Innovation starts with ideas

Keeping our minds open…and our customers delighted

BT’s ‘open innovation’ model consistently delivers world-class results for our business and for our customers across the globe.

It’s an approach that involves us working in close collaboration with our customers. Together, we explore the possibilities that new technologies can bring.

Of course, many of those technologies are created here at BT. Others will among the latest and most exciting developments from the world’s leading innovation hotspots.

Often the collaboration is extended. We regularly bring in strategic partners or specialist innovators such as universities, government organisations, standards bodies and technology companies to help us achieve our goals.

Over the years our whole open innovation philosophy has matured. The model has become a fine-tuned, well-oiled workflow with a proven track record in accelerating the pace of transformation across our customers’ businesses and fast-tracking their commercial success.

There’s no doubt that being ‘open’ allows BT to innovate in the most progressive way possible. It has made us a world leader in developing and exploiting innovation globally.

BT's global research and innovation scouting

Indian-UK Advanced Technology Centre

  • The India-UK Advanced Technology Centre is a collaborative programme funded by the UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Government of India's Department of Science and Technology (DST) and industrial partners in both countries including BT
  • The programme's three main research activity areas are: applications and services, core network systems and protocols, and heterogeneous wireless access networks

Adastral Park
Ipswich, UK

  • BT's global engineering HQ
  • 3000 BT people
  • 700 partner people
  • 74 high tech companies
  • Focal point of BT R&D
  • BT is No1 UK ICT sector investor in R&D
  • Source of key IPR
  • UK operations centre
  • Hosted 1100 VIP customers, civil servants and policy makers through 200 events in 2014/15
  • Largest test & integration facility in Europe
  • Around 5000 students and teachers engaged from 190 schools in 2014/15

Tsinghua University
Beijing, China

  • The premier technical university in China brings Chinese technology into BT as well as providing extra research and management resource to the company
  • The collaboration means BT and its customers benefit from access to Chinese academic expertise in new technology and an understanding of the impacts on the Chinese economy and society

EBTIC (Etisalat BT Innovation Centre)
Abu Dhabi, UAE

  • EBTIC is a joint research and innovation centre established by Etisalat, BT and Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research
  • It aims to advance intelligent systems technologies for the Next Generation Networks (NGNs) and NGN-enabled ICT applications and services

Boston, Massachusetts

  • One of the world's leading global centres for technology innovation - BT works in consortia to maintain an interdisciplinary focus that brings together thought leaders from industry, government and MIT faculty, researchers and students, conducting research in multiple areas
  • Areas of focus include cloud computing, distributed data storage and streaming, algorithms and machine learning, security and privacy, and visualization.

Cambridge University
Cambridge, UK

  • BT works across multiple departments and at a variety of levels, reflecting both BT's own varied needs and the structure of the University itself
  • This includes BT supporting a number of PhDs at the Cambridge computer lab
  • Cambridge and BT are also university partners in the UK Quantum Communications Hub

Silicon Valley
Global Scouting

  • BT's Global Scouting team looks for innovative technologies and services, emerging business models with early adoption and examples of customer experience best practice across the commercial world
  • The team work with all BT's lines of business, and across all levels of the organisation. It meets with at least 400 companies each year

Global Scouting

  • Second only to Silicon Valley, Israel is a hotbed for world leading technology innovation
  • It's the Israeli scouting team's task to search and filter the best

Innovation scouts: Seek and deploy

BT’s innovation scouting team scans for ideas and expertise generated by third party organisations including venture capitalists, start-up companies, traditional and new-style telcos located around the globe.

In fact, we now have a presence in all the world’s innovation hot-spots including Silicon Valley, Israel, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, India, China and throughout Europe.

And in the heart of ‘tech-city’ in London, the BT Infinity Lab allows us to co-innovate with start-ups.

Our scouting teams are perpetually busy seeking out and evaluating everything from brand new technologies, trends in the market, and game-changing business propositions.

This dedicated scouting capability magnifies the innovation-generating capabilities of our organisation by an astonishing x1000.

Looking on the bright side

A key part of our open innovation model is our long-standing research partnerships with over 40 leading universities and business schools around the world, giving us unique access to the brightest minds in academia; multiplying the benefit of our research.

Our researchers, scientists and engineers collaborate with their peers at leading centres including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge University, Tsinghua University in Beijing, and our joint research centre in the UAE (EBTIC). Our academic partnerships help us solve today’s challenges and shape the future for us, our customers and our partners.

Innovation is a contact sport. Our vibrant and diverse network of partnerships enables us to apply leading edge research and fresh thinking to the opportunities that the future offers us.

Steve Whittaker Head of Strategic US Academic, Research Partnerships, BT

Hothousing - the cool way to collaborate

BT's hothousing events have been helping business achieve their potential since 2004. They bring people together to discuss and overcome common challenges and identify opportunities. This gives them the chance to collaborate, debate and develop their ideas.

Teams of people with different skills and knowledge compete to produce the best solutions to particular business problems over the course of a few days. A panel of expert judges interrogate the teams and give feedback.

Our customers tell us they find hothousing to be a brilliant way of accelerating innovation. In fact, it has revolutionised the way in which we progress our projects and meet customer needs. In a number of cases we have seen a 75% improvement in new product (concept to market) delivery time.

Getting everyone away from the office, away from their normal environment and all working together at the BT Hothouse has brought some amazing ideas that I don’t think we could have ever got out of them if they had just been in the business, day to day, doing their jobs and given the task of finding these new ideas. It would have taken us months, maybe even years, to do it.

Jane Porter Executive Director, Optivo

Innovating with people power

BT’s New Ideas Scheme plays a major role in the company’s open innovation drive. It recognises and harnesses the incredible creative flair of BT’s global workforce.

Our 90,000+ employees can use the scheme to submit ideas they have that could help refine the way we work as an organisation, enhance the experience of our customers or improve our products and services.

BT people can submit informal ‘Eureka moment’ ideas, or perhaps more carefully crafted concepts.

Ideas are then discussed and reviewed by experts from around our business.

New ideas judged to have the biggest potential to support business or customer requirements are taken further along the process.

The scheme attracts approximately 2,000 ideas every year with around 50 making it to implementation.

3D Printed Cab Needle

BT’s New Ideas scheme generated the introduction of cable threading needle which makes it easier for engineers to add new circuits in a roadside cabinet without introducing new faults by snagging one of the multitude of wires. Shaped like a sabre tooth, it allows the engineer to simply curl round any obstructing wires, reducing faults.

The Flexi Drill

Also coming from the scheme is an innovative drilling technique developed to clear blockages in the underground duct network (network of underground pipes that are used to feed cables through to customer premises) and create a clear path to install new fibre cables to residential and business premises.

Applied Technology Centre

Creating demonstrable prototypes that help to articulate new technology solutions in a way that’s easy to understand - that’s the mission of BT’s Applied Technology Centre, another critical component of the company’s open innovation strategy. 

The Applied Technology team builds tangible solutions - software or hardware - for people to see, touch and test out and get a real feel for.

Innovating around the customer experience is our team’s primary driver. We are therefore closely aligned to BT’s customer-facing teams so that we understand what the hot topics are. We take ideas, often they’ll come from our global scouting teams, for example. Then we’ll build prototypes or solutions demonstrators for others in BT. Rather than wading through a 99-page market requirements document, people get the chance to test out and interact with a proper working prototype that we’ve created for them. They get a much better feel for potential in this way and it allows them to make a judgement call on whether they want to follow up or take it to trial.

Darren Lewis Head of Applied Innovation, BT

Many of the demonstrators are housed in BT’s Showcases at Adastral Park. This gives visiting corporate customers an opportunity to test out new technology solutions for themselves and helps BT identify where there’s real interest.

Innovation Central

Innovation Central is a team that work’s hand-in-hand with BT’s Applied Technology Centre. But instead of creating prototypes, this unit builds business cases. It takes on ideas, for example from BT’s scouting teams or the New Ideas Scheme, and then carries out all the necessary consulting and analysis around the viability of that idea.

Powerful Partnerships