Bell Labs and the Art of Disruptive Innovation

Next Generation Communications Blog

Bell Labs and the Art of Disruptive Innovation

Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

Innovation takes many forms. But when it comes to the art of disruption, often it comes from quarters least expected. The breakthroughs that change the world are not something that can be forced or fully anticipated.

The foundation can be laid for disruptive innovation, however, as world-renowned research outfit Bell Labs well knows. Bell Labs, the research arm of Alcatel-Lucent, has been behind breakthroughs in innovation for generations.

Part of laying the foundation in 2014 means developing setting up hotbeds of local innovation and making sure that the ideas that come out of these hotbeds are able to quickly connect with agile developers than can start playing with the innovations to bring them to market, as Bell Labs articulated in a recent blog on disruptive innovation.  

The company just announced plans to open a Bell Labs office in Tel Aviv, co-located with the Alcatel-Lucent CloudBand business developing cloud and NFV (network functions virtualization) solutions. The facility, led by famous Israeli computer scientist and academic Danny Raz, will be a critical “listening post” for telecommunications innovation.

“You have to embrace new ideas and allow disruption, at the same time as restructuring and refocusing,” noted Alcatel-Lucent CEO Michel Combes during the keynote speech at the Israeli technology conference where he announced the new research office, MIXiii 2014. “You need to create the space to re-grow and allow some degree of risk taking.”

Combes said that the idea behind the Israeli site is to start modestly but not be afraid of disruptive new ideas and be quick to invest or kill ideas.

Central to that is the relationship between developers and entrepreneurs.

“What is great is to be able to have researchers working closely to agile developers and entrepreneurs,” he said in the speech. “That’s a unique combination only a big company like us can do – and is what we are doing today in Israel, and around the world with the opening of ‘creative’ rooms and more than 250 university partnerships.”

He also announced the Bell Labs Prize, an annual competition dedicated to the pursuit of truly disruptive solutions to solve the problems in ICT and networks that really matter. Prize winners will take home cash awards worth as much as $100,000 along with the chance to develop their ideas further at Bell Labs.

Innovation takes many forms, and Bell Labs wants to make sure it is at the forefront of the next disruptive innovations no matter how they get their start.

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