Innovation Centers Driving Advancement of Technology Through Collaborative Innovation

Hiroshi Furukawa

Moderator profile:
Hiroshi Furukawa - Head of NTT DATA's Innovation Center at the R&D Headquarters.

Pietro Scarpino

Speaker profile:
Pietro Scarpino - Vice President of NTT DATA Italia, and the Head of EMEAL Innovation Center.

Theresa Kushner

Theresa Kushner - Head of NA Innovation Center at NTT DATA Services.

Pietro and Theresa share their thought processes behind driving creativity through the Innovation Centers in EMEAL and NA. By focusing on the intersection between the customer problem and the collaborative expertise of the Innovation Centers, they can deliver solutions with cutting-edge technologies.

Where the Innovation Center fits in the MMP

NTT DATA launched its new mid-term management plan (MMP), aiming for a sustainable future. Within the framework of the MMP, the Innovation Centers strategize how to enhance and develop advanced technology. This part of the Mid-term Management Plan is to acquire advanced technology from the global market while driving innovation through joint R&D with the five other global Innovation Centers.

Innovation processes are standardized to maximize the synergies between the six global Innovation Centers. They start by validating the technology and whether it is mature enough, and then they consider it from a business lens to see where it can be used to provide business value.

The Purpose of Innovation Center EMEAL

Out of the 6 Innovation Centers, the EMEAL location focuses on the industrial metaverse and quantum computing. The Innovation Center's strategy is based on three pillars; Transform, Specialize, and Glue. To transform how customers perceive NTT DATA. The Innovation Center aims to specialize in emerging and edge technology by leveraging all the expertise from different parts of the company, like glue.

The Innovation Centers contribute to the Transform pillar as a means of rebranding to create a compelling storyline around NTT DATA's efforts around sustainability and push for edge technology. The Innovation Centers have a human-centric approach that creates technologies that provide pragmatic business value.

To execute the transformation, Pietro and his team focus on providing Specialized, industry-specific solutions. This helps expand the customer's understanding of new technologies, as the use cases place the complex technologies into the context of benefits the technology will deliver to the customers.

Workshops and joint labs are held to prevent the Innovation Centers from becoming siloed, as they connect with different areas of the company and the different Innovation Centers. This provides opportunities to showcase NTT DATA's competence and create new businesses. Connecting customers to NTT DATA's technologies through showrooms leads to asset and emerging business development. The Innovation Center, therefore, acts as the Glue for the different competencies to drive the "Creation of the Next."

The "Next" is created by delivering innovative solutions through specialized knowledge based on the customer's needs. NTT DATA's capabilities are maximized by catering to these needs, framing the technologies to communicate the potential tangible business impact. Trust and awareness are crucial for the Innovation Centers to be able to open their doors to involve sectors at all points of their customer journey, whether it be purchasing a developed solution or starting from scratch and working with the customer to develop NTT DATA's business in an innovative way.

The Space

Pietro says that the Innovation Center offers the Space to showcase its capabilities. The objective of the physical space leveraging digital devices is to deepen both the customers' and colleagues' understanding of how to implement leading-edge technologies to solve their business problems by showing it in action.

One way they leverage their technologies is by connecting the showrooms across the 6 Innovation Centers through magic mirrors, a way for each center to talk and present to each other's customers. Within nine months, over 90 events were held for executives and successfully piqued their interest in how they could leverage emerging technologies for their businesses. These events were successful, with over 83% of them resulting in follow-ups from attendees.

The Space is also used to innovate with colleagues from other sectors. The Innovation Center members merge their technology expertise with their colleague's expertise in their customers to create specialized solutions.

The results of the Space have been outstanding, as 30+ business opportunities were created over the span of the 90 events. Most of these events were held cross-country at different Innovation Centers and invited over 200 people across various sectors and countries. This led to partnerships not only within NTT DATA but also expanded beyond the current NTT DATA Family.

The partnerships formed through the Space have been strategic as a partnership approach was taken to reach tech companies, customers, and academies and research centers. NVIDIA is an example of a tech company that NTT DATA is now partnering with. NTT DATA and NVIDIA are now working together to accumulate knowledge to specialize offerings for digital twins and the industrial metaverse. This partnership has resulted in 7 projects in the pipeline for joint go-to-market propositions.

Joint labs formed by partnering with customers have also been a major part of the Innovation Centers. This allowed NTT DATA to work with a global media company to run through a Proof of Concept, creating an observatory to evaluate technologies to develop proof of concepts, leading to 6 projects. Similar results have been achieved in the academy and research center partnerships, with three collaborations starting soon to widen the scope to have a human approach to the work that has been conducted.

Technologies behind the industrial metaverse are an area of focus and are explored through the digital twin, a digital replica of a physical item or space. To illustrate, Pietro discusses the use case of the NVIDIA Omniverse for the media company that NTT DATA has collaborated with. The media company needed a synchronized virtual replica of the data center that was connected to the devices within the center. They also wanted a system to monitor and visualize alarms that simulated its physical behavior to ensure security. The NVIDIA Omniverse platform and other applications were used to deliver a highly detailed 3D virtual replica of the data center that can be altered bidirectionally in real-time. This improved the customer's control over the operations center's performance and business impact.

Pietro summarized that the global Innovation Center is the key to spurring global innovation and collaboration.

The Purpose of Innovation Center North America

The Center in NA aims to gather international talents specialized in innovation to unleash the potential of cutting-edge technology. Their mission focuses on the early identification of leading technologies with long-term impact, collaboration with customers to align the solution to the business need, and strengthening their relationships with start-ups and research institutions such as the Media Lab at MIT.

What makes Innovation Center NA stand out, Theresa believes, is that it is part of an Innovation Program. The program starts Briefing Centers for customers and prospects who are interested in what the Innovation Centers can do. Here is where NTT DATA's expertise in technology as well as collaboration between start-ups and research institutions, come into play. By finding the intersection between the problem and the technologies from the Innovation Centers, NTT DATA provides the perfect fit between the customers' problems and desired outcomes. The customers and prospects who wish to work with NTT DATA are then funneled into the Innovation Studio.

The Studios offers an opportunity for customers to identify the problem they need to address. Customers are encouraged to bring together different members within their organizations for a holistic approach to problem identification.

After the problem has been identified, the Innovation Centers bridge the gap between the problem and the solution through technology. Proof of concepts and minimum viable products created from the Innovation Centers are brought to Delivery Hubs to develop and finalize the products. Theresa elaborates that Japan has aided the research and evaluation of the technology from a maturity standpoint, and working with thought leaders from different Innovation Center locations provides a wider perspective on the technological applications.

NTT DATA seeks to provide a global long and medium-term technology strategy that is ambitious but viable with time and research. To support this, the Innovation Centers execute the development of research and evaluations of the technologies. Theresa shares that what they hope to achieve is to co-create R&D with their innovative customers to leverage technologies that are most effective for the customers.

Innovation Centers conduct Technology Evaluation and Proof of Concepts (PoCs)

Theresa explains how she and her team perform technology evaluations using examples from Innovation Center North America's themes: digital humans and smart spaces.

To better understand what digital humans are and how to utilize them, the center first breaks down the parts of what makes up a digital human; their avatar, their voice cloning, and the space they inhabit. Theresa's team then looked at their capability to build a digital human and conducted the technological evaluations for the tools that are used. The evaluations are conducted holistically, considering technical capability and value for customers, like cost and maintenance. Thus, it allows employees to understand the technologies and how they can be applied to different customers with the most value provided.

NTT DATA has the Plan Twin and City Scope platforms for smart spaces to evaluate how to create a smart space and use sensors to bring them together. The Innovation Center NA is currently exploring possibilities around combining smart spaces with a digital human. An example of this is an avatar guide to giving you directions through the metaverse in a smart space that is currently identifying how a space can be managed best.

Once the technology has been evaluated, Innovation Centers' R&D efforts enable NTT DATA to be proactive and deliver proposals and PoCs that go the extra mile for their customers. Through the Innovation Centers, they have been able to not only suggest value propositions that NTT DATA has already provided previously but also provide value propositions that incorporate the latest technologies.

Use cases of Digital Humans and Smart Spaces.

In particular situations, people may be necessary in a place that lacks the resources to put people there; however, to help save resources, a Digital Human can be deployed. For example, to cut down costs on employees in call centers or cashiers in retail stores. Use cases for digital humans include both interactive situations like a chatbot or standalone situations like creating clothing and your digital human avatar trying it on. Theresa shared that the next challenge they face is increasing awareness and communicating with the market that they have this capability.

For Smart Spaces, understanding what is happening in that space in terms of how it is managed and how it can be simulated is crucial. For example, Theresa illustrates how their platform Smart City was used to manage the traffic in an airport to try and minimize the number of people at certain stops. These technologies have been applied to improve travelers' experiences at the airport.

Each of the 6 Innovation Centers' focus on becoming a thought leader in different areas of technology, combined with their collaborative nature, enables NTT DATA to divide and conquer their approach to enhance and develop technologies. Equipped with this expertise, Innovation Centers can propose viable solutions with cutting-edge technologies that drive business impact.

This is an initiative of the Innovation Center, Research and Development Headquarters.