Ariel view of Adastral Park research centre in Suffolk.

BT/Intel partnership aims to find 'magic' solutions

BT and Intel are to work jointly on research into 'smart cities', and on a new generation of network equipment, at the telecom company’s Adastral Park research centre in Suffolk.

“It’s an experiment,” Tim Whitley, managing director of research and innovation and Adastral Park, told E&T. “We have each had our own experiments in how to evolve the business of innovation.”

“When you immerse [teams of] researchers in that setting, things come much more into focus,” says Intel CTO Justin Rattner. “The challenge of moving from a technology to a product or service is massively reduced. Until recently, we have not been doing true collaborative research; it has all been at arm’s length. Magic happens when you take barriers out of the way.”

Rattner confirmed that Intel management was initially concerned about the problems of protecting IP developed in a joint lab: “It’s one of the hazards of open innovation, but it’s a good hazard. When we moved from a closed to open model the lawyers went crazy. It was felt we had to have tight IP agreements.”

But what happened was that a lot of IP “got locked up never to see the light of day again”, Rattner admits: “There was no pressure to do anything with it because it was protected. Now the effect is to make people think they have to move quickly. We have to do something with it or other people will exploit it.”

The intention is to prototype systems rapidly in projects that involve potential users. Whitley says the main aim is to “speed up the ability to gain insight”, and that users will need to be involved to indicate which direction product development should take.

“We need to look at what consumers go through when they make technology choices,” adds Rattner. “The companies which fail to do that will are not going to be around in the future.”

Whitley says that, for BT, the programme of collaborative research could go further: “There is no exclusivity here. It is about creating a global ecosystem.”

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