delivery mechanism for embedding open, mobile digital communication.
Innovation Lab Name: Autodesk Labs
Autodesk, makers of AutoCAD, Revit, and a wide array of design and engineering software, has their own innovation lab, called simply “Autodesk Labs.” This innovation center focuses on “technology previews,” public releases of new technologies in development which have set start and end dates and are focused on garnering user feedback. This feedback is used to improve and refine the technology, though Autodesk is very open to admitting that sometimes what they learn is that they should let what they’re working on go and move on to a new idea.
Innovation Lab Name: Phillips Design
Design is at the core of many high-tech companies and innovation labs alike. Phillips Design focuses on new ideas and new technologies to improve the lives of their customers. This lab gives their innovators, who come from a wide array of disciplines, the freedom to explore and find new solutions. These solutions have garnered them Red Dot Awards, Webbies, Singapore Good Design Marks, and more.
Innovation Lab Name: Lab 126
Founded in 2004, Amazon’s Lab 126 is responsible for innovations like the Kindle, Fire, and Echo. From their humble, skunkworks-style origins in Palo Alto to their current offices in Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Seattle, and Boston, they’ve scaled up to attack new projects but keep the same focus on experimentation and innovation that helped them build the first Kindle.
Innovation Lab Name: AT&T Labs Advanced Technologies
AT&T Labs Advanced Technologies focuses on data analytics, cloud services, networking, and much more; this venerable lab has won 8 Nobel prizes.
Innovation Lab Name: Verizon Innovation Centers
Entrepreneurs can apply to the Verizon Innovation Centers in Boston and San Francisco to gain access to the company’s versatile test network and sophisticated technical equipment. From there, Verizon helps its innovators develop their products and businesses with oversight from Verizon’s strategic advisors, then leverage Verizon’s distribution channels for shared revenue opportunities or the chance to bring their developments into Verizon’s product and service suite. Verizon calls the initiative “one of the most ambitious and technologically advanced innovation programs in the technology industry.”
Innovation Lab Name: Nokia Bell Labs
Founded: 1925 (under AT&T)
Nokia’s innovation lab was founded in 1925 under AT&T and its researchers have worked on inventions like lasers, the C programming language, UNIX, speech recognition, and more. It boasts awards including Nobel Prizes, U.S. National Medal of Science, Turing Awards, Kyoto Prizes, and many others.
Innovation Lab Name: Vodafone Innovation Park Labs
Vodafone’s Labs are focused on creating the next generation of telecommunications breakthroughs. They perform over 1,000 test projects every year on a network powerful enough to provide mobile coverage for a country the size of Switzerland. Past innovations they’ve worked on include LTE networks, IPv6, and remote file access.
Innovation Lab Name: Deutsche Telekom Silicon Valley Innovation Center
The experts at T-Mobile’s Silicon Valley Innovation Center focuses on the latest technologies (cloud communications, software-defined Networking, and more) to solve customer problems in creative ways, in an environment that fosters experimentation and new ideas.
Innovation Lab Name: AT&T Foundry
AT&T’s in-house innovation lab is decades old and has come up with countless inventions. They’ve also got six foundry labs located around the world: Atlanta, Houston, Palo Alto, Plano, and Israel. Each focuses on a different industry: home and connected cars, healthcare, cybersecurity, software-defined networks, the IoT, and more. Their goal is to find ideas that “enhance or refine an existing AT&T product or customer experience.” Their experts have partnered with about 500 startups a year since opening the first foundry in 2011; their newest facility opened in Houston in 2016.
Innovation Lab Name: One Market Center
Visa’s innovation lab within One Market Center is designed to offer increased collaboration for teams working on their latest tech solutions. Their projects include tokenization, payment apps, mobile location confirmation, and more.
20. DBS Bank
Innovation Lab Name: DBS Asia X (DAX)
DBS launched its Singapore innovation lab to break out of its “traditional banking mindset to think, behave and deliver more like a technology company,” according to Neal Cross, DBS’ chief innovation officer. DBS leaders expect to see more than 5,000 people actively innovating DBS’ services and operations at DAX each year.
Innovation Lab Name: Fidelity Center for Applied Technology (FCAT)
Fidelity’s in-house innovation lab focuses on customer needs and advanced technologies to create new solutions that can range from incremental upgrades to disruptive ideas.
22. Wells Fargo
Innovation Lab Name: Wells Fargo Labs
Wells Fargo’s internal lab brings together product strategists, developers, and project managers to build innovative new products, relying on a lean startup mindset.
23. JP Morgan Chase
Innovation Lab Name: FinLab
JP Morgan’s FinLab is a 5-year program, managed by the Center for Financial Services Innovation, designed to spur innovations that help Americans save more and improve their credit. Teams work in collaborative groups to develop new financial apps and tools. The program also includes strategic partnerships with groups like Ideo.org and Ideas42.
Innovation Lab Name: Citi Innovation Labs
Citi’s globe-spanning network of innovation labs is designed to speed up work on disruptive products and technologies like IoT and blockchain. They also manage an internal accelerator program (independent of Citi Ventures) and develop strategic partnerships with other companies, startups, and even universities like Stanford, MIT, Columbia, and UC Berkeley.
25. Capital One
Innovation Lab Name: Capital One Labs
Capital One Labs aims to streamline the new-product-creation process and is fueled by Design Thinking and a customer-first attitude.
26. Deutsche Bank
Innovation Lab Name: Deutsche Bank Labs
Deutsche Bank has plans to open three innovation labs (in Palo Alto, London, and Berlin) where specialized teams will evaluate new technologies and products to roll out to the larger organization. They’ll be partnering with corporations like Microsoft, HCL, and IBM as well as startups to develop these solutions.
Innovation Lab Name: FIS Innovation Lab
FIS operates several innovation centers around the world in vital cities like New York, San Francisco, London, and Bangkok. These centers are focuses on creating new technologies to revolutionize mobile banking, payments, and more. There’s also a big emphasis on technology to show off these innovations in a relaxed setting where clients and in-house teams work together to solve problems in new ways.
28. Eastern Bank
Innovation Lab Name: Eastern Labs
The small team at Eastern Labs is dedicated to new ideas, big bets, and experimentation. Building new products quickly, testing them, and deploying them (or going back to the drawing board) is key to their innovation process. Successful ideas can be spun out into new businesses or “spun in” to build up Eastern Bank’s robust offerings. They even partner with existing companies.
Innovation Lab Name: Development and Innovation Lab
Coca-Cola innovates its food-and-beverage line from its Atlanta headquarters, but uses its satellite Development and Innovation Lab at Georgia Tech University to fast-track key technology initiatives and accelerate its “technological responses to business issues.” The key focus areas are big data analytics and multi-channel customer outreach strategies; projects such as on-can printing, wearable technology, and Bluetooth beacons are noted on the Coca-Cola website.
Innovation Lab Name: Space10
Nestled in the heart of Copenhagen’s meatpacking district lies Space10, Ikea’s “secret” research hub and exhibition space. Space10 invites people from the worlds of art, design, and technology to work on research projects that result in a range of Ikea prototypes, exhibitions, events, and workshops.
Innovation Lab Name: Staples Labs: Velocity, Innovation, Development
In 2012 the long-lived office superstore opened three labs in separate locations, each with its own mandate. “Velocity Lab” in Cambridge, MA and “Innovation Lab” in San Mateo, CA both handle mobile apps, digital platforms, and in-store technologies. The “Development Lab” in Seattle works on e-commerce platforms and data engineering.
32. The Home Depot
Innovation Lab Name: The Home Depot Innovation Center
The Home Depot’s Innovation Center at Georgia Tech is a collaborative space used to recruit top talent and explore how technology might advance retail, supply chain, and more. The second focus for the center is to track emerging technologies like 3D printing, virtual and augmented reality, or wearable devices.
Innovation Lab Name: Digital Innovation Lab
The CVS innovation center is focused on creating new digital health solutions. Operating like a startup and adhering to concepts like an accelerated idea-to-market schedule and a fast-paced testing and implementation process, their projects include simple things like mobile phone pharmacy reminders and complex ones like apps that turn those phones into remote diagnostic tools.
Innovation Lab Name: Lululemon Lab
Founded: 2009 (Vancouver), 2016 (NYC)
Lululemon’s solution to the constant need for new fashions was to open two in-house labs, one in Vancouver (where their corporate offices are) and one in NYC (a worldwide fashion hub). Designers work collaboratively in a setting that encourages forward thinking and creativity.
35. Neiman Marcus
Innovation Lab Name: Neiman Marcus Innovation Lab (iLab)
Neiman Marcus has earned a world-class reputation for retail innovation thanks to the iLab, its hub for evaluating, designing, testing, and piloting cutting-edge technologies and applications for luxury retail. Recent projects include connected fitting room technology, intelligent mobile phone charging stations, and voice-controlled sales associate communicators.
Innovation Lab Name: Walmart Labs
Walmart’s innovation lab is designed to help them stay competitive in the increasingly online and mobile world. One notable accomplishment was a large-scale search engine overhaul for their online site that drove a 20% increase in sales. Workers are even organized into “mini-startups,” each with their own projects.
Innovation Lab Name: Sephora Innovation Lab
Sephora’s innovation lab is in a converted warehouse near San Francisco’s Mission Bay district. The facility’s first use was to build and test in-store displays, but in 2015, its focus expanded to include digital, reflecting the increasingly online nature of any kind of shopping experience. Innovation team members work on solutions for web, mobile, and brick-and-mortar applications. The lab even includes a model Sephora store.
Innovation Lab Name: Kohl’s Digital Center
Kohl’s Digital Center opened in 2011. Their 200-person tech team is housed in a 50,000-square-foot facility and has developed things like the Kohl’s Pay app and other innovations to help customers pick up in-store deliveries faster, and more.
Innovation Lab Name: Target Technology Innovation Center
In 2012, Target opened their San Francisco lab staffed with commerce technologists, data scientists, and product managers to work on projects like augmented reality, wearable computing, and gamification.
Innovation Lab Name: Lowe’s Innovation Lab
Lowe’s Innovation Lab’s is all about disruptive technologies, including shipping a 3D printer to the International Space Station to help astronauts print parts and tools on demand. They also developed the Holoroom, a VR headset to help shoppers visualize bathroom and kitchen improvements.
Innovation Lab Name: iR Labs
Sears’ iR Labs (short for “integrated retail”) center was created to find ways to deliver modern shoppers the multi-channel shopping experience they demand. From within their startup-style offices, Sears workers from all disciplines (design, development, product management, etc.) work together to improve online and mobile shopping, create new in-store promotions, and more.
Innovation Lab Name: Tesco Labs
Tesco’s in-house tech innovation team dreams up, develops, and tests an array of solutions for things like online search and also built an Android app to help customers take control of their health and choices. One notable “startup” trait: they even hold hackathons.
Innovation Lab Name: DuPont Innovation Centers
DuPont has numerous innovation centers around the country and world. Their Johnston Innovation Center at the DuPont global agriculture headquarters in Iowa (their largest R&D facility), boasts nearly 3,000 professionals in disciplines like food, agriculture, and biotechnology. DuPont customers work with these in-house experts to develop new solutions to needs that DuPont might might be able to anticipate on their own.
Innovation Lab Name: Innovation Kitchen
When Nike comes up with a new shoe or piece of technology, it’s figuratively cooked up in their Innovation Kitchen. This inventive team covers everything from barefoot shoes to activity trackers and more, in an open, laid-back space conducive to free thinking, experimentation, and self-expression.
45. Lockheed Martin
Innovation Lab Name: Skunk Works
While the term “skunkworks” or “skunk works” has come to refer to any secretive research facility or department, the originator of the term was Lockheed Martin’s off-limits R&D team at their Burbank, CA facility. Origin stories conflict slightly, but their first recognized feat was the design of the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star in just 143 days, in a contained setup away from other engineers. Development of the fighter actually began four months before formal contracts were delivered, a hallmark of the division’s “off the books” modus operandi and part of the rogue culture that continues to define it to this day. Culture is king for innovation and 70+ years later, teams still strive to produce next-gen aircraft innovations that adhere to founder Kelly Johnson’s mantra of “quick, quiet and quality.”
Innovation Lab Name: Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Lab (VAIL)
The Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Lab (VAIL) brings together interdisciplinary teams to work on industry-changing projects. Located on the Stanford University campus, they partner with the school on projects like drive-by-wire and driver assistance systems, the Stanford Solar Car Project, and more.
Innovation Lab Name: Panasonic Automotive Innovation Center
The Panasonic Automotive Innovation Center, located inside their Centergy One building, is built for collaboration between software, electrical, systems, and mechanical experts working on the next generation of human-machine interfaces for cars.
Innovation Lab Name: Ford Research & Innovation Center
Ford’s innovation center boasts open spaces to encourage collaboration and works on projects ranging from autonomous car research with the likes of MIT, Stanford, and the University of Michigan, to Big Data and analytics initiatives.
49. McKesson and the Mayo Clinic
Innovation Lab Name: Center for Innovation
The Mayo Clinic and McKesson gathered up a team of 60 innovators for their Center and gave them a simple mandate: to think differently about healthcare. The unit’s philosophy/mantra is to “always be there for me [the patient]” as they tackle tough problems like redesign of care models, keeping patients connected to care in their homes and communities, and creating services to optimize health and wellness.
50. Cardinal Health
Innovation Lab Name: Fuse
Cardinal’s Fuse Innovation Center is patient-focused and operates on a startup mentality geared towards creating innovations on an accelerated timescale, then rigorously testing them.
51. Johnson & Johnson
Innovation Lab Name: Johnson & Johnson Innovation Centers
Johnson & Johnson’s innovation program is pretty much as old as the company itself, but in recent years has taken on a broader approach, combining in-house R&D efforts, partnerships with innovative startups, innovation hubs and incubators around the world, and strategic investments through its venture arm (JJDC).
Innovation Lab Name: IPG Media Lab
IPG’s Media Lab has a team of marketers, engineers, and creatives who work directly with clients, partner with other agencies, deliver custom content to publishers, and more.
53. The New York Times
Innovation Lab Name: The New York Times Research & Development
The New York Times Research & Development group aims to create new products that will change how people interact with media. Projects include systems to visualize reader habits in real time, different interfaces for consuming news and other media, and crowdsourced programs looking to glean new insights from and about the Times’ considerable photo and ad archives.
Innovation Lab Name: Deloitte Analytics
Deloitte’s innovation lab takes the established science of analysis into the modern era with a focus on how their analytics teams and technology can deliver real value for customers in new and unexpected ways. Their lab allows clients to present their unique needs to highly efficient teams and quickly learn key takeaways that might have otherwise taken months to do through old methods.
Innovation Lab Name: Digital Labs
McKinsey Digital Labs uses modern fast-paced, startup-style methodologies like Design Thinking, concept sprints, DevOps, and more to deliver innovative results for their clients based on their specific needs. Their team of 850 designers, data scientists, software specialists, and other experts allows them to scale up their clients’ digital capabilities at high speeds.
56. America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP)
Innovation Lab Name: The Innovation Lab
The Innovation Lab was created as a place where professionals from AHIP’s member companies could come together in an environment of mutual cooperation and creativity, free from pitches and competition. There these experts work on the next generation of disruptive insurance ideas for customers, companies, employers, as well as the bio/med tech and pharmaceutical industries.
Innovation Lab Name: Anthem Innovation Studio
Since its launch in May 2016, the experts at the Anthem Innovation Studio in Atlanta have been working on a variety of projects that focus on enriching the consumer experience, managing the cost of care, and enhancing provider collaboration.
58. Company: MetLife
Innovation Lab Name: LumenLab
MetLife’s LumenLab is a sprawling facility located in Singapore, where innovation experts from a variety of fields, many with startup experience, focus on developing new customer-driven products and solutions. Their goal is to “rewrite the role of insurance in people’s lives.”
59. Company: Southern Company
Innovation Lab Name: Southern Company Energy Innovation Center
Southern Company prioritized a commitment to innovation throughout its corporate history. At its Energy Innovation Center in Atlanta’s Technology Square, employees and partners collaborate to answer pressing issues energy-industry issues such as “electric battery storage, electric car technology, and the role of big data in our lives.”
60. Company: Georgia Pacific
Innovation Lab Name: GP Innovation Institute
Researchers at Georgia Pacific’s 25,0000-square-foot Innovation Institute are working to reduce supply chain costs and drive sustainability improvements across the company’s products and services. According to GP’s website, they also work with customers to analyze their supply chain and develop “reliable and repeatable 5-step process to come up with innovative packaging solutions that could directly benefit your business.”
Innovation Lab Name: thyssenkrupp Elevator Research
thyssenkrupp operates 90 Research Innovation Centers (RIC) around the world. At its U.S. center, a team of 13 design, software, and electrical engineers collaborates with university researchers to develop ideas, create 3D printed models, conduct feasibility tests, and work toward implementing new products.
Innovation Lab Name: The Helix Innovation Center
At its 40,000-square-foot facility on the University of Dayton campus, Emerson researchers engineer commercial building controls and HVACR technology. The center contains a total of five real-world simulated environments, including a fully-functioning and furnished home, a model supermarket, a light commercial environment, a commercial kitchen, and a data center. These modules provide a sandbox for rapid prototyping and practical applications.
Innovation Lab Name: Marriott Pop-Up Innovation Lab
While it may not be around for long, Marriott debuted an interactive model hotel experience in downtown Los Angeles hotel in January 2017 to crowdsource real-time feedback from the public. The pop-up lab features tech-centric beverage concepts, communal-area pilot projects, and eco-conscious offerings. Marriott has also showcased hotels in “live beta” as part of its commitment to innovation.
Innovation Lab Name: The Hangar
Delta says it’s not “chasing tech for tech sake” at The Hangar, but rather “looking for real opportunities to solve business problems.” Projects to date include a “pre-select meal bot,” voice assistants for flight updates, drone lightning inspections, and a mobile gate interface for Delta agents.
Innovation Lab Name: Disruption & Growth
AccorHotels drives collaboration between startups and major groups in its business by bringing them together in a space with “an open innovation laboratory on one side and a vast industrial testing ground on the other.” The company’s Disruption & Growth department coordinates efforts between the two.