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Tech Incubator is First Class

By Matt Jones
Director of Future Technology 

If the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is any indication, the phenomenon of big brands working increasingly with smaller companies is a trend that’s not slowing down. 

In fact, we can no longer call it a trend, or a thing that corporations do to hang out with the cool kids, but a survival mechanism. Big businesses are quickly learning that, at this rate of disruption, they must entrench themselves with those who do disruption best – startups. 

As Director of Future Technology for Jaguar Land Rover, one of my key focus areas is startup collaboration as a necessary way to bring the future into the present. At CES I didn’t just show the latest in our own open-source technology - although it was present. I also presented the new startups we’re working with as part of  Jaguar Land Rover’s new ten-year Tech Incubator.

The Jaguar Land Rover Tech Incubator will encourage, promote, and support early-stage technology. Eventually, this can be integrated into a car to instigate the next wave of connected car technology.

On stage, I introduced our three inaugural incubator companies, including BabyBit – a smart baby monitoring system, which one wouldn’t immediately place into the automotive category. The Tech Incubator – and more broadly Jaguar Land Rover – is exploring and breaking the traditional boundaries of what a connected car can do. Integrating BabyBit in-car could mean parents receive real-time data about the wellbeing of their child while they are in the car or even with a child minder or at nursery.

We announced Urban.Systems, a new company that provides integrated, open infrastructure support for electric vehicles. This looks at the entire system around the future of electric vehicles. It considers what infrastructure needs to be in place for any product to work, and  what types of public-private partnerships must be agreed. It is this holistic thinking that brands must have to remain ahead of the curve.

Finally, we introduced ParkiT – a company that does fall into the automotive category, and which provides camera-based, real-time parking data. The ingenious technology was developed by a team of Rice University graduates.

We are lucky to help these companies grow through our six-month immersive program in our new Portland, OR, state-of-the-art facility. Here they’ll receive comprehensive support – including financing, office space, and mentorship – along with Jaguar Land Rover engineering, User Experience, and design talent. In turn, we receive access to a diverse set of technologies making a better experience for our customers.

Production cycles have their limitations. There’s only so much a team, division, or company can do in a set period of time. Not only can startups increase the speed of learning, they offer the kind of wild, creative and diverse thought that allows for big breakthroughs. 

However, creativity amounts to nothing without the health of the company propagating it. A large brand – in a program such as an incubator – can support the health and growth of the companies. It can not only provide financial backing, but also access to talent and networks, access to the support one might lack without the backing, collaboration, and association with a larger institution.

It’s win-win when big brands and startups work together. And this collaborative mindset, evident in the buzz of CES, is vital to our company’s future.