Friday, February 24, 2012

Now, outsource research work to scientists of top universities

A company that employs a number of researchers to work on a complex problem can instead outsource it to scientists and researchers from top Indian academic institutions to find a solution. That's what Xerox India Research, the youngest global research lab of the $22-billion leading company, is doing.

Through a concept called Open Innovation, Xerox India Research has brought together top-notch scientists, along with the company's researchers and engineers, to work on complex projects that Xerox wants to implement. And the partnership is not restricted to the India centre, but researchers from global Xerox Research labs have access to the “best of the Indian brains” in this global hub, Ms. Meera Sampath, Director of Xerox Research Centre India, recently told Business Line.

Open Innovation is today the core of Xerox India research. The centre has eight partnerships with top academic institutions, including IIT-Madras, IIT-Bombay, IIT-Kharagpur, Indian Institute of Science, IIT-Mandi and Srishti Labs. Research partnerships cover a broad range of topics such as cloud computing, services marketplace design, multi-lingual technology development, personalised information delivery, video-based patient monitoring and rural technology initiatives, she said.

Even before Xerox started its research centre in India in 2010, the company decided that this lab would be built on a model of ‘open innovation' and started working with local universities. Xerox has such a model in the US and Europe but in India this will be the fundamental to how “we operate,” she said. Ms. Sampath said the India centre acts as a traditional research lab with its own researchers collaborating with colleagues in other global labs. In addition, the lab is a central hub to connect people from the Europe, US, with institutes like IIT-Madras, IIT-Kharaghpur and the School of Design.

“One of the goals internally is that every researcher hired in India will not only work on their core research work, but also with one or two open innovation projects. For us, it is not the size of the people we have inside the lab, but it is the strength and size of this whole ecosystem that we are building. Every university gives an opportunity for us to work with one or two professors and three or four students,” she said.

It is not just more people working for you, but also tapping in to a skill that “we may not develop as a core competency in-house.” Within the company we have researchers working on cloud computing but for things like user design it makes sense to tap experts outside and leverage their expertise. For the students too, this helps as they are working on projects that are inspired by the business needs,” she said.

Source: The Hindu Business Line, February 24, 2012

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