Occupier-Edge_Ed5_A4 - AR

DISRUPT OR BE DISRUPTED American business guru Clayton M. Christensen coined the term disruptive innovation during the late 1990s. Since then, there has been a demise of industry incumbents who have been outmanoeuvred by new technology and business models. Corporations are focused on avoiding the mistakes that killed giants such as Kodak and Blockbuster to ensure they are not pushed out by innovators like Uber and Airbnb. Christensen also identified the ‘Innovator’s Dilemma,’ a problem that many large and established companies face. When making healthy profits today, the incentives are stacked against adopting new technologies or business models that could disrupt the established business. The result is that scale and embedded risk aversion can prevent agility to changing markets and competitors. Whilst investment in research and development can achieve incremental change, it is essential to have an awareness of disruptive threats and the right organisational structure in place to respond to fundamental innovations in the market. IF YOU CAN’T BEAT THEM, JOIN THEM Outside the corporate environment, we are seeing the entrepreneurialism of startup ecosystems producing the fastest pace of innovation. A growing number of major corporations are looking to harness that potential by creating corporate incubator programmes and innovation spaces. These spaces can be used to identify and develop new opportunities outside an organisation’s existing operational structures. In such, an ‘ambidextrous organisation,’ find successful ideas from experimentation. For incumbent organisations, the incubator should focus on the organisation's area of business – i.e. banking group DBS running a FinTech accelerator. The corporate incubator can then leverage the resources of the organisation and harness the agility, technology, and creativity of startups in order to future proof the business strategy by gaining access to new competitive advantages.

A SPACE FOR INNOVATION Every organisation has different goals for their corporate incubator programme and these will feed into the approach that is adopted for delivering the programme. For smaller incubator programmes, the sponsor may either bring the startup teams into their offices directly – perhaps designating an area for those on the programme – or provide rented space within a co-working facility with embedded corporate employees there as mentors. Where a larger or permanent incubator programme is planned, corporations have invested in creating designated incubator spaces, often within major offices or HQs. Partnering with a delivery operator is common, utilising their expertise to run the space and provide events and networks. The incubators often utilise a co-working style, with open- plan as well as private rooms having proven popular to foster collaboration. As corporate incubators focus on a particular market segment, the benefits of sector agglomeration in a single space is key for driving innovation based on the ‘random collision’ theory. However leaders in this field recommend avoiding ‘innovation theatre,’ shunning the decorations associated with some startup work spaces (bean bags, indoor slides, and football tables) for a practical workplace to nurture collaboration. The corporate incubator space needs to be flexible to different configurations and agile methodologies, whilst having high quality amenities and excellent connectivity. A NEW CHALLENGE FOR CORPORATE REAL ESTATE The appetite for corporate incubators seems to show no sign of slowing. When a corporate incubator is proposed, corporate real estate leaders need to be highly engaged with the business in order to enable the right space and management to be implemented.


Re-configurations of existing offices may be necessary, or the acquisition of new space – ideally in proximity to current office hubs. Partnerships are likely to be required with the operator and refitting of existing offices is usually needed to create a suitable workplace. Access to and from the incubator will need controls - without preventing the intended permeability of staff into the space -

There is a compelling proposition for startups too.


By working with a large corporation, the startup gains access to domain expertise, networks, distribution channels, customers, mentoring from employees, physical workspace, and possibly also investment and capital. Unsurprisingly then, the range of industries where corporations have initiated their own incubator scheme is hugely diverse. It ranges from the traditional technology company,

and IT should balance easy-of-use with data security by maintaining corporate network access for employees but providing a separate network for incubator companies.

IBM; to the aircraft manufacturer, Airbus; to the healthcare provider, BUPA; as well as the telecommunications operator Telefónica – to name just a few.

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